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My wife and I were
talking about some friends the other day. At issue was their inability to hold
their kids accountable to respectable behavior. Whenever their kids acted rudely
or didn’t listen, one of the parents would offer a lame excuse and essentially
the child was let off the hook. With the kid’s face buried in a screen, the
parents were effectively dismissed.
My wife surmised that
one or both parents were afraid of their kids’ push-back. Technically I refer
to this as protest behavior – the behavior of the child seeking to undo the
directive or expectation of the parent. The push-back or protest behavior can
come in the form of a tantrum, an escalation of out of control behavior,
violence, withdrawal, talking back, incessant arguing or emotional manipulation
(you don’t love me… you are hurting me… my friend’s dad let them do…).
As the parent
acquiesces to the protest behavior, the child feels emboldened and learns that
such behavior works to undo the parental expectation. The untoward behavior thus
My wife, not a social
worker, just cut to the chase and said, “That parent has no parenting guts”.
Parenting guts. What a
multi-screen universe where kids whine for increased connectivity to the
Internet and portability of devices, so many more kids are getting into trouble
and accessing information far beyond their maturity to handle.
As we seem to be
developing an increasingly spoiled generation of kids whose manners or help
around the house appears to be a diminishing capacity, maybe it is time to think
in terms of parenting guts.
As your child whines
about the access to technology their friends have and seek to have you pick up
the tab for their premium cell plan, maybe it’s time for parental push-back.
Really? You think a
cell phone makes them safer? Think again. It just may offer them up as a target
for theft, on-line bullying or worse, exploitation!
Since when is the
rantings of the child, holding the parent hostage by comparisons to the
trappings of other spoiled kids a rationale for giving in?
So what if your kid
doesn’t like the parental expectation (assuming reasonable) and they whine?
Would any of those strategies work for you at your place of employment for
getting a raise or advancement?
I like my wife’s new
In today’s world,
more parents need parenting guts. If the child’s behavior wouldn’t be
acceptable at your place of employment, it shouldn’t be acceptable from your
kids at home.
Now this is not
permission for abusive parenting, but permission for parents to withstand the
push-back of their children and teaching them the value of respect, listening,
working for their own things and giving back to others.
As these parents
develop their parenting guts, then their kids can grow to be the healthy, moral
and reasonable adults they would want them to be.
Turn off the Internet
at dinner time; have time for chores; make sure the homework gets done; limit
the video games; address rude or disrespectful behavior; enjoy some family time.
As your kids are now
is how they will likely be come adulthood. Would anyone in the outside world
tolerate such attitudes and behavior? Would their behavior be acceptable in an
intimate adult relationship? Just what kind of adult do you want your child to
Spoiled brats who grow into narcissistic adults.
I think my wife got
this right. Have some parenting guts.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
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