It is becoming clearer and clearer in today’s society that parents are scared to death of actually being parents, leaders, and authority figures to their kids. Consequently, the kids run the house, and the “parents” are left feeling frustrated because they can’t get them to do anything except give them lip and attitude.
In my opinion, the current epidemic of incapable parents started with abortions (when children became disposable) and was made worse by day care (when parents didn’t have to be involved). Throw in shack-ups, people having more and more kids out of wedlock, and the perpetual cycle of divorce and remarriage, and you’ve got the kind of parenting we have today. This may all sound a little wing nutty to you, but all of these things have indicated to me that there’s a lack of primacy in people’s minds about the needs and well-being of children. I mean, if you can kill kids in your body or send them off to an institution all day, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern involved.
There are a couple of things you need to be aware of as a parent. First, it is not about the quality, but the quantity of time you spend with your kids. Kids don’t just need quality moments to feel secure and know that you care about them. If you give them quantity, the quality moments will be covered, and when they don’t have quality moments, you’ll still be there.
Consistency is also an integral part of parenting. There are a lot of folks out there who are lazy and think being consistent requires too much effort. However, if one parent is consistent and the other isn’t, the kid will figure out how to use the inconsistent parent against the steady one. Inconsistency impacts a child’s emotional security. There’s something comforting about knowing your role and place within a set of rules. When kids know their responsibilities and understand what’s expected of them in a hierarchy of power, they have a better opportunity to grow. When they know that there will be consequences if they cross the line, they tend to be more secure in life.
Consequences need to be reasonable and it’s helpful if they are already made known ahead of time. Try to make them as close to the issue as possible. Let’s say, for example, that your teen lies about where he or she has gone. The consequence should be they can’t go anywhere unsupervised for a while. If they misuse or abuse a cell phone, iPad, or computer, then they should lose it for a while until they earn it back.
The “earning it back” is usually the part parents leave out of punishments. It’s not just about making your child suffer for a period of time; it’s about giving them time to figure out a way to earn something back. You can always give your child a hint, such as, “You breached my trust, and now I don’t trust you. To regain my trust (or whatever it may be), you have got to figure out a way to earn it back.” That gets them thinking about themselves and their own destiny. It also teaches them something about interacting with other people and what they owe them. They have to learn that the world is not just about them.
Any character trait you want your child to have, you have to model. Be it politeness, consideration or love, they have to see it played out between Mom and Dad, relatives, and friends. If somebody you know is struggling with an illness or going through a rough patch and your child sees you bringing them some soup or baking them a pie, they are going to grow up with that as a reflex notion.
Finally, giving your kids whatever they want or letting them do whatever they want is not how you should show them love. Children are not your friends – they are wild little creatures that have to be socialized and made into decent human beings so they can produce something of value in the world. Love is shown through actions (i.e. the time we spend with them, and the gentle touches, hugs and kisses we give them). Let them know when they’ve done something really well or you are impressed with them. Give them little gifts now and then. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just look for little, silly things they might like. For example, I remember when my kid was little and I was bouncing around the country for short bursts (a day or day and a half), I’d buy him a keychain from every city. I came close to missing the plane a couple times while I was trying to find a keychain, but it was worth it because it made him happy to know I was thinking about him. He’d put them all on his backpack.
When you do something for your kid without them expecting you to do it for them, you provide a better model of love. Just say, “I know you’ve been under the weather,” or “I see you’ve been working really hard at school.” “How about I make your favorite dinner?,” or “How about we sit and watch your favorite movie (with some unbuttered popcorn)?”
Being an effective parent is in your power. Take responsibility, and you’ll take away the attitude.