1. Rescuing their children from natural consequences
Ok, this one should be so common sense and we always wonder what parents are thinking about when they step in during the most awkward part of ‘getting to know you’. When you children make rash and poorly thought out decisions, DO NOT RUSH TO THEIR AID and protect them from facing real consequences of their actions. They must learn that consequences are real. But what consequences do you want them to face? How about teaching them consequences in the following settings:
- Household chores
- Behavior at friends’ houses
- Poor choices made at school
2. Praising mediocrity
There is a line from the animated movie The Incredibles where the dad complains that schools “keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.” When children believe that mediocre is sufficient, they will never really push themselves to see what they could really achieve. I am not saying that we have to be overly critical, but lets not fall into the trap where teens expect to receive a special reward for simply meeting an expectation. Praise excellence and encourage the rest to keep trying until they have reached their potential.
3. Preaching one behavior while doing another.
Oh, boy. Why do some parents believe that they can live one life and teach their children to live another? One of the first things students sniff out is hypocrisy. We cannot continue to suggest that our children “do as we say, not as we do.” It will undermine confidence in you as the parents and even in themselves as the children.
4. Backing down from expectations
My 6 year-old son’s football team did not win their championship last year. They won every game they played except the last one. They lost 12-7. My son was devastated as they watched the other team receive T-shirts that said “Champs” on the front and the little trophies. As we were walking away, my son said, “Dad, I really wanted to get a trophy.” So I asked him what he had to do to get a trophy and he replied, “Win the championship game.” So I encouraged him to try harder next season, but I did not go buy him a trophy. Expectations are important because they establish a boundary for teens. They need to know that those boundaries are there even though they constantly push against them. That is what teens do. They need to know that the boundary will always be there. That knowledge and assurance actually gives the teen a greater sense of self-confidence.
5. Allowing children to divide and conquer
My 3 year-old is already learning this trick. We were in Church and she asked me if she could go and get a drink. I said she had to wait until the end of the service. She, without missing a beat, turned to her mother and asked the same question. Children learn, at a very young age apparently, that sometimes Dad will say yes to something that Mom has recently refused. Don’t let them turn you against a spouse or other adult family member. The result is often an argument between the parents and the child usually getting what was originally sought after.
6. Avoiding uncomfortable subjects
We have to learn to talk about these subjects with our children because if we don’t, then their friends will. Their friends do not have the experience or the invested interest in my children that I do. I will not trust them to teach my children the important subjects. I want my children to be comfortable with me talking about every subject under the sun. If I have opened the lines of communication, then when the need arises, they feel comfortable discussing anything.
7. Doing all of the talking
I met with a mom that answered every question for her son. I would ask a question, the mom would answer and then ask her son if she was correct. All he had to say during the conversation was simply “Yes” or “No” and I was sad for him. He never had the opportunity to answer for himself. There are some conversations that I don’t want my son to learn at the feet of his friends. Parents have to be the teachers. Parents have to lead the way by asking good questions and then letting their children just talk. One key to a successful relationship is good questioning abilities.
8. Allowing the world to revolve around the child
How can we blame a teen from freaking out when they realize the world does not revolve around them when that is what we have shown them for 14 or 15 years? Have you ever seen any of these examples? A teen that
- is mad because someone insists on informing a deadline on homework.
- will not get a job because the schedule does not work with their “social” life.
- has the answer to every question to the point of arrogant and belligerent.
- gets angry when someone else succeeds or gets a blessing.
So often parents with little children allow the world to revolve around the child in every way so that the child stays happy… because, let’s face it: an angry small child typically leads to an angry parent. So that sets the stage for a child that believes everyone should cater to them like their parents have for the last 12 years or so. The real problem starts when the teen turns 15 or 16 and a parent has to put their foot down. The teen freaks out because their pattern of living has just been turned upside down.
The solution… allow your child the experience of being second in your schedule every now and then. They may need to miss that event or practice because you have something planned. Maybe they need to reschedule a party or miss the party altogether.
Do you remember the original Karate Kid? There is that scene when Daniel is asking Mr. Miyagi when he gets to start punching. Remember wax on, wax off and paint the fence and sand the deck. All without punching. When Daniel asks about punching, Mr. Miyagi says, “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance is good, karate good, everything good. Balance is bad, better pack up and go home. Understand?”
You do not have to become the world’s jerkiest parent and tell your children no every time. It is not you job to teach them how rotten the world can be. But they need to grow up in a balanced environment.
I had someone teach me about balance one time. I was working 3 jobs, going to college full-time, and serving in my church. I was stressed out. I asked someone about how I could balance all of these things and still spend time with my wife (we had only been married for about 6 months). It was a powerful lesson.
He told me that it was impossible to be balanced in any given moment. In every moment you can only give you attention to one thing. That means that you have to tell anything else in that moment NO. That is really hard for some people when it comes to their children. If you consider the list above, you can see that our children actually need us to tell them NO every now and then. They need to see you tell them NO so that you can go take care of work issues. They need to see you tell them NO so that you can finish your own projects. They need to see you tell them NO so that you can serve in the community and the Church. Having said that, they also need to see you tell those other things NO from time to time so that you can tell them YES! This is important because when your children grow up, they will have to make those same grown up decisions.
The key to staying balanced over a long period of time. If you try to stay balanced in a day (or even a week), you will end up going crazy! If you are going to keep track–which if you feel you have really been missing the boat in this area then keeping count is not a bad idea–keeping track over a month is probably a good place to start.