Good parenting is a delicate balance between teaching responsibility and accountability while helping children establish good-self esteem.
Some parents assume that hurting or threatening children into submission works because they cooperate. Well, that may appear to work, but what is the price children pay in loss of confidence and self-esteem? It’s HUGE!
The following articles reveal two parenting tools that worked very well for me. I wish I would have known these skills for my oldest children because what I used on them was the same harsh measures, spanking, hair pulling, shaming, that had been used on me. I did become a very compliant child, which made me look like an obedient girl and good others looking on, but I grew up with awful self-esteem, which made me vulnerable to abusive relationships later in my life. It has taken me much time and hard work as an adult to establish good self-esteem; to trust my own judgment and to make good decisions.
I ignorantly hurt my older children and step-children by my harsh measures. I have asked forgiveness of them and I have to forgive myself because at the time I didn’t know any better. But you don’t have to fall into the same pit of ignorance as I did. You can learn helpful techniques to make parenting better. Hopefully, the tools I learned that I am going to share with you, will be part of those tools.
My first guideline for parents is to shift your mindset from punishment to redirecting. Punishment requires hurting a child’s mind or emotions with the intent of making them comply, which can be abusive. By redirecting, I mean teaching children to make good decisions and be accountable for poor choices. Redirecting teaches life skills so our children are armed to make decisions in the future, all the time keeping their fragile self-esteem in tact.
What you will be learning about is these two tools:
- Leverage, which is intended to inspire children to make good choices without using abusive measures as motivation, and
- The Talk, which is what you can do if a bad choice has already been made. It is intended to inspire children to be accountable for the bad decision and to formulate in their minds how they can make a better choice next time.
Much of the material I present in The Talk, is a modified version of what I learned from a man named Dr. William Glasser at a parenting class I took from him many years ago in Bluebell, Utah. I later found out he is the father of Reality Therapy, which I later studied in university while working towards my Counseling degrees.
I honestly can’t remember where I learned about the information that became Leverage, but I heard Dr. Laura Slezenger sharing with her radio listeners a very similar technique. So it confirmed to me that Leverage is a viable tool.
When I started implicating these two parenting tools, my home became a peaceful place and my relationship with my children flourished. I only wish I would have learned it sooner.
In my estimation, goals for parenting should be that:
- All family members get their basic needs met, are happy and safe
- Family members learn to cooperate with each other, creating a nurturing, afferming environment
- Each person respects the rights, boundaries, and individuality of others
- Each person learns to be responsible and accountable
- Children gain the life skills to function safely and independently as adults in society
- Each child is able to achieve an in-tact self-esteem
You notice none of these goals is for the child to make the parents happy or fulfill their parent’s dreams for their children. The goal of a good parent is to prepare their children to live well and independently, so they can fulfil the dreams they chose.
It seems harsh to those of us who love our children, to raise children so they can leave. But what greater gift can you give to your children than to teach them to be functional, independent adults? There is much joy and satisfaction in that. And, if you’ve done a good enough job, hopefully, they’ll want to return home to visit because of the mutual loving relationship that has been developed over the years.
Some parents cripple their children emotionally so they think they can’t survive without their parents. This is making the children responsible for the parent’s happiness. Though it may seem like an act of love, it is actually selfish and can set up children to lack the courage to launch.
Before applying these two tools, you must establish family rules for the benefit of all members. Rules are meant to be inclusive, protective, fair and age-appropriate. Logical and fair rules are intended to create an atmosphere of peace and cooperation so all family members can live comfortably together and yet have individual rights honored.
Family rules are like traffic rules. We grumble having to follow them, but how would you like driving in traffic with no rules? In the same way, family rules inconvenience the individual to some degree, but they also create a safe, functional and peaceful environment.
Rules need to be talked about and agreed upon by all family members ahead of time. Rules need to be posted as reminders for all to see. There need to be consequences for breaking the rules but consequences don’t mean punishment.
Consequences are reacting to bad choices in ways that teach valuable lessons so better decisions can be made by the children next time.
A consequence might be as simple as making an apology or owning up to what you did and making a commitment to do something that works better the next time.
Consequences need to be rational and logical and directly related to the offense.
The rules your family makes will be different than other families. So here are some examples of possible rules:
- All family members will help with household chores. Younger children take smaller jobs, older children take bigger responsibilities. If someone is particularly busy, they can put their chores off until another time after talking it over with the parents.
- All family members treat each other with respect and kindness.
- It’s okay to disagree but it is not okay to hurt each other’s because we disagree. Conflicts need to be worked out in a logical, fair manner. If help is needed, ask the parents to help.
- Homework needs to be done and checked by the parent(s) before you can watch TV or play video games.
- No one will receive consequences for breaking a family rule that has not been established yet or explained thoroughly. However, all will be informed and held accountable for it thereafter.
- The consequence fits the infraction of the rule. Example: If a child commits to be home at 10:00 on a Friday night out with the friends, and comes home at 11:00, s/he may miss the next Friday night outing with friends or be cut an hour short of friend time on another occasion.
Pointers for making rules:
- Avoid strict, rigid or inflexible rules that leave no room for human error or exceptions
- Avoid making rules that are not explained clearly to those expected to keep them
- Avoid making rules that apply to some but not others, unless there are legitimate differences that must be taken into consideration like age or ability.
- Avoid unfair punishment of rules that are not equal to the offense
- Avoid giving no consequences for rule violation
- Avoid picking one family member out as the scapegoat, being always punished for rule violations, while others get off the hook easily
- Parents cannot set rules for their children that they do not live themselves. For example, if a rule is that we don’t yell at each other, the parents can not indulge in yelling matches, either.
Once fair rules are established, understood and agreed upon by all family members, you are ready to apply Leverage and The Talk.