Crippling Your Kids with Kindness

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If you have subjected your brain cells to a few seconds of MTV’s “Teen Mom” series you may have caught characters like the troubled, ungrateful Farrah Abraham who was forced to transition from high school cheerleader to single mom of Sophia, after the father of her child unexpectedly passed away during her pregnancy.  Farrah’s parents, Michael and Deborah rushed to her aid, but for most of the three seasons we’ve witnessed Farrah acting demanding and disrespectful.

In one of last season’s episodes, Farrah decides she wants to leave the house her mother has allowed her to live in(she owns two houses on the same block) to move to Florida where she’ll have no family support.  Not only does she scream loud and clear that she’ll be perfectly fine on her own , but informs “Michael” (she calls her biological dad by his first name) that he will not only pack the up the U-Haul, but make the drive from Iowa to Florida alone, while she and Sophia take a plane.  No sooner than two seconds after she makes her request, she is dismissing and disrespecting him.  There’s also Jenelle who spends her life juggling Ke$ha concerts and jail, cussing out her mom, and totally abandoning responsibilities for son Jace.

Farrah and Jenelle are perfect examples of what happens when you cripple your kids with kindness.  A good portion of today’s parents are either too involved, or not nearly involved enough.  It’s important for children to independently handle challenges, while knowing their parents are available as a source of support if things get out of control.  But by eliminating all the difficult situations in their lives by running to the rescue and “handling it for them” they are unable to learn proper problem-solving skills.

I get it, you don’t want to spoil your child but you don’t want them to resent you either.  Well welcome to the trickiest balancing act on Earth: parenting. (Ringling Brothers should have nothing on you).  Spoiled children are described as having poor impulse control, behave disrespectfully and throw temper tantrums when they can’t get their way.  Sound familiar?  Farrah has jumped from being a model to a chef, Iowa to Florida and if someone gives her the least bit of constructive criticism she does one of two things: Cries or cusses.  While that may have worked in the Franklin household, I like to see how this flies in real-life Florida.  Jenelle’s mom repeatedly bails her out of jail, only for her to storm out of her house in the car mom has bought and disappear for days to smoke weed and link up with loser after loser.

Intimidating or uncomfortable situations are healthy for your children, especially as they get older. When your children encounter problems they are not given all the answers to, it forces them to think independently and learn from their experiences.   Remember when you took the training wheels off and they scraped up their knees a few times?  You didn’t run and throw the training wheels back on; you let them keep trying until they got the hang of it.  The same goes for adult responsibilities.  Whether it’s getting a job or handling finances, your children will never learn these skills if you always do it for them.  And pretty soon what you’ll have is an entitled-acting, helpless adult with no life skills.  You're not doing your child any favors by repeatedly bailing them out of situations that occur out of their own irresponsibility.

More and more parents are blurring the line between peer and parent.  You’re not solidifying your child’s love for you by signing for that tattoo of, “Five Star Chick” on her neck.  Your child openly calling you by your first name or out of your name isn’t open honest communication; it’s a sign of disrespect.  Even in my late twenties I couldn’t imagine cursing in front of my mom, let alone at her. Rest assured if I did, my pops would make sure that I knew how to talk her when I finished collecting my teeth off of the ground. When your child learns how to respect you as an authority figure, they are aware of how to carry themselves in a world where strangers are not obligated to care about them.

People only change when they have to.  If your child knows that every time they make a mistake you will come and make everything better, they have no reason to learn how to remedy situations on their own or become responsible independent adults.  Think you might be an enabler?  Here are some key signs:

You fill out forms, make important phone calls or place orders at restaurants for them.

On a daily basis I witness teenagers who are afraid to order food for themselves or send their mom to fill out job applications for them.  You are a parent, not a personal assistant.  Teach your children privilege doesn’t come without responsibility.  A closed mouth will not get fed.

When your child gets in trouble, you instantly jump to his/her defense before learning the facts.

How many times have I heard, “My child tells me everything.”  Children can manipulate too.  Just because they walk around your house with a halo doesn’t mean the horns don’t emerge when your back is turned.  Get all sides of the story.

You don’t teach them cooperation or personal responsibility by enforcing family rules, routines and chores.

Society runs on rules and routines.  You can’t expect a disciplined child if your home has no order to it.  The world functions on a system of boundaries, and by eliminating them from your household, you’re being unrealistic.

Consequences and rewards are inconsistent or nonexistent in the household.

Values and standards can only be implemented by teaching a child that their actions have merit.  Rules mean absolutely nothing if you take no action when they are broken.

You enable your child’s bad behavior.

Whichever way you choose to discipline your child, it’s important that discipline is happening and consistently.  Otherwise, your child is unaware that bad behavior in is in fact, bad behavior.

Toya Sharee is a program associate for a Philadelphia non-profit that focuses on parenting education and building healthy relationships between parents, children and co-parents. She also has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter@TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog BulletsandBlessings.

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