Kids don't come with an instruction manual. Parenting is hard work and we all struggle. We will make mistakes along the way but avoiding these pitfalls can make it easier.
Anger does not work. It demeans, divides and destroys. It is a shortcut to control that helps avoid understanding and reason. Discipline is a must but anger is never of value.
2- Emphasizing performance over character
We know parents are failing in this regard when 75-98% of college students admit to having cheated in high school. If all that matters to a parent is the grade on the report card then children will do whatever they can to get that grade. When the grade is more important than the knowledge we have lost something as a society. I would rather have an honest child working at Walmart than a cheating child who was a heart surgeon.
3- Praising the outside instead of the in
We live in a culture that obsesses over appearance, where an immoral but beautiful woman with no talent or skill can be a celebrity. While we cannot change the fact that society focuses on the superficial externals we can do not need to reinforce that at home. We can and should tell our children that they look nice but the majority of our praise should be on behavior on character. Our words and praises communicate our values and priorities
4- Putting the kids before your spouse
This is a big one. Mom and Dad come first. Parents who neglect one another to dote upon their children will not have a healthy marriage. We have all seen it happen and it never ends well.
5- Protecting your kids from consequences
Failure, loss, pain and suffering are a part of life and are life’s greatest teachers. When we beg teachers for second chances on missed assignments or expect our kids to play in the game when they miss practice we are denying them a learning opportunity. When my son was about 8 he threw a plastic boomerang and broke a neighbor’s window. I took the $9.82 he had in his piggy bank to help pay for it. It wasn’t a punishment, I told him, it was a consequence. He was not in trouble and I was not angry. Even though it was an accident, the repairs required money and he needed to help pay. It was a lesson for both of us and for his friends.
6- Trusting your teenager
Just the other night on TV a parent said that she completely trusted her 18 year-old son. I thought. “Are you crazy?” Think back to the foolishness of your adolescence and ask yourself how many times you shouldn’t have been trusted. We need to know where our kids are, who they are with and what they are doing.
7- Telling instead of showing
If you don’t do it the chances are your kids won’t learn it. My kids learned honesty by watching us give back money when we were given too much change and seeing us point out when we were under charged. They learned about morality and purity when they saw us decide against certain movies because of objectionable content. I knew I had done well when my then 18 year-old son called me and asked “Can you check the content of a movie me and my friends want to see?”
8- Expecting too much
Not every child is an Albert Einstein or a Michael Jordan. I have seen teenagers with severe anxiety from being forced to take too many advanced classes. Their parent’s unrealistic dreams of an Ivy League education were weighing them down. Other children have come to me with overuse injuries from playing too many sports year-round as they pursued athletic stardom at the age of 10. Sometimes parents need to chill a little!
9- Not playing with your kids
It is not enough to watch your kids play or to arrange play dates. When we value what our children do we value them. It felt weird when I played Barbies with my daughter, but I did it. (I did however, draw the line at Pretty Pretty Princess. A man needs his dignity.) I played Halo with my son. I was terrible at it, but when he started talking about warthogs, grunts, elites and jackals at the dinner table, I knew what he was talking about. Take time to play.
10- Not providing a clear system of values
Kids need to know not only what things are right and what things are wrong, they need to know why things are right and wrong. Forget about keeping the 10 commandments, most people can’t even name 5! We need to set moral standards and teach them. I love the way the Israelites of old were instructed in how to pass on their beliefs and values- “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut 6: 7-9 NIV) There was no way their kids weren’t going to get the message!
None of these come easy and reviewing the list I see some areas where I could have done better. How about you?
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