UNITED STATES—Parenting this is something that has been on my mind for a very long time. For anyone who has children we all know the notion of parenting a child is no easy matter. There is no book or blueprint that delivers the answers to all the questions one might have regarding how to properly raise a child. This column is aimed to tackle parenting from multiple viewpoints: early age, middle school, high school and young adults. Let’s kick the conversation off talking about parenting at an early age.
I’m a firm believer that the first year of any child’s life is the most challenging. As a new parent, the biggest concern is that fear that something might go wrong with the child, the sleepless nights, the constant worrying, it’s enough to put you in the psych ward. However, once you get past that first year, many of us like to think it gets easier, but that is not the case. I’m sure many of us have heard the phrase of the ‘terrible twos’ and I 200 percent agree. I have seen it more times than I can count and it’s no laughing matter if you ask me. I mean I’ve seen toddlers throw epic tantrums in the grocery store, at the mall, in the parking lot, at school; the list goes on and on. As a parent it’s humiliating, but at the same time, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, you want to cry, you want to string your hair out, but you have to be willing to grab the reigns of the wheel and take control. The first time you give into the child, you open the door for the child to pinpoint in their mind, if I keep doing this I’ll always get what I want.
Parents might suspect, children are not that smart, but they are way smarter than you give them credit for America. That brain is not fully developed, but they mimic behavior, they do what they see and they do what they know works. When it comes to punishment there are a multitude of approaches that can be taken. A pop on the hand or the butt is acceptable depending on the level of inappropriateness. However, there are those proponents who are against spanking, and to be honest we’d have to have 4-5 columns to discuss the benefits and the drawbacks of spanking a child because there are pros and cons to it.
However, if you’re informing the child that he or she got spanked because they did something wrong and you explain why, that is another thing compared to just yelling and ranting for the sake of doing so because you’re mad. That never works. Time outs are also beneficial to kids, and then you have what I call ‘take away what they like.’ When you take items from the kid (like the cell phone, the tablet, their favorite toy), it sends a message to them that if they don’t alter their behavior this will be a repeated trend until you get the point.
Now let’s transition a bit to middle school and high school, and I’m grouping them together for a reason. This is where puberty starts to explode, emotions and hormones come into play, the idea of dating immerses, and the notion of being or becoming an adult is front-and-center. The biggest concern is that so many people fail to realize is you are still the parent and that child is still living under your roof. Can you give them a bit more freedom? Yes, but at the same time set boundaries. At this point, most children have a cell phone, as a parent it’s your job to be aware what your child is doing with that phone. If you pay the bill, you have every single right to look at every message and phone call that has been made. If the child doesn’t like it, the child should not be doing it.
If the tween or teen has a bit of a smart mouth remind them who is in charge, this does not mean you hit your child, you put them on punishment and take things from them until they realize who is in charge. It’s that plain and simple, and don’t deviate from that. Teens get a bit of freedom when they start driving and perhaps get their first job. At the same time, you have to remind your teens to be responsible. Texting behind the wheel can lead to catastrophic outcomes, and it doesn’t help if you’re doing the same thing you’ve warned your child not to do. They do what they see adults around them doing! Don’t be a hypocrite, lead by example.
Now we’re entering that stage of young adult, they are grown, they are able to get a job, take care of themselves and start paying their own bills. If that child just happens to still be living under your roof, it’s vital they understand responsibility has to be put into play. They have to be taught that life is not a cakewalk and if you think you’re going to sit in this house and have a full-time job and not contribute a single thing, think again. You are not helping the child by not forcing them to take on responsibilities. Some might be laughing at this, but I’ve seen this time and time and time again. People let their young adults do absolutely nothing, and then when someone points it out to them, they get upset.
Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m simply bringing up a point that you ignored. You’re not helping the child by not forcing them to take on responsibilities. You’re making them think if they just work when they want without realizing that if you want heat, electricity, Cable TV, internet, cell phone, a car, car insurance, health insurance, a roof over your head, it actually costs money. None of those things are free, and if you don’t teach at a reasonable age, by the time you decide to teach it may already be too little too late. Parents have to be parents and stop worrying about hurting their child’s feelings. Your goal is NOT to be their friend; it’s to be the parent that teaches them all the things they need to be responsible and successful in the world.