In my many years of clinical practice I have rarely met anyone who has had formal training in how to be a responsible effective parent. It seems that in our society we do not value the quality of parenting enough to provide or require any level of proficiency. We just assume that it is the right of every parent to do as they wish. As a result of the lack of training and the low value placed of the quality of parenting, when people become parents they only have two options. They either parent in the style and manner that they received his children, or they make an attempt to do the opposite of what their parents did with them.
In the first case new parents, by default, simply repeat the patterns and methods of their parents. The results are for better or worse depending on the quality of the parenting they received. In the second case, parents attempt to change what they believe was done to them because it was perceived as harmful. Their good intentions too often fail. The reason is that good intentions are not enough. You must learn how, qualitatively, to parent in a more positive and effective manner.
Next to building and maintaining a nourishing and rewarding relationship with a mate, our most important purpose and goal in life relationships is to nurture and shape our children toward being psychologically healthy and responsible adults. Once you have children, regardless if they were planned or not, it is your responsibility to impart useful knowledge and shape responsible and psychologically healthy character and behavior in your children.
How are you faring in this endeavor? Could you be doing a better Job?
As a starting point I am going to point out a few of the fundamental characteristics necessary to being a responsible effective parent. This is only a partial list, which I’m sure you may be able to add to based on your own successful experience.
Effective responsible parents:
- Are mentally and emotionally sound the people,
- Are open to and seek self-evaluation and new learning,
- Are ethical, fair and impartial,
- Are involved and committed,
- Are age appropriately mature,
- Are objective and guided by reasoning,
- Possess and practice the characteristics they are attempting to teach,
Look at yourself as objectively as possible. How do you stack up to this partial list? If you are like most people you know you have a lot to learn about effective and responsible parenting. Over the coming days I will be presenting information about functional and dysfunctional parenting beliefs and behaviors. I am open to your comments and questions.
Too many children are overindulged; they get too much without being required to give. As a consequence, they become excessively self-centered. They develop an unhealthy sense of entitlement. Their entitlement is demonstrated by excessive self centeredness and is characterized by either acting out aggressively to get what they want, or by suffering and withdrawing to punish parents who dare to say no. They view themselves as having only rights not earned privileges. They may behave as long as they are getting what they want, but if they are denied they will make a parent’s life miserable until they get their way. Always getting your way, learning to think only about yourself and learning to manipulate, coerce, and control others creates a hollow and false sense of self-esteem. In the child’s mind at the level of the real self, the child feels bad about who they really are.
Overindulged children grow up in years, but remain children psychologically; they lack the ability to take care of themselves the ability to be self-sufficient. They also lack the ability to give to others in relationships. Instead, their focus is on getting what they want from others.
Too many parents have little or no influence in providing positive responsible direction for their children. These well-intentioned parents have reared their children to have an excessive inflated sense of themselves. Much of this well-intentioned parenting is done for the purpose of building their children’s self-esteem. They want their children to feel good about who they are. Other parents are attempting to correct the perceived wrongs that were done to them as children.
How do parents overindulge their children? They simply give them too much without asking them to give anything in return. The two major ways of giving too much are money and freedom.
Giving too much materially (money and material goods) fosters a sense of entitlement that is insatiable. The philosophy of these children is, “don’t want much, I just want more.” They see their parents solely as the source of getting what they want. The parents become trapped in excessive giving in order to keep their children happy and to avoid conflict.
The second way parents give children too much this by giving too much permission and freedom. Permissive parents believe that their children’s self-esteem is dependent on them being constantly happy. They have trouble saying no to their children. As a result, the power in the household rests with the children. The atmosphere in the home is one of a power struggle over who has control. The parents make repeated attempts to be in charge, but their children learn many different methods for controlling and defeating their parent’s attempts. These children have little if any limits for their behavior. You would think that they would be happy and well adjusted. In reality, they may be in charge, but deep inside they are anxious, insecure and resentful. They do not grow up with a strong sense of self-esteem and become self-reliant. Instead, they become adults who are self-centered and dependent on others to do for them. Their sense of entitlement is not real self-esteem. They lack genuine self-esteem, and are unable to see that they are the source of the problems because they have not been taught to take responsibility for themselves.
Overindulged children expect constant attention and constant fulfillment of their wishes. Their parents hope that constantly fulfilling their children’s wishes will ensure that they, the parents are loved. However, overindulged children do not build loving relationships, they just keep demanding more and more. They refuse to accept no as an answer and simply keep arguing or sulking until the parent gives in.
Teaching your children to be psychologically responsible, empathic and caring of others, and self-reliant is the basis of giving them real self-esteem. Being successful in this endeavor is based on your ability to demonstrate those traits in your own behavior. Children learn from watching what you do. They also learn from what you do in response to their behavior. You cannot teach your children what you are not. If there is a secret to being a good parent, meaning a responsible parent, it is that you, the parent, must have your own internal house in order before you can be successful at parenting. Responsible parenting is doing what is responsible and effective in teaching your children. Your job is not to make them happy. It is rather to teach them how to meet life’s challenges and feel good about who they are because of it. It is further your job to teach them how to give to others because in the end, that is how you get what you need for yourself. Giving too much to your children does not teach them to give in return.
Children hear who you are and what you do. They do not hear what you say. More on this later….