If you have caught yourself asking, “Where am I going wrong as a parent?”, then this article is for you. Let’s face it, being a parent is tough. When you become a parent, you don’t just give birth to a new human. You now become the sole benefactor of this new person. Your child is completely and unconditionally dependent on you for his survival until he becomes an adult. It is easy to take the word “parent” for granted. However, we are human and having someone entirely dependent on us can be overwhelming, not to say exhilarating.
We are human and prone to making mistakes. Our children may think that we are omniscient, but we are not. The biggest mistake that we tend to make as a parent is that we too start thinking that we are omniscient. And when we start thinking and acting that way, that’s where things start going wrong. Just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you are always right. Your children are individuals too, with beliefs and opinions of their own. You may be the one who is responsible for molding them into the adults they’ll become in the future. But you are just the mold, that will only shape the clay. You cannot change the properties of that clay, and you shouldn’t try to either.
Being a parent is hard. If parenting was a subject in school, no one would get full marks in it. But if you feel like you aren’t even getting passing marks, these are some aspects where you may be going wrong-
When you give them whatever they want
If we start making comparisons, we will find that parenting has evolved much faster than technology over the years. As people have started living more fast-paced lives, their parenting methods have evolved and changed tremendously. Where cultural values used to be the most crucial parameter once, now it has become more a matter of convenience. Modern parenting, it is called.
I personally know of some acquaintances who have just recently become parents, and they don’t know what to do about it. Their solution to the problem? Give the children whatever they want. As a result, they have become big tantrum-throwers and extremely obstinate. They know tantrums will get them anything they want.
The role of technology in child-rearing methods
The role of technology comes in when parents use it as a tool to pacify the children. Children won’t eat unless they get to watch their favorite cartoon while eating. Working parents often hand smartphones, tablets, and other electronic gadgets over to children way before they should be getting them. Kids no longer like to go out and play, they are glued to their gadgets and video games. The respect that children of older generations have for their kids is hardly seen in kids nowadays.
By doing this, you are making your children extremely dependent. Your children should know how to earn things by working hard for them, rather than getting all their wishes fulfilled on a whim. Learn to tell them no, and not agree to every wish of theirs. Spoiling your child is not a way of showing love. You can buy them nice things once in a while, but don’t insensibly give them whatever they want. This will only make it harder for them to face the real world, where not every wish of theirs will be fulfilled. Teach your child to work for what they want, instead of throwing tantrums and being obstinate.
When you say, “I trust you, but not your age”
How many times have you told your child this? I’m pretty sure 80% of the parents among my readers will have said, or implied this line at least once with their child. Most parents always hide their insecurities behind the excuse, “I trust you, but not your age”.
Every parent was once an adolescent, so it is funny how they don’t trust an age they have been through. Hormones are never to blame, it’s the person himself who is responsible for his own character. If parents, instead of trying to protect their child from “the world’s filth”, let them learn from their own mistakes, their children will respect them more.
There is a certain “taboo” associated with things about our bodies that parents can’t seem to overcome. Where parents should have a proper talk with their children about hormones and sex education, they shy away from it. They do this so that their child is never exposed to these “bad things”. What they don’t realize is that they are more prone to being rebellious and being exposed to “bad things” if parents don’t talk to them first.
Children, in their transition from a child to an adult, want a certain level of freedom and independence. The excuse “I trust you but not your age” will only make them rebellious. Let your child go, treat him like an equal, like someone who can have his own thought process. Show some trust in them; when you do, they will ensure that they don’t do anything to break it.
When you try to dictate their lives
Every parent is extremely protective and concerned about their child. That’s great unless your concerns start taking the shape of dictation and paranoia. Sometimes, parents forget that they’re only required to make life decisions for their children up until a certain point of time. Once your children are old enough to distinguish between right and wrong, let them be. Give them the freedom to make decisions for themselves. Unless you know something poses immediate danger to their life or is morally unethical, don’t stop them from doing it, even if you think it’s wrong.
What is the definition of “moral” and “ethical”?
But another trouble here is, the definitions of “moral” and “ethical”. The definitions, unfortunately, have become so subjective today that a hundred things that are NOT unethical or immoral get included in the category. Drinking alcohol is NOT unethical or immoral. Having a boyfriend or a girlfriend isn’t unethical or immoral either. Sexual intercourse, if it is consensual, is not unethical or immoral either.
Lying, cheating, stealing, or inflicting physical abuse- these are the things that are IMMORAL and UNETHICAL. So unless your child is doing any of these, there is no reason for you to stop him from doing what he wants.
Don’t dictate your child’s life and make decisions for him. More importantly, don’t make him do something just because you think it is right. Let him have his own opinions, thoughts, choices, likes, and dislikes. Don’t protect him from making mistakes; that is how he will learn the art of living. By letting your child be, you will make him a strong-willed and independent person who will not just trust and respect you but also be a good human being.
When you don’t respect your children
Sometimes, parents are not able to accept the fact that their children may no longer be dependent on them. They still want to coddle them, and well, make life decisions for them.
But when children become adolescents, they want to be taken notice of. They are beginning to mature, and want to be taken seriously. Adolescents look to their parents for guidance and emotional support. But instead of taking their problems seriously, parents treat them like “a passing phase every child goes through”.
Why some children start resenting their parents
If you have read the book, “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, you will better understand what goes on in the mind of an adolescent. Anne wanted to be taken seriously, she wanted her opinions and beliefs to be valued and recognized. She grew to resent her parents because they never took her seriously. Instead of valuing her opinions about “grown-up” things, her parents laughed at her, or told her to “stay out of grown-up conversations”. They talked jokingly about her shortcomings with outsiders in front of her, not realizing how much it hurt her. Anne’s parents loved her, but they unknowingly hurt her by doing things like these. Now, if Anne had not been their daughter, but an adult like them, this behavior would’ve been termed “disrespectful”. But because she was just a child, no one thought of it as disrespect. Why?
Respecting your child doesn’t just mean showering them with affection. The first step is to treat them like an individual, who can have beliefs completely different from your own. Value their opinions, instead of ridiculing them just because they are children. You may not realize it, but psychological issues related to self-esteem, trust-building, and even PTSD stem from things like these. So respect your child and his ideas. Don’t ridicule their shortcomings or make fun of their opinions, especially in front of outsiders. Respect your child, so that your child respects you too.
When you compare them with other kids
How would you feel if your child kept telling you that someone else’s parents were better than you? Now think about how most parents compare their children with others almost every day. Every human being is born with certain shortcomings and certain strengths. No one is ever perfect in all aspects, and we shouldn’t force them to be either. Learn to accept your child’s shortcomings and weaknesses, instead of comparing them to others. Your child may not be as good at academics as his peers, but he may have some talent that others don’t. Recognize your own child’s strengths. Tell your child to be his own competition, and never tell him to try being better than everyone else.
In the end, it’s not how much better your child is from his peers. What matters is that your child is happy, and can count on you for positive encouragement. Instead of comparing your child with others, help your child develop the talents that he has. Help him enhance his strengths, and help him overcome his shortcomings. Taunts and admonitions will only take you so far. A child needs his parents’ support at every walk in life. If you won’t help him overcome his weaknesses, then who will?
When you don’t practice what you preach
A child is almost completely dependent on his parents for the first few years of his life. Food, shelter, brain development, character development, personal values- all these a child inherits and acquires from his parents. Everything that you say and do, influences your child and plays a role in his personality development. Telling him not to do something won’t make a difference unless you practice what you preach. Yes, you NEED to practice what you preach.
If you tell your children to respect their elders, but you mock your own in-laws or parents in front of them, your teachings are in vain.
I will give you a real life example from my personal experience. An acquaintance I know has a child who lies about everything. The mother can’t figure out who taught her child how to lie, because she would always stress the importance of honesty. But she didn’t realize that she herself was the guilty party. Many a time, she would tell her daughter to lie for her to someone about not being available whenever she wanted to avoid someone. Also, she had a bad habit of making her child miss school when she didn’t feel like doing her morning chores. Then, she would make her child lie in school about being unwell. The child, as a result, grew up to be dishonest and the mother is struggling the most because of it.
If you want your child to be a certain way, then start being that person yourself. The child won’t learn what you tell him, he will learn by observing you. Children grow up with habits and mannerisms that they see in their parents. And they learn more from your actions than from the words you preach to them. If you are a hypocrite, then they will neither respect you nor learn any good values that you try to teach them. So, learn how to practice what you preach.
When you show them your dark side
Here, I am inferring to violence of any and every kind. Violence, in any form and for any reason, is abominable. Children are extremely sensitive because their brains are still developing and processing new things. When those things are unpleasant, it affects them a hundred times more strongly than it would an adult.
Violence against your child
Personally, I feel like if you have to hit your child to make him listen to you, you have unquestionably failed as a parent. You are your child’s guardian, the person he looks to for protection and affection. If you are hitting your own child for his misdemeanors, you are only creating fear in him for yourself. Regular violence against your child will traumatize him for life, and he will never be able to love you or look to you for help. You need to win your child’s love and trust, not build fear in him. If your child truly loves you for who you are as a person, he will automatically respect you. You will never need to resort to such a petty thing. And if you are mistaking his fear for respect, then you really need to reevaluate your parenting methods.
Another abominable thing is, well, domestic violence. When two spouses voice their personal issues in front of their child, it hurts the child as nothing else would. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t heal the trauma of seeing his parents argue or indulge in violence. A simple argument in raised voices can deeply affect your child mentally and emotionally. As for domestic violence, well, go and see the childhood backgrounds of major psychopaths and criminals across the world. That’s the kind of traumatic effect domestic violence causes to your child. If it doesn’t turn them into psychopaths, it definitely turns them into robots who don’t know the meaning of love. Or, it makes them commit suicide. I hope this explanation is sufficient. Domestic violence is an abomination by nature, let alone as something you do in front of a child.
Just don’t subject your child to things of such nature. Your child looks upon his parents as two ideals who will love him, nurture him, and protect him. If you can’t give your child a home where he feels safe, he will never feel safe in any setting in life. Never bring your personal issues in front of your child, and certainly never resort to violence of any kind in the house.
This article isn’t meant to demean anyone’s parenting methods. Everybody has a different set of cultural values. But what a child turns out to be in the future is highly dependent on his parents. Parents lay the foundation of a child’s personality, his character, and his mental and emotional strength. If the foundation is not strong, the child will never be able to survive the harsh realities of the real world. So if you are a parent, know that what YOU do in your life is what your child will copy and be influenced by. Work on yourself, before you teach your child anything. Only then will you be a “good” parent.