One of the “secrets” to a happy, healthy emotional life is to identify one’s bad, nonproductive habits and replace them with habits — slowly built — that are functional. That same principle is of the essence when it comes to a parenting life that is satisfying.
Most parents who want to do a good job but feel frustrated in the attempt are making a finite number of mistakes — 10, to be exact. If a parent who is making these common mistakes eliminates and replaces them with behavior that works.
Arguably the No. 1 biggest parenting mistake is explaining oneself to one’s kids, giving them reasons and explanations for parental decisions as if a parental decision isn’t valid and can’t be put into practice unless the child in question approves. Explanations also assume that parent and child are peers and that the parent’s authority in any given situation is open to negotiation.
Of course, it goes without saying that the “negotiations” in question aren’t constructive dialogues; they’re debates that often devolve into yelling, threatening and guilt. Can you say, “Because I said so”? Those much maligned four words simply affirm that the parent’s authority is authentic, and let me assure the reader that a parent who would give up his seat in a lifeboat to save his child possesses unassailable authority over said child.
No. 2 is striving for blissful relationship with one’s child. A parent’s job is to provide leadership. When relationship is the priority, effective leadership is impossible. Why? Because leaders must be willing to make unpopular decisions. Can you say, “Well, Billy, I am sorry to have to tell you that I really don’t care what you think or how you feel about any decision I make, or me for that matter, and the sooner you accept that, the better for you.” Relationship is the result of proper leadership. Put it first and you will be forever gnashing your teeth over disciplinary matters.
No. 3 is giving children lots of choices. Again, mental health professionals don’t know what they are doing as regards children. It’s quite simple: children do not know what they truly need; they only know what they want; therefore, their choices are generally bad. They don’t need practice making decisions; they need parents who make good decisions for them. Eventually, if said parents stay the course, their kids will figure it out and thank them for it.
No. 4, implied in Nos. 1, 2 and 3, is believing that people with capital letters after their names know what they’re talking about. A fellow asked me, “Do you think psychologists and people in the mental health community in general have said anything worthwhile?” No, I don’t. That’s right, nothing, zero, nada, zilch. Their foundational premises concerning children and parental responsibilities are a mess. When one’s premises are faulty, one’s recommendations will be faulty as well. It’s certainly an ironic thing for me to say, but if parents – mothers, especially — would boycott all parenting books, children would be much better off. Well, not ALL parenting books.
Next week, three or four more of postmodern psychological parenting’s biggest boo-boos. Stay tuned!