Being a parent is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. You aren’t just changing diapers, feeding and clothing someone. You are molding, shaping and helping to develop a person. How you treat them, protect them, and teach them will make all the difference. I have listened to countless people in counselling sessions detail painful memories from their childhood and share how it has followed them into adulthood. Kids whose parents or teachers called them stupid [one time is enough] can carry that label with them well into adulthood. What we don’t do, as well as what we do do, will have a lasting impact.
I believe this is great news. It means we can love and discipline them in a way that helps them to live up to their potential. If we keep this concept in mind from their birth to the day we drop them off at college, we’ll naturally make better decisions.
Here are a few ways we – as parents – often do our children a disservice.
1) Making them think the world revolves around them. Obviously, children change everything. While bringing a child into the world we will do things different, see thing differently and work things differently. However, ultimately the family existed before the baby and it’s because of the family that the baby exists. Therefore, the goal is to integrate the baby into your family not to make your family revolve around the baby. If everything you do is to make the baby happy, what will you do when you have baby #2? Baby #1 will feel truly rejected because their whole life they were all that was happening. With new baby there isn’t as much time to devote to Baby #1 and this is where competition and jealousy can set in. If you start integrating your baby into the family life and not focusing the family life solely on the baby you will cut down significantly on sibling jealousy and the hard realisation they’ll get when they grow up and realise the world doesn’t pander to them.
2) Not teaching them personal responsibility for their actions and decisions. When your child messes up, breaks something, or acts in a way that needs discipline, this is a great opportunity to teach them about personal responsibility. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own actions. Blame shifting starts at an early age and aside from being unattractive and unproductive in adult years, it is a hard habit to kick. If we clean up all of our children’s messes without allowing them to experience negative consequences that come from their choices, we don’t teach them to make good decisions. Or at least, to live with the decisions they make.
3) Always trying to keep them “happy.” There is something called contentment and there is something called happiness. We can be content while not being happy in the moment. If our goal is to have a loving safe home environment that will necessitate some moments of unhappiness in our children. They won’t want to nap, go to bed, eat their vegetables, stay out of the trash can, etc. We can’t let their moods dictate our decisions. Kids moods change as quick as those mood rings we had in middle school. We will be changing like shifting shadows if we parent reactively based on their temperament rather than proactively based on a strategy.
4) Making them unlikable. I don’t know about you but I think brats are unlikable. No matter the age. A 4 year old brat is just as unlikable as a 40 year old brat. I don’t tend to be friends with many brats. To a large extent, we determine how our children’s personality forms. They will be born how they are and how we mould them will determine the rough edges. Sweet and unassuming kids might do what bullies tell them to when they are little. But as they grow up the nice kids will pair off and the bullies will be left alone, to feel rejected, and thus will continue a bully cycle. If we discipline our children, teach them to share, show how to respect and honour others, we’ll make a person that will be well liked and accepted throughout their life.
5) Not introducing them to the concept of authority. Everybody answers to somebody. Even the President of the United States of America answers to others. If we teach our kids to understand authority and to obey those who are there to protect and look out for him, it will be helpful as they grow. God is our ultimate authority and we’ll answer for our behaviour one day. When kids realize they don’t run the show and they aren’t allowed to do whatever comes into their rapidly moving brains, they’ll make more responsible choices.
Thinking long-term about how we want our children to “turn out” will help us make good decisions now!
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