Do you ever change how you respond to your child because eyes are on you? Sure, we have all had that moment when we gave in to a tantrum or let our child do something in public that we might not allow at home. At one time or another, we have all chosen not to enforce our boundaries in a store or on a playground in order to avoid social judgement. But, what is the long term cost of that temporary comfort? What if we all did what was true to our style of parenting, regardless of how we may be judged? In those moments, the question becomes whether you want to pay for it now or later.
In most cases, behavior is like the tides. While it may surprise us every now and then, the tide is usually predictable whether it’s headed in or out, whether it will be high or low. However, unlike the tide, you have the ability to change the outcome of your child’s behavior. When parenting, each decision you make shapes the course of the decisions your child will make in the future. You may think you have gotten off the hook by giving in to your child’s 4-minute, explosive tantrum at the grocery store, but you have surely created what will be an even more difficult situation next time. Your child will most likely remember what they need to do to get what they want, and this time they will be even more committed than the first, knowing it will pay off in the end. To avoid this outcome, we need to get comfortable with saying “no” to our children.
Saying “no” to your child isn’t mean or neglectful. Saying “no” actually teaches boundaries and appreciation. I have been working in the behavior field in many different capacities for the last 20 years. Every year the number of students in need of interventions increases. The culture has changed. We post pictures of our happiest moments. We want others to believe we are perfect parents and that our children have a perfect life. We want to be liked in our communities, and we want our children to like and need us. We want to protect our children from negative feelings such as sadness, hurt and frustration. This leads us to give in to our children’s desires and demands in order to make them “happy.” Instead of creating responsible, independent, empathetic children, we are raising children who are not only dependent but also disrespectful, which is the perfect storm for entitlement. Children who have been allowed to disrespect their parents are less likely to show respect toward other adults in their lives, such as teachers, principals, coaches and day care workers. These adults, who have been charged with keeping the child safe or facilitating their development, cannot be as effective with a child who is not used to respecting boundaries.
There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs In my observations of teachers and parents who consistently set boundaries and maintain rapport with their child. They are oftentimes the child’s favorite person! Setting boundaries is good for children and parents alike when there is an understanding of the positive outcomes that come with them. Parents shape their children, but the good news is that valuable education in setting (and enforcing) boundaries and maintaining acceptable behavior is available.