Don't Do It, Dad: Three Parenting No-No's
- Friday, March 02, 2007
Balancing the six dos of parenting are three different don't.
1. Don't burden them.
With knowledge comes responsibility. Children don't have life knowledge, so don't burden them with life's responsibilities. They don't need to know about the state of your marriage, your job, or your finances -- unless they can make a contribution and help resolve the situation. But most kids can't. They're just kids. Don't tell them money's tight; that makes them carry responsibility for family debt. Don't tell you are having marriage problems, because they can't help you solve them.
Many single parents really struggle to maintain this kind of discretion in communication with their child. They are at home with their child, with no adult companions. Naturally, they want someone to turn to and discuss life's issues, battles, and victories. The closest person at hand is their child.
But short-term gain can bring long-term pain. When you're tempted to enjoy the gratification of sharing your life's troubles with your child that's the time to delay gratification. Find an adult friend.
Some people disagree with me on this. They say I'm trying to shelter children from life's realities. They're right. I am. It's great to expose your children to life-changing, life-enhancing experiences. However, there's a big difference between that and burdening them with life's battles and conflicts.
2. Don't break a promise.
Consistency is the "golden rule" of child discipline. Don't change the rules on them. Consistency brings security and boundaries to their world. When they know the rules, they feel the freedom, safety, and protection to move at will within those boundaries.
A child doesn't know the differences between a broken promises and a lie.
A child will start collecting their bucket and spade as soon as you promise to take them to the beach. If you forget, if you decide you can't be bothered, if you just change your mind, or if you allow a work commitment to constantly interrupt your dedicated time, then you devalue your word and teach your child you cannot be trusted.
There is a difference between that and unforeseen circumstances, and a habit of broken promises will convince your children that lying is a natural part of life.
Renegotiating your arrangement is not the same as breaking a promise. I've had to renegotiate many times. This isn't bad - it teaches flexibility and helps us model grace to each other: But if I commit to taking my daughter to breakfast and suddenly a meeting comes up, I don't break my promise. I reschedule our date. And I keep it.
Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no." You don't have to cater to your child's every whim. If you don't want to do something, simply don't agree to it. But if you do agree to it, make sure you demonstrate that you're a man of your word.
3. Don't put up with it.
As a parent you may be struggling to find a replacement for the inadequate models that shaped your own life. So you look around at friends and peers to see how they do things, to see what their advice is. However, just because something may be acceptable behavior in one family doesn't make it right for yours. Raise your children to be adults you will be proud of rather than embarrassments.
As mentioned previously if you tolerate rude, spiteful behavior in a child at 3, you'll have to put up with it at 13. If you tolerate a tantrum-throwing child, you'll inherit a whining, tantrum-throwing teenager: Do you think it's acceptable for a 40 year old to throw himself to the floor in anger because they don't like their birthday cake? If it's not acceptable for a 40 year old, don't accept it from your 4 year old. It's a lot easier to stop inappropriate behavior early on...and you'll be saving your child from a very embarrassing scene at their 40th birthday party!
With kids, you get what you go for:
We never had the "terrible twos," because we decided we wouldn't put up with it. At the first sign of it, we made it clear we wouldn't tolerate it. You get what you go for, particularly if you go for it promptly and early on.
The idea for this strategy came from a great friend Bobbie Houston. Bobbie told us she simply made the decision that her children would not experience the "terrible twos." She said, "Why should two years old be the most terrible time? That's supposed to be the most fun time of their life." As a result, her children didn't go through that stage. When people talked to Bobbie about how rebellious children can be, particularly teenagers, Bobbie simply refused to believe that paradigm. So they never experienced the rebellious teenage years. They didn't believe it, they didn't go looking for it, they didn't have it, and they didn't tolerate it.
Materials from Helping Guys become men, Husbands, and Fathers, by Dr. John King, copyright 2006 used by permission of Destiny Image Publishers, 167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257 www.destinyimage.com
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