What do I want to be when I grow up?
People started asking me that question when I was 6 years old…and 30 years later, I still don’t really know the answer. I spent the better part of my college years flitting from major to major, finally graduating without a clue what I wanted to do with my religion degree. I started teaching because, well, “those who can’t, teach”…or whatever right? In my case, it was “those that have no idea what to do with their lives and need to make money and can’t be stuck at a temp agency punching a time clock, while waiting to get married so I guess I should go back to school and get my credential and teach” instances. And so, I was stuck in the education field for the next 16 years. But I digress.
And one sentence a book does not make.
Though one sentence is sufficient for a blog post, so here we go…my one piece of advice I would give any parent is this:
Teach your children that the world DOES NOT revolve around them…therefore, do not make your kids the center of your universe.
I know. It’s not earth shattering. It’s not some new knowledge that is profound. It is a basic principle that people preach, but don’t practice.
It’s okay to say no to your child. They are not going to grow up needing therapy if you give them some boundaries.
There is a phenomenon called the “terrible twos.” I’ve been warned about it, never really experienced it. See, I only have one child, and I know each child has their own temperament. Some are more, way more difficult to deal with than another. But what I do know is that one thing I did was resolve that, as I was the adult, I was in charge. There were just things that were not tolerated. Tantrums being one of them. Tantrums were dealt with swiftly and without anger or frustration. I think that might be a mistake that lots of parents make (and trust me, I’ve made the same mistake a time or two or twenty-five thousand): they discipline their child in anger. They let little Johnny whine and beg for a toy at the store and the parent says no. Then the child does it again. But because no doesn’t necessarily mean no, the child has learned to continue to whine and beg. This time louder. Then, “I‘m warning you Johnny…I’m gonna count to three….”
Now you are giving your kid three chances to lower the volume a bit before trying again. This time with some feet stomping added in for dramatic effect. And so you, the parent sighs and says, “No dessert if you keep this up.” Right. Like your kid believes you. He starts getting louder, adding the feet stomps and the screaming until you start feeling your blood pressure rise. “Stop it right now!” You say as your voice raises. Johnny throws his body on the ground, kicking and screaming until you, embarrassingly, threaten, cajole, and eventually give in to the little negotiator and he gets his toy, just so you can shut him up in the middle of Wal-mart. Johnny has come to the understanding that he can get whatever he wants 9 out of ten times with this method, deal with some momentary wrath from you and end up with his toy and usually his dessert later on that night.
Give them boundaries. Remember you’re the adult.
Ideal store scenario: Child begs and whines for toy. Parent, having already set the boundaries, says no and the child obeys because they have been taught to obey. They have been taught that disobedience means consequences that are immediate and not meted out of frustration. If the child does try the temper tantrum route in the middle of Wal-mart, make sure they are disciplined. Immediate time out or a quick spank in the restroom (and no I don’t need to hear your ideas on spanking, this isn’t a debate. It could be another blog post I guess). I’ve always found it effective to have the Kidlet look me in the eye, I say, “Look me in the eyes” and then I sternly tell her no. And she was taught that my no, meant no.
But what do I know? I only have one kid. And only one piece of parenting advice.
Do with it what you will.