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Are Your Kids Running Your Life?

By Allie Ochs

Nobody ever promised that parenting would be easy. We are caught between spoiling our children and taking away privileges for bad behavior. Apart from loving and encouraging our children, discipline is the most important parental task. While praising good behavior is paramount, discipline helps our children to internalize self-discipline, values and responsibility. Yet, with busy, distracted and confused lives, far too many parents have become inconsistent.

If you come home past 11 tonight, without a reasonable explanation, the consequence will be that you won't go anywhere next weekend. Jason comes home at 12 pm. His excuse: we forgot the time. Jason stays home the following weekend. There is no argument. He knows that his parents enforce consequences. The last time he broke the rules, he was grounded for an entire month.

Today, many parents try to discipline their children with empty threats. If you don't do your homework, you are not allowed to watch TV , Lena threatens her daughter. Why then does Tanya watch her favourite TV show, even though she didn't finish her homework? Tanya has the power to control her mother, who always relents. Lena has become a slave to her daughter. Tanya gets everything, has everything, does what she wants and simply runs the show. She knows how to turn on the tears or throw a fit and every time she does, she gets her way. As a matter of fact, it works with both her parents. She has become the center of her parent's life with both parents working hard to please their daughter. Tanya never endured any consequences for her behavior.

It is important that:

  • Children know the consequences of their misbehavior in advance;
  • Children know that these consequences are non-negotiable;
  • As parents, we are consistent in our approach;
  • As parents, we follow through instead of issuing empty threats
  • As parents, we claim our own lives independent of our children

If we don't, here is what will happen:

  • Our children will become disrespectful, irresponsible adults;
  • They won't like themselves and neither will others;
  • They will be unhappy despite all our efforts;
  • We will have neglected our marriage over our kids;
  • When our kids leave home, we won't know what to do with ourselves.

This last point is particularly true of overbearing mothers, who have devoted their whole life to their kids. They feel empty, lonely, useless and drained.

As parents, we often fail to discipline our children, because we feel guilty about our own shortcomings. It may be a divorce or material things we cannot afford for our children. It may be guilt over spending too little time with our children or the fact that they do not measure up in our social comparison. In our guilt, we often mentally cripple our children for life.

Because of our guilt, we fail to command and teach respect from our children. Why do we buy these travel vouchers for guilt trips? Even if our own r sum s lack credibility, our children are our social reference point: we can rise through our children. While it is true that our children will run this world some day, many children run their parents lives even long before they can vote.

Copyright © 2006 Allie Ochs
Allie Ochs, Relationship Expert, Coach, Speaker and the Author of 'Are You Fit To Love?'.

child development
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