Sunday, June 1, 2014
The simple answer you will cringe when reading is YOU. YOU MADE THEM THIS WAY. (ouch)
While you take a moment to breathe after spitting fire, let me explain. I'm a parent just like you, but the difference is that for over 20 years I have been training, teaching, and mentoring college-age and young adults. I've spent a lot of time with them, evaluating them, finding ways to elevate their strengths, be successful and win at life. I know how much you have invested in them and how much you love them, but your love was misguided in the most honorable way. Your children pay the price - and it costs all of us.
Let's start from the beginning… where I think it all went wrong. We love, cherish and nurture our little Timmy. We do everything for Timmy. We alter our life schedules around their Saturday soccer game and middle school basketball game. My mom probably made 10 games total of my middle school, high school, college & beyond athletic career. It did not destroy me or make me bitter. It did not affect my grades or self-esteem. I do not despise her for missing my displays of athletic prowess. I have a healthy understanding of what difficult parenting decisions look like - for her it was a choice to provide for our family as a single mom, or watch me in an athletic event that while entertaining, is fleeting and not the center of my self-worth. Today, we as parents make our lives revolve around little Timmy. We make personal sacrifices to ensure little Timmy feels loved. We step in and steal their opportunity to learn conflict resolution, negotiating and relationship-building when they have a disagreement with another child. We jump in when they get their first bad grade and battle teachers for not keeping up their self-esteem by demanding grades they did not earn or deserve. We teach them that our world, revolves around their singular happiness and every whim.
And there it is… we didn't mean to, but we did it. I've built this list of FOUR parenting suggestions or rules, based on everything I've learned about today's students who have been parented the way it's described above.
1. TEACH THEM THEY ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. This starts by living your life by example, in a way that lets them know families must prioritize things in a way that means not everyone gets what they want, when they want, and every time they want it. If you and your husband miss the chance to attend a marriage seminar because little Timmy has a soccer game in his 4-year-old league you don't want to miss… what is the message you are sending? You are showing Timmy that one game for 30 minutes that he won't remember two weeks from now was more important than investing in your marriage. THe disappointment of missing that game will quickly be forgotten by little Timmy, but teaches him that sometimes other things must come first, and sometimes other family members must come first. And let's be real for a minute… will YOU remember that particular soccer game two months from now, or two years from now? Would you remember the time you found a breakthrough in your marriage that put you and your spouse back "in sync"? THis is just an example, but I'm trying to tell you to keep things in better perspective of the big picture, don't cave on a better future for the sake of a 10-minute tantrum.
2. QUIT BUYING/GIVING THEM EVERYTHING THEY ASK FOR. It's fine to provide your children with a secure environment, comforts of a modern society and privileges of technology (notice I said privilege - not "right") so long as there are limits. Want to do them the best favor ever? MAKE THEM EARN IT. Trust me on this one, by the time they get to college and they are still relying on you for everything from out-of-home housing, out-of-home meal plans/groceries, mobile phone payments, technology, high-price college text books, transportation and more - you will want them (and NEED THEM) to understand the value of a dollar. It's healthy for them to understand they can't have everything in life they ask for. It's healthy for them to have responsibility and chores inside the home. Do you really want your grown children to expect you to pay for a housekeeper because you never took the opportunity to teach them how to take care of themselves or a home? Again, please trust me when I say that when you are ready to enjoy your golden years, if you handicap them by robbing them of responsibility and the value of a dollar - you will still be taking care of them instead of living on retirement and enjoying your grandkids. Some of them will even be moving them (and their children) back in with you. Is this how you envision your future? If not, then please do yourself the favor NOW of instilling the right set of values and expectations by teaching them responsibility.
3. STOP DOING EVERYTHING FOR THEM. Failure will teach them far more than avoiding disappointment. You want to know why things get so much harder for them when they go to high school or college? Because instead of letting them do their own projects and their own homework, you lovingly "help" them. Mostly so that they can avoid getting a bad grade, and a little because you know the other Pinterest Perfect moms and dads are helping little Sally with her projects and if you let your kid actually do their own, it may not come out as good. So what? Actually letting a child earn their own grade is expected! If you do all their projects for them, they will FAIL out of college without the skills necessary to hold down a job or earn a degree because they never learned anything. The same goes with fighting their battles. Stop the helicopter parenting madness… your little angel isn't always such an angel outside of the parameters of your overbearing eagle-eye. Making mistakes and learning from them is part of teaching problem-solving. I can't tell you how many of your children come to college unable to figure out simple things like… what to do if I need a dentist, or get a flat tire, or car gets broken in to, or boyfriend breaks up with them, or classmate is mean to them and makes fun of them… PLEASE ALLOW THEM the opportunity to mature and grow by learning how to deal with these things. Offer advice, but DON'T DO IT FOR THEM. You will thank me later when they lose a job or spouse and don't move back in with you because they didn't know how to handle such an overwhelming obstacle. See this article for more tips: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/01/16/7-crippling-parenting-behaviors-that-keep-children-from-growing-into-leaders/
4.SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. Some days you will have to make the tough choice to be a parent and not a friend. It's a responsibility you took on when you decided to be a parent. While some of you are afraid of this, let me encourage you. When I have enacted rules, policies, accountability and performance standards for college students as their boss… here is what I see happen: their job satisfaction increases, their performance increases, and their confidence and self-worth increases because they have accomplished something on their own, and they THRIVE. In turn they gain a sense of who they are as an adult and it really starts to blossom. Please do not be afraid of this… yes, they will complain, whine and maybe even cry if you've never done this before. But they do get over it, and when they do, they actually realize they are so much happier. Not every day will be easy, but you are not caving to their selfishness and immaturity… you are investing in who they are as a future adult. Raising children responsibly is not for the weak of heart or stomach. You are the parent and the boss. Act like it. Some of the things I've taught them that they later actually thank me for are included in this article: http://www.collegeparents.org/members/resources/articles/your-college-student-preparing-world-work
Love isn't easy. Parenting isn't easy. Like any relationship, it's TOUGH. Tough love is real love and one of the best kinds of love you can have for your children. You will have plenty of moments to demonstrate other kinds of love on your journey, but pony-up and don't be afraid to pull out tough love when you need to use it. Your children will grow to be responsible human beings you are proud of. And you can pat yourself on the back for doing what was best for them, and for you. It's easy to veer off the path, but when you find yourself orbiting around a 3-year-old's dance schedule, eating patterns, demanding play-date schedule and caving to every tantrum - take inventory of where you are at that very moment, and ask yourself, "Is this what it will still look like in 20 or 30 years?". If you don't take steps to love yourself and alter your parenting style a bit - things will look exactly the same. Only with less diapers, if you are lucky.
Good luck to you out there, those brave people who have decided to be a parent. I wish you luck. There is no cookie-cutter answer to every child and every behavior. But if the path you have chosen is making you miserable now, change today and change the future outcome. Don't lose touch with reality and realistic expectations - grab some of your village and trusted friends to help you get a grip again. None of us has it all figured out, and we need each other - even when it means TOUGH LOVE.