Who's the Parent?

I just watched another episode of the popular television program "Nanny 911" and again was surprised by how difficult it is for some individuals to parent their children. It seems that many don't have the skills required while others seem to think that they would rather be a friend than a parent for the child.

A "good parent" is one who does everything possible to meet the needs and the wants of the child even if it is not in the child's best interest. This person tends to let the "tail wag the dog". Curfews, rules and responsibilities are non-existent or inconsistent. The child thinks s/he has a "good parent" because that person allows the child to be in charge.

A "responsible parent" is one who ensures that the child has and does what is good for the child. Bedtimes, homework and taking responsibility are valued. The parent and child respect themselves and each other in a healthy manner.

Years ago, psychologists conducted a research project. They gave children a soccer ball and allowed them to play in an open field that was surrounded by busy streets. The observed the children and measured their activity. A large fence was constructed around the field and the researchers again observed the children. They were surprised to see that without the fence, the children tended to play in the middle of the field whereas after the fence was built, they played right up to it.

Boundaries, like fences, allow children to have the freedom to enjoy all they are allowed. When they have rules and limits, they know how far they can safely go.

Many of the clients who come to see me for help with parenting are afraid of upsetting the child, want to ensure that they aren't the "meanest" parent of the group, or make threats without follow through.

Imagine what your career would be like if the boss allowed the newest person hired to decide how everything would be done? The lack of experience would quickly lead to a situation of chaos. The same thing happens when adults allow children to make all the decisions.

Love is not enough when it comes to parenting. Children need rules, consistency, example and consequences. Giving in to them because you are afraid of losing them or because it seems "easier" at the time, doesn't help them to mature and, in fact, can result in bigger difficulties with time. I remember a retiring judge who once told me "today's biggest problem is that children do not respect authority". You are the first authority in a child's life. How you treat that responsibility will set the tone for your child.

Not everyone has the luxury of inviting "Nanny 911" to help with parenting. There are, however, several parenting programs and psychologists available in communities to help you to get on right track. Your children will be thankful that you loved them enough to learn how to be a responsible parent.

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