Five lessons kids teach parents
After all of my years working with kids, I’ve to come to realize there is one thing that has remained the same.
Children have great insights on parenting!
When my oldest daughter was in the fourth grade, I decided to visit her class in search of parenting insights. The teacher, knowing I was a psychologist, allowed to me to conduct an informal “consumer” survey. I asked the kids— “What makes a good parent?”. After all, they are the customers of our parental services. Twenty years after my survey, their nine-year-old words of wisdom still ring true.
Here’s what they said:
1. “They should make fair decisions—and not favor the younger ones”.
Who should be punished when both kids make mud pies in the living room? Most adults shift into their Sherlock Holmes mode. Whose idea was it? Who brought the first mud pie in? Whose recipe was used?
Typically, the oldest one is found guilty on three counts of illicit mud-pie making. The youngest one is convicted on conspiracy. The sentence: Both kids clean up the mess and go to their rooms.
Remember, keep it simple and explain why your punishment is fair. Kids are sticklers for justice.
2. “When you do something bad, they shouldn’t put you up in your room to think about it”. Why, I asked? “We just think about how to get revenge!”
Why is it that parents think that bedroom incarceration brings repentance and self-reflection? When my daughters were little, it always seemed like a good idea to me. “Go to your room and think about what you did”—I would tell them. According to these fourth graders, solitary confinement doesn’t produce the intended results. Apparently, it does produce revenge.
Have the punishment fit the crime. Forget about self-reflection. Until later adolescence children are not developmentally capable of this kind of reflection.
3. “Don’t bug your kids every single minute of their lives”.
Many of our parental hours are filled with “don’t forgets”—to brush your teeth, make your bed, wash your face, or you name it. All of these prescriptions, reminders, and prompts can wear kids and parents out.
Limit the reminders to just a couple a day. Children turn off (and roll their eyes) if you have too many.
4. “When it’s a sunny day, they shouldn’t bug you about playing outside”.
We’ve all said it and most likely as kids we were told the same by our own parents. Just because It’s a sunny day, it doesn’t mean that kids want to be outside. It does seem obvious, yet I can’t count the number of times I pushed my kids out on a sunny afternoon when they were perfectly fine reading inside.
Offer them an opportunity to go outside, but don’t push it if they are content doing some other kind of healthy activity.
5. “Spend time with you kids”.
This was their chorus, expressed by all of the children in one form or another. These are words of wisdom. Look back over the week and count the number of hours of uninterrupted, high-quality time totally devoted to your children—when you were not doing something else at the same time (paying bills, washing dishes, or answering email). These are precious. So, turn off your cell phone, computer, or TV and give them 100% of your attention whenever you can.