Teach Your Children Well

Sparing the Rod

by Dr. Jeffrey Tipton 

 Many parents who want their preteen or teen to do well in school
and stay out of trouble feel like “laying down the law” or forcing
their child to do what they think is best. When their child rebels or
refuses to do what they demand, they’re surprised or upset. Young
people actually have many good ideas about how to deal with
problems. When they can contribute to rules and other decisions, they
are likely to follow through with improved behavior. This fact sheet
offers ways, aimed at young people between the ages of 10 and 18, for
parents to help their children learn about responsibility and solve
problems at home or school.

Gradually let go

From their child’s birth to around 18 years, parents gradually need to
widen a child’s responsibility. Parents do almost everything for
their child during infancy. However, the child gradually learns to do
simple things—feeding oneself, walking, making needs known,
learning how to dress, and so on. Parents usually are anxious for the
baby and small child to do more and are proud of each new thing
their child learns. It’s easy to forget, however, that preteens and teens
also need to continue to do more things for themselves. The goal is
for young people at age 18 or so to be able to live on their own and
make decisions.

Parents who continue to solve their preteen’s problems or make their
decisions make it more difficult for their child to become a responsible
adult. Unwanted parental control at this age has two possible outcomes,
neither of which is healthy. Some children with controlling parents never
learn to stand on their own two feet. Even as adults, they cannot make decisions
and may have trouble living away from home. Others react to excessive
control by becoming rebellious. When they no longer live at home,
they may behave in ways their parents had tried to prevent; they
may use alcohol or drugs, engage in promiscuous sex or other
dangerous behavior. On the other hand, parents who gradually let
their child take responsibility and solve his or her own problems help
prepare that child for adulthood.

Long-term parenting

The kind of parenting that gets young people to do what you want
in the short term doesn’t usually teach long-term goals, such as
responsibility and maturity. Short-term parenting is characterized by:

adult power and control;

nagging and bossing;

trying to prevent a child’s mistakes;

harsh punishment;

insistence on “their” way, and

a concern for, “What will other
people think?”

One problem of short-term parenting is that children and teens
may do what parents want while they’re watching, but go behind
their parents’ backs to do what they want when parents are not around.
Long-term parenting takes time and may not appear to be working at
first. However, young people gradually develop responsibility and
the ability to think for themselves. Long-term parenting is recognized by:

parents who share feelings with
their children;

help from children in setting rules
and consequences and solving
problems;

helping young people learn from
mistakes;

respectful listening, and
a concern with, “What will my
children think about themselves?”

Joint problem-solving

Young people can suggest possible solutions to any situation that
causes trouble for their parents or themselves—household chores,
homework, peers, schedules, even fighting with brothers and sisters.
Joint problem-solving, in which parents involve their child to
brainstorm solutions, is a good way to teach responsibility and how to
make decisions.

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