Don’t make your child’s life too easy

…by mak­ing life too easy for them.

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

A cry shat­ters the night, and Mommy runs to the crib to hold the baby, soothe her feel­ings, and rock her back to sleep. At din­ner, Melody tells with frus­tra­tion and anger of an­other fourth-grade girl who has been teas­ing her mer­ci­lessly. Dad lis­tens in­tently and de­cides to give Melody’s teacher a call.

While run­ning af­ter a loose soc­cer ball, Jor­dan is in­ad­ver­tently tripped by an op­po­nent. He lies on the field, ob­vi­ously in pain, clutch­ing his an­kle. Along with the coach, Jor­dan’s mother rushes to his side.

In each of th­ese sit­u­a­tions, the par­ent or par­ents are act­ing rightly, do­ing what

they should. They love their chil­dren and know that it’s their job to pro­tect and heal and serve. That’s fine when they are chil­dren, of course. What par­ent wouldn’t run bare­foot over bro­ken glass to res­cue his or her child from dan­ger or pain? When chil­dren are small, we do ev­ery­thing for them, from chang­ing their

di­a­pers to get­ting them dressed in the morn­ing. What many par­ents don’t re­al­ize, how­ever, is that when their off­spring be­come teenagers, they aren’t chil­dren any­more. They are ‘young adults in train­ing’. They need to be equip­ping them­selves for adult­hood, de­vel­op­ing the skills nec­es­sary to be­come ca­pa­ble and self re­liant adults, and learn­ing how to be­come re­spon­si­ble and how to take care of them­selves. Par­ents who make life too easy for their teenagers – al­ways run­ning to the res­cue – in­ter­fere with this process and usu­ally end up stunt­ing the teenagers’ growth. Here are just a few of the ways that par­ents hand­i­cap their teens: Get­ting them out of bed in the morn­ing, do­ing their laun­dry, fix­ing their lunches and pick­ing out their clothes. Loan­ing them money, giv­ing them ex­tra money af­ter they have spent their al­lowance, or let­ting them spend des­ig­nated funds, such as a cloth­ing al­lowance, on some­thing else. Buy­ing them cars, stereos, TVs, toys, de­signer-la­bel cloth­ing, and other ‘es­sen­tials’ when­ever they want them. Typ­ing pa­pers, do­ing re­search, de­liv­er­ing for­got­ten home­work or lunches to school, and ly­ing to teach­ers for them when they cut classes or skip school. Bail­ing them out of trou­ble when­ever they get into it, fix­ing their prob­lems, and pay­ing the penalty for their mis­takes. Feel­ing sorry for them when they have a lot of home­work or ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­cus­ing them from help­ing the fam­ily with house­hold chores. None of th­ese ac­tions sound all that ter­ri­ble, do they? In today’s busy world, this is how many mod­ern par­ents ex­press love to their teenagers. Rather than spend­ing qual­ity time with them or de­vel­op­ing qual­ity re­la­tion­ships, they make the mis­take of giv­ing their kids too much.

Long-Range Par­ent­ing

But there’s an­other rea­son we some­times make life too easy for our teenagers: ‘to make life easy for us!’ This works for the short-term be­cause it gets im­me­di­ate results. Prob­lems are solved, work gets done, and no mar­gin is left for er­ror. When we do ev­ery­thing for our teenagers, the work will likely be done right the first time. When we give our kids what they want, we save our­selves from hav­ing to ar­gue with them or con­vince them that they should wait for it or fig­ure out how to get it on their own. Par­ents take this route be­cause they sim­ply don’t have the time or the pa­tience to do oth­er­wise. This may make life eas­ier for par­ents, but it can be dev­as­tat­ing in the long-term for kids, who later dis­cover that life just doesn’t work that way. Peo­ple aren’t go­ing to give them ev­ery­thing they want when­ever they want it. They aren’t go­ing to be able to ma­nip­u­late the boss the way they did Mom and Dad, nor will they be able to con­tinue sidestep­ping the con­se­quences of their

Feel­ing sorry for them when they have a lot of home­work or ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­cus­ing them from help­ing the fam­ily with house­hold chores, are ways par­ents hand­i­cap chil­dren.

ac­tions. Sooner or later, they will come to re­al­ize that they are ill-equipped to func­tion re­spon­si­bly in the real world. That’s why it’s im­por­tant to prac­tice long-range par­ent­ing. Our ul­ti­mate goal as par­ents should be to help our chil­dren grow into ca­pa­ble, self-re­liant adults.

The Value Of Con­se­quences

We can be­gin prac­tic­ing lon­grange par­ent­ing by al­low­ing teens to ex­pe­ri­ence the con­se­quences of their ac­tions when­ever pos­si­ble. But the only way kids will ever learn life skills such as re­spon­si­bil­ity, self-dis­ci­pline, and good judg­ment is to un­der­stand the re­la­tion­ship be­tween their ac­tions and the results of those ac­tions. SELF-ES­TEEM Most teenagers will try to avoid the con­se­quences of their ac­tions when­ever pos­si­ble, but con­se­quences ac­tu­ally build self-es­teem. That’s be­cause con­se­quences pro­vide them with a very real sense of em­pow­er­ment. Con­se­quences es­tab­lish a di­rect re­la­tion­ship be­tween be­hav­iours (what I do) and out­comes (what hap­pens to me). Kids who ex­pe­ri­ence con­se­quences learn that they have power to con­trol what hap­pens in their lives. “I can make good things hap­pen or I can make bad things hap­pen. It’s all up to me. I am in con­trol of my life.” That’s a very free­ing truth for a young per­son to learn. On the other hand, young peo­ple who are con­sid­ered most “at-risk” usu­ally feel pow­er­less and see them­selves as vic­tims. Th­ese kids grow up think­ing that noth­ing is ever their fault and that things “just hap­pen” to them. They be­lieve in fate or luck and tend to blame every­one else for their prob­lems or fail­ures. If they flunk a test, for ex­am­ple, their nat­u­ral im­pulse is to blame the teacher, their par­ents, or the school sys­tem – any­one but them­selves. This kind of think­ing likely comes from grow­ing up in an en­vi­ron­ment with few con­se­quences. DIS­CI­PLINE Con­se­quences are also the best way to dis­ci­pline- teenagers. Hardly any task of par­ent­hood is more chal­leng­ing than dis­ci­pline. Most peo­ple equate it with pun­ish­ment; in re­al­ity, the goal of dis­ci­pline is to shape young peo­ple’s char­ac­ter, to help them be­come more ma­ture and in­de­pen­dent. How do we dis­ci­pline teenagers? Pun­ish­ment is not very ef­fec­tive. Teens are, af­ter all, too big to spank. Yelling and scream­ing are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and move the fo­cus from the of­fense to our out-of-con­trol re­sponse. And let’s face it, some par­ents have grounded their kids so many times that the kids have got­ten used to it and now ac­cept ground­ing as a fact of life. Other kids rebel and sim­ply don’t care what their par­ents do to them any­more. When chil­dren be­come teenagers, they want a new kind of re­la­tion­ship with their par­ents. If your re­la­tion­ship with your teen is gen­er­ally neg­a­tive, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You and your teen can learn mu­tual re­spect. Teenage re­bel­lion usu­ally starts brew­ing when kids

Most teenagers will try to avoid the con­se­quences of their ac­tions when­ever pos­si­ble, but con­se­quences ac­tu­ally build self-es­teem.

see them­selves in a mas­ter­slave re­la­tion­ship with their par­ents. Ado­les­cents are strug­gling to es­tab­lish their own iden­ti­ties and want to be treated with dig­nity and re­spect. When they don’t get it, they mis­be­have. See­ing this as a threat to their au­thor­ity, many par­ents re­spond by clamp­ing down even harder, lead­ing to a vi­cious cy­cle of dis­re­spect, dis­obe­di­ence, and dis­cour­age­ment. To avoid that cy­cle, we need to learn to work with our teenagers rather than against them. If we learn how to dis­ci­pline by us­ing nat­u­ral and log­i­cal con­se­quences ef­fec­tively, we can ex­tin­guish the fires of re­bel­lion.

Us­ing Con­se­quences Ef­fec­tively

There are two kinds of con­se­quences – nat­u­ral ones and log­i­cal ones. De­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, both are im­por­tant ways for teenagers to learn re­spon­si­bil­ity and self-dis­ci­pline. NAT­U­RAL CON­SE­QUENCES A nat­u­ral con­se­quence is any­thing that hap­pens nat­u­rally to a per­son, with no out­side in­ter­fer­ence. If a per­son jumps out of a win­dow, that per­son will go down. Some­one stand­ing in the rain will get wet. Chil­dren can learn a great deal about re­spon­si­bil­ity by ex­pe­ri­enc­ing nat­u­ral con­se­quences. Our ten­dency as par­ents, how­ever, is to in­ter­fere – to res­cue our chil­dren from nat­u­ral con­se­quences. Af­ter all, what par­ent feels good about al­low­ing a child to be wet, cold, or hun­gry? Re­mem­ber the first time your child went off to school with­out his or her lunch? When you dis­cov­ered the

Some par­ents hand­i­cap their kids by giv­ing them way too much in the way of money, pos­ses­sions, toys, clothes, and other ma­te­rial items.

lunch on the kitchen counter, you prob­a­bly be­gan hav­ing vi­sions of your child sit­ting for­lornly at the lunch ta­ble, starv­ing to death while all the other kids ate their lunches. So you jumped into the car, de­liv­ered the lunch, and saved the day! We can get by with that for a while with small chil­dren. But when kids get older, res­cu­ing be­comes ex­tremely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. For ex­am­ple, when we de­liver a teen’s for­got­ten lunch, we send that teenager the very clear mes­sage that he or she can go through life be­ing for­get­ful and ir­re­spon­si­ble and noth­ing bad will ever hap­pen. Peo­ple don’t need to be­come re­spon­si­ble when some­body else will al­ways fix things for them. But it’s wrong to fight our teenagers’ bat­tles for them. A good rule of thumb is to ‘never do for teenagers what they can do for them­selves’. There are ex­cep­tions to this rule, of course, but they are rare. Teens need to learn how to take care of them­selves, to solve their own prob­lems. When teenagers get them­selves into trou­ble, we have two op­tions. We can send in the lifeboats, or we can teach them to swim. The first op­tion will save them ‘this time’, but the sec­ond will save them ‘for a life­time’. Kids who ex­pe­ri­ence nat­u­ral con­se­quences tend to be­come good swim­mers. At times, how­ever, nat­u­ral con­se­quences may be in­ap­pro­pri­ate, im­prac­ti­cal, or in­ef­fec­tive, as when: The con­se­quence is too dan­ger­ous. For ex­am­ple, if teenagers drink at a party, they should not be al­lowed to ex­pe­ri­ence the ‘nat­u­ral con­se­quence’ of putting them­selves and oth­ers at risk by driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence. The con­se­quence doesn’t feel like a prob­lem to the teenager. For ex­am­ple, the nat­u­ral con­se­quence of not do­ing home­work is bad grades. But for some teenagers, bad grades are not a prob­lem. There are no im­me­di­ate nat­u­ral con­se­quences. For ex­am­ple, there are no im­me­di­ate nat­u­ral con­se­quences for smok­ing a cig­a­rette, fail­ing to do chores, or break­ing cur­few. Those con­se­quences tend to come later. When any of th­ese hap­pen, it’s time to switch to log­i­cal con­se­quences.

Log­i­cal Con­se­quences

Log­i­cal con­se­quences don’t hap­pen nat­u­rally. They are set up by adults or by adults and teenagers to­gether and agreed upon, if pos­si­ble, in ad­vance. Let’s take cur­few as an ex­am­ple. Your teenager is ex­pected to be home by a cer­tain time, let’s say 11:00 p.m. What hap­pens if he or she doesn’t come home? You don’t want the out­come to be left en­tirely up to you, which it will be if you don’t have a log­i­cal con­se­quence in place. You don’t want to have to yell, scream, get mad, or uni­lat­er­ally de­cree pun­ish­ment on your teenager. So you de­cide with your teenager, in ad­vance, on a log­i­cal con­se­quence. You can say, “Ei­ther be home by eleven o’clock or give up the right to use the car for the next month.” When a teenager knows this in ad­vance (and has agreed to it), then you can re­lax. In the un­likely event that your teen does fail to come home by the ap­pointed time, you still don’t have to get an­gry. You can sim­ply greet your son or daugh­ter at the door and say some­thing like, “I’m so re­lieved that you are safe. But I’m sur­prised that you have de­cided to stay home for the next month.” Log­i­cal con­se­quences should not be con­fused with pun­ish­ment. Pun­ish­ment is what par­ents do to kids, and it of­ten leads to re­bel­lion and bro­ken re­la­tion­ships. But log­i­cal

If teenagers drink at a party, they should not be al­lowed to ex­pe­ri­ence the ‘nat­u­ral con­se­quence’ of putting them­selves and oth­ers at risk by driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence.

A good rule of thumb is to ‘never do for teenagers what they can do for them­selves’. There are ex­cep­tions to this rule, of course, but they are rare. Teens need to learn how to take care of them­selves, to solve their own prob­lems

con­se­quences in­volve the teenager in the process and are re­spect­ful.

Pos­i­tive Con­se­quences

Re­mem­ber also that not all con­se­quences have to be neg­a­tive. Pos­i­tive con­se­quences can en­cour­age pos­i­tive be­hav­iour. Pos­i­tive con­se­quences come in the form of re­wards. As with log­i­cal con­se­quences, they, too, should be re­lated, re­spect­ful, and rea­son­able. Re­wards should never be used as bribes. There is no rea­son to re­ward some­one for do­ing some­thing that he or she should be do­ing any­way. This is one of the rea­sons for not pay­ing kids to do chores. If they are do­ing chores to get money, then they can de­cide not to do the chores when­ever they don’t need or want the money. If a teenage son sets aside his plans to hang out with friends in or­der to help clean the house be­fore com­pany ar­rives, he prob­a­bly de­serves a thank-you – not only ver­bally but per­haps with his par­ents’ per­mis­sion to go out with his friends that evening rather than stay home and help en­ter­tain the guests. Keep in mind that in most cases, the best pos­i­tive con­se­quence for a teenager is a smile or ap­pre­ci­a­tion, a word of en­cour­age­ment, or a hug or hand­shake from Mom and Dad. We don’t have to spend money or barter for our teens’ good be­hav­iour.

Over In­dul­gence

Un­for­tu­nately, some par­ents hand­i­cap their kids by giv­ing them way too much in the way of money, pos­ses­sions, toys, clothes, and other ma­te­rial items. This is a com­mon mis­take be­cause so­ci­ety is so ma­te­ri­al­is­tic. We are led to be­lieve that hap­pi­ness comes from lots of money and pos­ses­sions even though, down deep, we know this is not true. It is also im­plied that love is ex­pressed through buy­ing the loved one ex­pen­sive things. Today’s teenagers are of­ten ac­cused of be­ing the most ma­te­ri­al­is­tic gen­er­a­tion in his­tory. If this is true, it’s be­cause we have made them that way by giv­ing them too much, mak­ing life too easy for them, and pre­sent­ing an un­re­al­is­tic view of how the world works. Even though many par­ents preach the ethics of hard work, the same par­ents para­dox­i­cally un­der­mine that mes­sage by giv­ing to their kids ex­ces­sively. Most chil­dren per­ceive be­hav­iour as re­al­ity – how a per­son acts means much more than what he or she says. Why work when you can have ev­ery­thing for free? This sets the stage for a life­time of im­ma­tu­rity and a good deal of dif­fi­culty on the job and in per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. It’s all right to pro­vide for our chil­dren, but they don’t need ev­ery­thing they want. And there is a point at which ma­te­rial things be­come li­a­bil­i­ties rather than as­sets. Do your chil­dren have more toys than they can play with? Does your teenager have more money than he or she can spend? Do your kids feel en­ti­tled to ev­ery­thing they have rather than thank­ful? Do they ex­pect to get all the lat­est giz­mos and gad­gets, re­gard­less of the cost? If so, they may find them­selves ill-quipped to sur­vive in the real world. Let’s help our young ones grow and take flight. Let’s not hand­i­cap them by mak­ing life too easy.

Ar­ti­cle ex­cerpted from ‘Un­der­stand­ing Your Teenager’, Magna Pub­lish­ing Co Ltd, (Book Di­vi­sion); ` 175.

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