A common lament among parents these days may sound like this, “What a stubborn child!” “She’s so strong-willed! If I don’t give in, she is going to scream like there’s no tomorrow!” Parenting sure is a challenging arena. It is often a battle of wills but not of choice. Let’s face it, have you wondered sometimes who the real boss of the household is?
John Rosemond, a renowned ‘parenting guru’ once said, “Parents who try hard to please their children are in danger of raising children who are not pleasing.” We might hold the keys to making our children happy but is that truly the goal of parenting? Our children, are the world to us. This love comes naturally and uninhibited. Some would do anything to ensure their children are happy and protected. Others become helpless if their children throw tantrums when phones are removed during study or meal times! What should we do to not make them upset? Precious offspring have seemingly become the centre of the universe for us parents. On the other end of the spectrum, some parents believe in wielding the authority to command obedience from the child.
There is a myriad of parenting techniques from permissive, respectful to idle, helicopter and authoritative. With unlimited access to information, we are often bombarded with assorted information about parenting. Remember, instant gratification is hardly the best approach in the short run. While we love our children, we need to exhibit tough love and exercise an appropriate proportion of discipline. Interestingly, discipline is derived from the root word “disciple” which means “to teach”. Parents have an ongoing opportunity and responsibility to teach our children how to love well and live life effectively. Which type of parent are you?
Parent or Peer?
In recent times, there has been a shift in parenting culture to a less authoritative one. One that is based on “equality” at home, parents as peers rather than in positions of authority. Instead of children listening and following instructions, they are taking the lead and making decisions for the household.
Ever seen a child pushing away his food during mealtime when the iPad is removed from him or an eight-year-old girl having a meltdown in public with her parents trying to pacify her? Most of us would think the children are acting way out of line. But who do you think should have had better control of the situation? Our responsibility as parents is simple – we are adults who are tasked with guiding and teaching our children. Some parents adopt a peer-to-peer teaching method and are keen to placate their child with any method in the shortest time possible. This may seem like a good idea to befriend your child, teach them to be more decisive, and hone their ability to analyse and make the right choices. However, from parenting studies, this method may actually bring negative consequences if parents fail to do it properly.
Try this easy test at home: give your child a simple instruction such as “tidy up your toys/desk”. What would the child’s response be? Many parents seem to be confounded about instructions versus requests, teaching versus telling, reprimanding versus nagging.
An adult’s authority should be expressed clearly in a controlled and firm manner. Rather than pleading or begging, the tone to indicate clear expectations needs to be purposeful to convey authority to a child. The child should not be allowed to freely choose when to obey or follow instructions, this can prove to be fatal in life-threatening situations. For instance, crossing a busy road can be extremely dangerous if the child does not learn to follow the caregiver’s lead and dash across the road at the wrong time.
A longitudinal study conducted on 2,300 teenagers (14-18 year olds) by Brigham Young University indicates that the ones raised by authoritative parents are more likely to do well at school, enjoy good psychological health and stay out of trouble. This parenting method was a factor that yielded a larger effect than IQ, race, income, household or ethnicity. Not surprisingly, limits and boundaries help children feel more secure and develop self-discipline as a result.
Let Your Child Know Who’s Boss!
Consider these situations: Your teenager snubbing your dinner and refusing any bite, or your tweenager heard swearing in her daily conversations, or nine-year-olds deciding on their own when they feel like going to school.
Many have the intention to raise their children respectfully. However, with the good intentions, moms and dads try to build up their children by giving them influence while they are too young. A child who is only 3 or 4 will most likely not understand right from wrong. Decision-making in the hands of a young child could therefore turn disastrous. Perhaps, many prefer to be a well-liked peer rather than an unpopular parent who leads. Sadly, this often means that parents are at risk of losing primacy over their children.
Children need to learn to submit to authority so parents, elders, teachers can guide the young lives. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to guide and teach their young children instead of giving too much empowerment. Consequently, parents can gradually empower older children between 11 to 15 years old as they are likely to be more mature.
It is important to use the correct parenting method at different life stages. Parents should understand clearly that security and self-discipline are developed from clear expectations and boundaries. While children are young, they depend on their parents for guidance and direction. This teaches them right from wrong, consequences from misbehaviours and in turn reinforces the right way to act or think. If boundaries are not given, children tend to go way out of line as they are unable to recognise boundaries. As a result, we see many entitled and self-centered youths acting immaturely and cannot thrive well in schools or their workplace.
In this context, a child who is used to being a ‘boss’ at home, is accustomed to calling the shots and have things their way. As a result, they are ill-equipped to face problems, rejection and/or failures. Their solution may be over-reliance on caregivers, blame others and expect others to respond to his or her displeasure. If the adult-child is not placated, he would be sorely disappointed or even depressed.
Just like how a captain navigates his ship and guides his sailors, it is imperative that parents teach their kids the correct values, respect authority and not overstep their boundaries. We certainly hope for our next generation to be able to handle criticism and take instructions from their bosses in a positive attitude. That’s eventually going to be part and parcel of work and we should train our children to face these and make them a better boss of their own in future.
Disciplining – Using the Rod
The age-old saying goes “spare the rod, spoil the child”. Many Asian societies use the rod as a disciplinary tool, with the main intent to right a wrong. For instance, telling lies or being disrespectful are acts that would warrant a spanking.
Many debate about the use of the rod and the role of corporal punishment in this day and age. Is it still a relevant form of discipline? We think spanking is needful in today’s era of “child emperors” but must be done within proper guidelines. For instance, corporal discipline should only be applied in cases of willful disobedience, defiance of authority but never for mere folly or careless mistakes such as spilling a bowl of soup or losing a pencil case. It should not be administered harshly nor impulsively with the potential to cause physical harm.
State the rules and issue a clear warning before any offence. When the child commits the offence, bring him/her to a private area for disciplining. After administering discipline rationally, parents need to reiterate why it was necessary. Using the rod reasonably would remind the child that he/she was disciplined because of their actions and not out of pure anger. This experience would become a teachable one as the child understands the consequences of misbehaviour.
Prevention is always better than cure. The gentle sting of a spanking is nothing compared to the greater and often long-term pain of harmful choices. Associating undesirable behaviour with discipline discourages the child from repeating his or her mistake. This also steers the child away from the wayward path. If the household has certain rules in place, stick to them and have consistent standards and consequences. Correcting your child comes from love as a parent. We guide and teach with love, though tough at times.
Direct Your Child’s Paths with Love
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs on earth – there are hardly any breaks, it is a lifelong duty that cannot be relinquished and crisis happens daily. The child is like a ship, without the captain’s skilful steering and navigational skills, he or she could be directionless or headed straight for danger.
We can all agree that children must not be spoiled silly and that limits should be given. Your role as the ‘boss’ would be to assert your authority when the need arises. Discipline ought to be meted appropriately, rationally and effectively. Clarify your expectations, speak confidently with authority and help the child comply. As with dealing with any living creature, expect deviant behaviour. Teaching your child right from wrong should be an utmost duty to direct them on the right paths in life.
Undesirable behaviour can be changed! Persist with patience, firmness and consistent reminders. Start today and you might see a change in the family dynamics almost immediately. Don’t let your children be your boss, take control in the family and direct your child’s paths with love.