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Parenting Kids: Jail or Consequences
Jail or Consequences?
“Mom, I’m in jail. Could you come get me?”
This is one of the worst telephone calls a mother could get. What should the mother do?
She wants to run in and save the child, but is the child learning how to handle his or her own mistakes? She struggles with her decision.
How could this have happened? What could she have done to have prevented this?
Raising children is a tough job. When they are little most parents do the best they can to guide them. When the kids become independent, they are going to carry whatever they learned during their time as a child. What could this mother have done to prevent that call?
Guidelines and Consequences Should Be Taught from a Young Age
Parents need to give their young children guidelines from an early age. Teaching children guidelines and the difference between right and wrong are key to helping them understand the world they will enter as adults.
Parents should not teach their children they are going to always stand behind the kid or do nothing when the child steps outside of the guidelines. Teaching guidelines is repetitive and difficult at times. The mother in the scenario should have taught her children guidelines.
When kids have guidelines, they know what parents expect from them. They learn to respect the guidelines if they are raised with consistency. Parents have to be strong and stick by the guidelines, even when they feel like caving in to the child's wants.
Parents must also show their kids there are consequences for breaking rules or disregarding the guidelines. When children are shown consequences at an early age, they will understand proper behavior.
Consequences have a negative connotation when, in fact, consequences can be good or absent. For instance, when a child does a good job on chores (a guideline), parents may give the child an allowance or take them for a treat. This type of consequence is a positive reinforcement for good behavior and actions.
This is not to say children should be rewarded for the good behavior they should be exhibiting anyway because that is what you expect. As adults, we know we are not rewarded for being good citizens or parents or co-workers, etc. Parents need to keep it real and balanced.
Of course, consequences should be negative when children exhibit bad behavior or do not follow guidelines. Once children start following their peers, they will either use good common sense when making choices or they will not. Sometimes this is beyond even the best parents' control, but the child has to learn the hard way at times. Many adults understand learning from mistakes.
It only enables and creates entitlement when a parents take up for the kid or fixes the problem for the kid. Life throws some hard knocks that we have to deal with. Our kids need to be equipped, not helpless, during these hard knocks.
It's Okay to Discipline Your Child
Many people are afraid to discipline a child in today’s politically correct world. When a young child does something wrong, there should be a consequence, not applause for cuteness. Do not reinforce bad behavior because it will come back to haunt you and your child. Teach them what wrong means so they can avoid it.
You see it all the time in the grocery store – a child throwing a fit while the mother nervously laughs and treats the child with “undue” respect when she needs to pick the child up and give him a swat on the bottom and sternly say, “You are not going to behave this way. If you continue, you will have all your toys and video games taken away from you.” Those are the only choices the child should have. Children must earn respect and rewards just like adults do.
The parent should never ignore bad behavior because the message will be that “I get attention when I behave badly and not one thing happens to me.”
If You Don't Give Guidelines
Children need guidelines. For instance, Mom has to work, so she leaves her teen-aged kids a “to-do” list.
When she gets home, her son and daughter are watching TV and the house is a mess.
The mother who received the phone call from her child in jail probably got disgusted and did the work for the kids who give each other a fist bump because they think it is cool that they got away with it.
If parents don’t discipline children for their lack of responsibility, society will. Plus, not having the backbone to be a strong parent, society will pay for the problems the children never learned.
Kids Need Responsibility and Consequences
Children push their limits. If parents do not have the backbone to discipline children, they are teaching them that rules do not matter.
The mom in the scenario who left her children a list of chores should (1) love her children enough to expect them to do the chores. What? That sounds strange to show love by giving kids work to do. Really? Teaching kids responsibilities makes them better students, citizens, and all-around good people.
The mom has to (2) be strong enough to put up with any whining or argument. “Don’t give me that look. Get up, now, and do the list of chores I gave you. I am the mom and you are the children, and you will do as I tell you.” Sometimes, children need this reminder of who is in charge. If you don't approve of this type of treatment, please think about it. You know who the boss is in your workplace, don't you? You know what is expected and either do it or don't. There are consequences both ways: you do your job; you keep your job -- you don't do your job; you lose your job. How do you want it to be for your children when they are adults?
Finally, this mother should (3) care enough to hand out consequences if the chores are not done when she gets home from work. She needs to tell them the specific consequences, such as, “ You go nowhere, see no one, and lose all your computer, phone, stereo, and TV privileges until the work is finished.”
Children long to know what the guidelines are, and mothers are on the front lines trying to train children to be good people.
Never Give Up on Your Kids
It is never too late to teach children that their actions create consequences. If they have been raised with guidelines, their behavior and consequences will reflect it. If not, leave the child in jail one night. It may be the eye opener you both need.
This is tough love, but there are many times to show love in a more enjoyable way unless your child doesn't respect you and rejects all your attempts to reach out.
Don't go overboard. Your child needs to learn to be independent by feeling some freedom, but you must step in to guide your child.
Love your children and never give up no matter how hard it gets.
© 2011 Susan Holland