Three Things Parents Shouldn’t Do

I heard on the radio that parents of successful kids have three things in common:

  1. They have high expectations;
  2. They teach their kids social skills;
  3. They require their kids to do chores.

It made me ponder what families without these three things might look like. . .

Low Expectations  Parents who’d say, “It’s no surprise he can’t do math; I was horrible at it,” would not only communicate low expectations, but they’d also give their kids permission to put forth little effort. The same would be true for parents who didn’t ask about homework, especially if they knew there was a problem with getting assignments turned in on time.  Parents with low expectations might also blame each other or the teacher for their child’s lack of responsibility instead of holding their child accountable.

No Social Skills Parents who don’t teach manners and etiquette would allow their children to interrupt and get their own way by whining. Their children would have a lack of consideration for others’ feelings or needs, and they’d isolate themselves at social gatherings by wearing headphones or spending time on their phones.  Such children would not express gratitude, nor do they offer to help with cleaning up or carrying items.

No Chores  These parents would find it easier to do it themselves than to fight chore battles. Kids have many ways of dodging responsibility: they deflect “Why am I the only one does all the work!”; they delay “In a minute!”; they deny “I never heard you ask!” Parents who back down rob their children not only of the satisfaction that comes with a job well done, but also of some important life skills.

Want successful kids? Keep your expectations high enough that your child has to rise to the challenge. Teach and model proper behavior and common courtesy. Develop a list of chores and insist they get done. Never forget that you aren’t raising a child–you’re raising an adult!


The No-No Rules

Here are nine ways to ensure your teen won’t open up and share with you:

1. Interrupt. Cut her off before she gets to the end of her story.  Better yet – predict how her story will end and finish her sentences for her.  For best results, interrupt with a question about chores or homework being done.

2. Downplay feelings.  Especially if he’s really excited about something, or really angry at someone, be sure to say, “You think that’s a big deal?  You should try living my life!”

3. Raise your voice.  Your teen is guaranteed to clam up if she thinks you’re “going off” on her.

4. Use Always and Never.   Be sure to point out his faults, especially how he always forgets to be responsible or how he never treats you with respect.

5. Criticize.  Complain about her clothes, her hair and her friends.  Tell her how disappointed you are in her grades and in her behavior.

6. Use half an ear.  Say “Uh-huh” and “Mm-hmm” to make it sound like you’re listening even though you’re not.  Tell yourself he won’t know the difference.

7. Belittle her in front of others.  Tell your friends and family members about her faults and past mistakes when she’s standing right there.  Describe a situation that really embarrasses her, and then expect her to laugh along.

8. Be judgmental.  Ask “What were you thinking?” or point out how immature he’s being.  Remind him that he will never get a decent job with an attitude like that.

9. Solve his problems for him.  Make him feel inferior by telling him what he should do.  Don’t let him gain any self-confidence by allowing him to persevere on his own.

(What’s that? You want me to publish the other list next week?  I’m thinking you might be right. . .)

Don’t Tell the Acorn Too Much!

A parent sought me out at church a couple of weeks ago, wanting advice on how to get her daughter to be more polite.  “She interrupts me all the time, and she never says ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ unless I remind her to.”  She continued, “My husband just laughs and says she’s me all over again.  Which is actually true!”  I cautioned her not to say that in front of her daughter, because she would be giving her permission to continue being rude.

I’ve heard it often at the conference table:  “Of course, I was never very good in math, either, so I can’t expect him to do any better.”  “I’m afraid there’s not much hope for her; I always got in trouble for talking, too.”  I may smile and nod my head, but I really want to put my finger to my lips and hiss, “Shhhhh!  Stop staying that!”

A parent’s motive behind saying such things may be to reassure the teen that he understands because he’s been there, but such comments can have a negative effect.  A student who is struggling in math, or who doesn’t like math, has just been given license to stop trying.

In the same way, a student whose constant talking is disruptive has no reason to stop.  In fact, the pleasure gained from being “just like Mom” may lead to more talking.

It’s often amusing to see how much your children are like you (it’s even more amusing for their grandparents), but it’s important to stop and think about the consequences before mentioning the flaws you share.  Even if you qualify your observation with, “. . .but that doesn’t mean you have to act like me,” you’re still offering an excuse for undesirable behavior.

A better idea is to notice the similarities but comment about them to another adult, out of your teen’s hearing.  You can shake your heads and share a laugh together about the acorn not falling far from the oak tree without granting permission to repeat your mistakes.

And then you can call your mother and tell her that her wish came true – you did wind up with a child just like you!