I am a firm believer in proper parenting, and I believe in having rules for your home. But when you go overboard and above and restrict everything for your children, they are going to rebel. Maybe not right away, but they will grow up with resentments so deep, that it will cause future problems with your relationship.
CHILDREN NEED GUIDELINES
Children needs guidelines, but they don’t need to be micro-managed. Your job as a parent is to raise them to be independent, think for themselves, and learn how to get along with others, be respectful, and show manners. It’s a tough job, because children can be very trying at times!
No matter how you were raised, you can change how you approach parenting. You do not have to copy the way your parents raised you. It might be all you know, but there is so much material out there in the form of books, and a gazillion things online (google) that you can find ways to parent that you didn’t even know about. In this day and age, it’s easy to find out how to do something, or act in a situation where you don’t know what to do. Take everything you read with a grain of salt, and figure out what works best for you.
BEING OVERLY STRICT NEVER WORKS
I can say that without a shadow of a doubt, being overly strict never works. Never. All it does is make a child/teen resentful, and eventually they will explode in behaviors that you didn’t even know were possible. Children need guidelines, not control. Children need to be autonomous, they need to learn things on their own, fix things on their own, and learn consequences of their actions. They will not grow under a thumb. They will learn anger, resentment, and frustration faster than you can say fast.
Children who have overly strict parents tend to want to move out the first chance they get, or may even leave prior to finishing school. The house has become a boiling pot of resentments and anger, and most kids will want to escape the atmosphere where there is anger and strife. Sometimes this anger is apparent, but some children hide their true feelings. I think stifling anger is worse than letting it out. It can do so much damage to an individual.
TEACH YOUR KIDS BY EXAMPLE
I know of a family who were super strict with their kids, and it was hard to watch. Those kids were brow-beaten into submission, over every little thing. They were micro-managed to death. The family managed to stay together until the first one graduated and got out of there. The rest soon followed after their graduations. Do those kids go and visit their parents? No. Do they have a good relationship with their parents? Sadly, no. We wouldn’t want to have friends who always told us what to do, and how to do it, so why would we as parents do that to our children? They need guidelines and rules, but do not need to be living in a detention hall.
LET YOUR KIDS CHOOSE THEIR CLOTHES
Parents, let your kids decide what to wear. Don’t fight over it. When your kids are five and under, you can pick 2-3 sets of clothes out for them, and let them choose what outfit, but as they get older, they will want to choose their own. Let them. They have their own ideas of what colour they like, or what outfit they want to wear. Let them decide.
DON’T FORCE YOUR KIDS TO EAT THINGS THEY REALLY DISLIKE
Meals. There will always be things your kids don’t like. Don’t become the Gestapo and force them to sit at the table until they finish their plate. That’s ridiculous. There are a lot of vegetables, fruits, and meats out there, and there will be some things your kids will hate. That is normal. You need to train your children to try everything, even if it’s only one bite. When they take their one bite, then praise them. Thank them for trying. Make a big deal about it. Reward their behavior. Next time you make that meal, give them only one bite to try again. See if they like it this time. If not, reward them again for eating one bite. Thank them for trying. Keep doing this endlessly, because one day they might want a little more. If they realize that it’s not going to be a fight, they might actually start liking it.
YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES
What I have realized as an adult, sometimes we have food allergies that we are not aware of, and our bodies naturally “tell us” as we eat something. It either tastes bad, or we feel “full”. This happened to me when I ate bread, or had oatmeal at breakfast. I would always fuss that I was full, but my mom made me eat it anyway. Turns out as an adult, when I eat oatmeal I break out in hives. I also have a partial wheat allergy, which is why I never wanted toast, bread, or sandwiches. But of course as a little toddler, my mom didn’t listen to me, she just thought I was being picky and forced me to eat it anyway. My hubby’s twin sister grew up and found out she was really allergic to peas. Her mom made her eat them anyway. I know of so many more similar stories to this, which I could write all day. Suffice to say – if your child is really objecting to something, there could be a hidden allergy. Don’t become a food Nazi and make your child eat something that they are struggling with.
Remember, just because a child doesn’t want to eat something, it’s nothing to do with you. You don’t have to become, “well, I’m your parent, so you’ll do as I say” which becomes a power struggle. It doesn’t need to evolve to that. Let your child have food they do not like. You have food items YOU don’t like. Let your child have theirs.
IDEAS FOR YOUR PICKY EATER
Be flexible. Allow your children to stay up later on a school night if something special has come up. It’s good to have routine, yes, but every once in a while you need to be flexible. One night staying up late will not damage your kids. You might need to be more patient in the morning, but in the long run, it’s important for your kids, and for your relationship to show you can be flexible.
ALLOW NATURAL CONSEQUENCES FOR BEHAVIOUR
Allow your kids to suffer the consequences of not doing their homework, or failing a test. There is no reason to be brutal, or complain, or compare them to a sibling. I think the most damaging thing you can say to a child is, “why can’t you be more like _________?” They can’t be another person, they can only be themselves. And they need to be good enough as their own person. You can be disappointed, but your child needs to know that you love them no matter what, and you can’t show love if you are always mad, or putting them down because they made a mistake.
DON’T EVER YELL AT YOUR KIDS UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE
You don’t need to yell to get your way. Yelling never works. It just makes your child stare at you and say “I hate you” inside their head. Use your words, use kind words, and remember, yelling is only for when the house is on fire. Use your inside voice at all times, even if you get frustrated. Learn how to walk away and diffuse anger before yelling anything out of your mouth.
DON’T HUMILIATE YOUR CHILD IN FRONT OF OTHERS
Never, EVER discipline your children in front of others. Go to a different room, and talk there. You do not need to humiliate your child. There is nothing more cringe worthy than seeing a parent verbally abuse a child. I saw a friend berate her daughter in front of 10 of us adults. The daughter was humiliated, and I’ll never forget the look on her face. I felt so bad for that girl. Guess what happened. That teen eventually ran away from home. Well, of course she did! She was verbally abused and controlled her whole life, and when it got too much, she tried to escape. Parents – STOP bullying your kids. You do not need to be a tyrant, no matter what they do wrong.
If you do not love your children, or respect them, they will never learn to trust you. Wouldn’t you rather have a child that grows up, loves you, and even in their teen years is still willing to talk with you? Of course you would! Well, it’s all up to you, and how you discipline your kids in how your relationships will work out.
BE A ROLE MODEL
Talk to your kids. Be open. If they come to you with a question, answer it, not matter the topic. Answer their sex questions, but of course, at an age appropriate time. Don’t hide anything. Let them taste a sip of your wine (even if they are under age). Tell them they cannot drink it until they are an adult, but there is no harm in letting them take a sip. They will usually make a face and hate it anyway, but when they grow up, they will not be sneaking out to get drunk either, because it’s been something that has been denied to them. I always told my son that if he wanted to drink and get drunk, to know what it was like, he had to do it at home. I told him I needed to be there in case he got really sick, and needed to go to the hospital. Guess what – not even once did he want to try. He made it through high school without drinking or smoking, and my belief is because he KNEW he was allowed, and so he didn’t need to sneak out to try it.
HAVE REAL CONVERSATIONS
If your kids want to try smoking? In my opinion, let them. I told my son if he wanted to try smoking, he should try it at home (but outside!). He never wanted to try, but knew he could if he wanted. If you give your child a choice about something, they will usually choose the right choice ie: no! If they are told they cannot, then guess what they are going to do the minute you are not looking? They will try it! You can also explain how bad cigarettes are, and how expensive it is, and how much cancer it causes, and believe me, I don’t think they will ever try. Peer pressure won’t work on them to smoke, because you have already given them permission to try it.
HAVE THE SEX TALK WITH YOUR KIDS
Sex – you are going to have to talk about this topic. I have my views on sex – I believe it is for marriage only. I don’t believe in pre-marital sex. That being said, I broke that rule myself before ever getting married, and it was one of the biggest regrets I have. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk to my kids about it. Don’t keep sex a secret, something that isn’t talked about. What kids don’t know, they will find out, and it’s better if they learned it from you. Give your kid a safe place to come and talk about it with you.
LET YOUR KIDS HAVE THEIR OWN AUTONOMY
So – bottom line, have some great guidelines and rules for your kids, but let them make some decisions for themselves. Stop being a control freak. Stop over-parenting. Stop demanding. Let them live a little.
SET REASONABLE BOUNDARIES
Set boundaries for your kids to feel safe, and they will. Allow them to experience life. Allow them to fail. Be there to pick them up, and love them. They will grow, and things will turn out okay! Your relationship will be awesome, and when your child grows up, they will still want to be your friend.