5 Things Smart Parents Don't Do
How many of these mistakes do you make?
Parenting forces us to confront challenges we’ve never imagined. We thought we were patient until our patience is tested to the limit. We thought we had the answers until we are left with too many questions. How do we discipline effectively? How do we maintain open lines of communication when we live in a world of disconnect? How do we best keep peace within our homes? Parents have a lot to contemplate.
Here are five things smart parents don’t do:
1. They don’t communicate while looking down
Look around. Whether in a restaurant, on a sidewalk pushing a baby stroller, or in your home, most parents are looking at their devices. Our children are growing up thinking that this is the normal way to communicate. You can speak to someone while looking at your phone. You can have a conversation while texting. Dinner time is food plus phones at the table.
Our children are losing out on social cues. Watch teens get together. They sit on the couch and snapchat, text and check out Instagram. Besides the occasional comment about what they are seeing, no one’s talking. Kids are missing the opportunity to converse, have eye contact and connect face to face.
How unimportant do you feel when the person right across from you would rather look at their phone than at you? Even babies are losing out. Parents juggle their devices and feeding simultaneously.
Smart parents know that to keep the connection alive we must be present in our children’s lives. We can’t walk through the door saying, "I just have to answer this one email." We can’t speak to our children while we are texting others. Smart parents create sacred times and spaces so that their children know that family comes first.
May I add that the gift of Shabbos is one of the greatest gifts that our families have been given. To know that no matter what, we have this time together and there is nothing in the world that can interrupt us.
2. They don’t lose control
We make the mistake of disciplining out of emotion. Before we know it, words come out of our mouths that we don’t mean. Saying things like “Are you nuts?” or “Stop being such a baby!” do not help us when we are trying to confront a parenting challenge. Shaming children into listening is not the way children learn to respect their parents. The same goes for yelling, screaming and using foul language. It only causes anger, resentment and pain. Remember: criticism is not discipline.
Smart parents know our goal is to teach and inspire self-control, and we need to model and live the behavior we hope to instill in our children.
3. They don’t parent against their spouse
One of the most vital foundations of effective parenting is the basic rule of parenting with one voice. When a father says one thing and the mother has a different contradictory rule, the result is a child who listens to neither. After all, the two of you can't listen to each other, why should your child? This becomes the ground zero of disrespect and chutzpah.
When a parent says, "Don’t tell your mother that I said you can watch that…" or "Bbe sure not to tell your father what we spent…" the seeds of alienation are planted. Children see parents who oppose each other and disregard one another’s opinions. They learn to ignore and look down at their parents.
Smart parents know that they need to show a unified front. When they do disagree, they speak privately to resolve their difference. They hear each other. They listen to their spouse’s view and then seek resolution so that they can demonstrate to their children that they're on the same page. When necessary, they have a go-to person whom they both respect (like a trusted educator, rabbi, rebbetzin, Torah teacher, or therapist).
4. They don’t make excuses for bad behavior
It’s easy to look away at poor character traits by making excuses. Who wants to deal with discipline, tantrums, back talk and tears? It’s tiring. Parents are pressed for time, stressed out and dealing with financial, emotional and familial responsibilities. So we say things like, "She's having a hard day," or "He's tired." We allow disrespect, entitlement. lying and meanness.
But this behavior will not go away on its own. Children require boundaries. They need to learn natural consequences. They must see the ramifications of their actions. Learning to apologize, deal with their mistakes, and clean up the mess they’ve made is all part of becoming a mensch. We cannot do this for them and expect character to develop.
Smart parents know that there are times that children will disappoint us. They act out, fail to step up to the plate, and make blunders that hurt. It does not mean the child is bad but it does mean there is bad behavior to confront. Instead of rationalizing, they think about the best way to help a child grow. These become opportunities to develop a child’s soul.
5. They don’t forget their goal
What is our goal as parents? What do we want for our children?
When I ask an audience this question, the response usually is, "I just want my child to be happy. If he’s happy, then I’m happy."
My goal is not to make my child happy. That’s not real life. My mission is to give my child tools for happiness. Every child needs to know how to deal with disappointments and failure. If I am constantly shielding my child, he will never be able to stand on his own. Even the slightest frustration will bring anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed.
Love is not bubble-wrapping a child, nor stepping in so that a child doesn’t taste defeat. It's not buying the latest gadget and checking off the wish list until the next best thing is desired.
Love is giving a child the security of knowing that no matter what, he is cherished and valued, despite his failures and mistakes.
Smart parents know that love means we give our child wings to fly. And when he falls we still love him but allow him to wipe off the dust, stand up again and keep on walking.