As I stared at the D’s on my 9th grader’s report card, my blood began to boil. “I told you that this was going to happen, didn’t I?” He just stood there, so I continued on. “Your problem is that you are just plain lazy.” He remained silent and I got madder and continued on. “I don’t know why I even try to talk to you. You are never going to amount to anything!”
Ouch! This parent’s comments reflect the feelings that many of us have. However, are these statements going to lift our children to new heights? Probably not. Are they going to give them more confidence that will help them succeed? Unfortunately not. So what are some better ways that parents can respond? Below are five mistakes to avoid.
1) Don’t lose your temper. The older children are fighting, the youngest is whining, and suddenly you are screaming louder than everyone. You have lost control. Children may cower for a moment, but nothing has been solved. Bill Cosby says that oftentimes parents don’t want justice, they want quiet. Stop yelling like the children; leave the room; compose yourself; and decide what it is you really want to accomplish. Save yelling for emergencies.
2) Don’t misuse rewards. “If you will stop cutting class, I will let you use the car this weekend.” The problem here is that when you are not providing the reward, children have no reason to behave. This implies that the expectation itself has no intrinsic value. It really isn’t a reward but a bribe. A better approach is to use rewards only to reinforce behavior after the fact.
3) Don’t disagree as parents in front of your children When parents debate rules in front of the children, a can of worms is opened. Children realize that there is not a unified front and will work very hard, and quite effectively, to play one parent against the other. Parents need to settle disagreements in private and make sure they are on the same page when it comes to guidelines for homework, chores, etc. Parents should compromise when there are strong feelings around issues. Avoid making one parent the disciplinarian. This encourages the children to push the limits when that parent is not present.
4) Don’t put your child down. It is important to avoid statements like “You never,” and “You always.” These are absolutistic statements that are rarely true. “You should do it my way” is a statement that implies your way is the only way. “Is that hair on your head or are you wearing a mop?” When a child expresses his/her individuality in ways that are not harmful, we are best to let it be. Otherwise, we are only expressing our own insecurities. We need to look for statements that will help to build and develop our children.
5) Don’t be too busy. “Not now” is probably one of the hardest things for children to hear. As parents, we have often made our lives so busy with work and other activities that we have forgotten why we had children. There is no more important job that we will ever complete than this task of raising and training our children to become responsible adults. Our job is to launch them successfully. In order to do that, we must make time for them. They must be a priority and they must know it.