by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Everyone wants happy, successful children, but everyone parents in a way that increases the chance that this will happen. The reasons are simple: parenting great kids is a lot of work. It’s uninterrupted, consistent, hands-on dirty work at times, but if you delegate parent’s work to teachers, youth leaders, or someone other than yourself, then your kids don’t end up getting what they need. What do they need? Well, they don’t need more after school programs, computer classes, or the latest game.
They need discipline, chores, family dinners and engaged adults who are willing to be parents and not friends.
Do pay attention to your kids when they are talking and demand they do the same with you. Having your focus on your phone when your child is trying to talk to you tells them their feelings don’t matter. Minimizing or ignoring your kid’s feelings is a big no-no.
Do not be your child’s friend. Do be their parent.
Give your child chores and follow through with consequences when they don’t do them. Taking something away from your child means you take it away with a chance for them to earn it back
Don’t bend rules or be inconsistent with rules. Whatever was a rule yesterday should remain a rule today, tomorrow and next week.
Don’t compare your child to you when you were a child, to their sibling or to a friend they have. This only leads to judgment, resentfulness and anger. Your child will show you with their behavior what your constant comparing has done to them, and you won’t like the way it looks.
Don’t ever talk badly about your child’s other parent. This makes children anxious and depressed and they end up with distorted views about what love is.
Encourage your child to take calculated risks, and don’t bail them out when they make a mistake. Your child is supposed to make mistakes. This is how they learn. Constantly hovering or making excuses for them turns them into enabled, entitled adults who cannot think for themselves without wanting help.
Do let your kids come to you for advice, but let them work out solutions for their own interpersonal and school-related relationships. The one exception is bullying, and this is an area you should get involved with taking your child’s side if they are the victim.
Do become part of your child’s team, but don’t baby them. If they have an assignment due in the morning and they must stay up late, make sure they have a well lit place to study, but don’t make yourself a martyr staying up late with them. Compliment their commitment, but go to bed. In real life, we all have to make sacrifices for our choices. School represents work for a child.
Whenever possible, no matter how old your child is, hug them as much as you can and tell them how happy you are they are yours.
Parenting will always be the toughest job any of us can take on, but if you decide to take it on, do it with the commitment and follow through you give your other jobs. You cannot parent part-time, nor can you take a sabbatical when times get tough with your kids. Signing your kid up for one more class can never fix what is broken at home.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.