Did you ever look at your 4-12 year-old child and think: “He’ll be lazy or sloppy forever, he’ll never get a job, he’ll be financially dependent on me as long as I live, I’ll have him living with me forever.” If you did (like I sometimes did) you probably overreacted to the situation in the moment and came down with everything you had in order to destroy the horrible movie you were playing in your head. You criticized, harassed, yelled, bullied and abused relentlessly (as I did).
Of course, some of our fears do come out later as true. But most of them don’t.
Don’t treat today’s problems as if they’re the end of the world and predict disaster forever. But don’t let them slide by because you’re in wishful-thinking mode.
Some parenting tests:
- If the kids are getting into trouble with the police or you think they’re really crazy or they’re involved heavily in drugs, alcohol, danger, rage and suicidal thinking, you’d better do something more than wishful thinking. Since the problem is probably not ignorance of bad possibilities, the answer is probably not loud lecturing. See case study #6 (“Teenagers most important decision”) in my book, “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.” It’s available fastest from my website.
- But for all the rest – not doing chores, or not interested in school, not thinking academically, laying around, spending all their time in athletics or on screens and video games, doing poorly on a test or in one subject, not following in the footsteps you’ve laid out as the Right way – don’t overreact. Calm down and deal with it as serious, but not the end of the world.
In the second set of examples, I begin by trying to find solutions that don’t label the child as having something innately wrong with them (like overreactions and visits to a shrink will label them). Instead, help them see the problem as a challenge and skill that’s difficult for that particular kid to learn.
We all have those areas that are more difficult for us. So what? That simply means we have to work harder in that area. That doesn’t mean we’re retarded or defective or evil or guaranteed to fail (or, at least, guaranteed not to get into Harvard and, therefore, guaranteed to fail).
Don’t lose it. Don’t make war with your spouse over the best way to proceed. If you split apart, you’ll never help the child.
Help the kids find models of great people who overcame similar difficulties. Connect them with a sense of inner determination, courage and strength.
If these first approaches don’t work, then we’ll need to move up a response-staircase with guidance.
The best way to learn to solve your specific parenting difficulties is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:
- Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
- Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to deal with the specific situation you’re in.