Guidelines For Parents
of June/July, 1998
Children Don't Grow Like Trees by 'Yinka Vidal
Unlike computer software, babies don't come with package inserts or handouts. Parents do what they believe is right in raising their children. While many of these parents achieved wonderful results, very small number attained disastrous outcome. The national headlines of children killing other children, or of mass murderers should not shock us if we look into how we raise some of the bad ones.
Some people will argue that parents do their best and just happen to have bad kids, other will argue -- it is the environment. Whatever the cause, it is a misconception to assume that any child is born evil. A child's bad behavior is probably influenced by many interacting factors. With some genetic propensity, most kids turn out as a product of both their environment, and the direct influence of the family within which they are raised. Focusing on the family as the only cause of the problem has touched many nerves and led some parents into the denial of the problems with their kids. When children behave very badly, parents immediately think society's criticism is an indictment of their parental skills. But, the result of a bad product is rarely due to one factor.
The book MOLESTED, which includes a chapter called "Children Don't Grow Like Trees" is not finished yet. Nonetheless, it is very crucial at this time to share this information with parents, due to the rise of disturbing news of children killers on school grounds.
The 14 Basic Things Every Parent Must Know
1. Never treat children as young adults. Due to adults' misconceptions about children's perception, some people believe that if children are treated as young adults and everything will be fine. This is the first mistake in raising children. Children should be treated as children who are gradually learning from their environment and growing up with the sense of what they can understand. Some parents who resort to treating their children as adults by expecting that the kids will automatically know what is right and wrong, are later to be disappointed. Adults' inadequacies as children, or the suffering endured from abuse may cause some parents to treat their children as adults. For example, a parent who suffered physical abused as a child may find it harder to institute any form of corporal punishment on his or her kids compared to other parents without such histories.
2. Educate your children based on strong moral values, not self-centeredness. Children should be taught the right and wrong within the family and also their responsibilities to their peers in school. Parent who allow their children to take advantage of other children in school are breeding serious problems for those kids in the future. Parents should be outraged when their kids do bad things against other kids (and take immediate corrective action), the same way they get angry when other people do bad things to their kids.
3. Parents should be good role models for their kids. Children learn to behave by imitating either their parents or their peers in school. When parents do bad things before the kids, those children immediately assume such behaviors are acceptable. Most of the time when the kids are confused about the right thing to do because of getting conflicting messages from parents, they go the easier route -- usually doing the wrong thing. Charity begins at home, as the old saying goes. Parents, not movie or sport stars must be their children's primary role models.
4. Teach teenagers the moral values concerning money and power. Some television shows or movies may teach lessons parents don't want their children to acquire, but a parent must take an active role in teaching children the values about life. The value of money should be taught not as an instrument of manipulation, but as a tool to achieve appropriate results of reducing human suffering, and making life more comfortable. Money should not become god, only an instrument.
5. Absolutely no dating before the senior year in high-school. Children find it difficult to deal with romantic relationship, love and sex because they are too young and lack value systems to make correct choices. Dating should be delayed till senior year in high-school. Children can have friends of any gender, but they should be discouraged from intimate involvement with any friend. When dating starts, it should begin with exchanging friendly visits between the families, not going to the movie theatre, where unpredictable behaviors may surface due to hormonal activation of desires. Beginning dating with family presence gives opportunity for the young people to learning how to respect members of each other's families. Parents in turn, learn to know and study the behavior of their teenager's friend. Physical abuse or a forced behavior by a boy, is usually reduced when a girl's boyfriend already knows her family members and has developed respect for her parents.
7. Watch your children's associates. This is one of the most crucial of all jobs a parent has to do in raising a child. Children learn from imitation; they easily adopt their friend's bad behavior because it is acceptable within the group. By teaching children self-respect, they learn to be defiant of bad groups and are better equipped to deal with peer pressure. Teach them to learn to think for themselves instead of allowing the group to think for them. Most fights in the schools have been instigated by children's peers, who want to see a fight, but at the same time don't want to put themselves on the punching line. A parent should learn to immediately insulate his or her kids from bad peers even if it means moving out of the neighborhood. Always remember the old saying. "Bad apples spoil good ones."
8. Teach your children to respect you. Part of the mistake parents make is not to teach children to respect adults. For example, by allowing their children to talk to people in any kind of way. Freedom of speech and behavior come with the sense of responsibility and accountability. Children earn respect as they grow up from their parents. There is no way parents should allow their children to run adults' lives. Parents who feel inadequate may want their children to run their lives because the parents feel inadequate. Perhaps they want to tell themselves they are doing things to make the kids happy regardless to whether these will help the kids in the future or not.
9. Both parents must always speak with one voice. Well-educated and adjusted parents don't criticize each other before the children when the parents disagree regarding the raising of the children. Although it is almost impossible to expect parents not to disagree before kids once in a while, this should be the exception, not the rule. A parent who wants to massage his or her ego may pick a fight with the spouse before the children to show dissatisfaction over an issue. This may be very destructive to the children because children quickly learn to manipulate the parents against each other.
10. Give a child more love than spanking. This has always been a controversial issue because spanking can be considered as a form of abuse if it is too severe. Parents who were subjected to more severe spanking as children may regard spanking an uncivilized form of punishment. Children are very different; some need no spanking at all, while others need a little, and spearing the rod with some kids will definitely spoil the child. However, spanking should be used with precision to influence corrective behavior, or as a form of behavior-patterning. It should never be done in anger, or as ventilation for aggressive behavior, and should not be too severe. If spanking is used at all, and effectively to pattern behavior, it should have ended by the age of ten years. Once a child enters junior high-school, other forms of punishment should be used besides corporal punishment. If impulse and aggression cannot be controlled, then spanking should be left out completely. A parent must therefore give more love, compliments, and kindness to a child than the disciplinary action. When children experience too much constant discipline over a pronged period of time, they usually associate such excessive strict disciple as aggression. They may start to develop hate for that parent or uncle who spanks them.
11. Institute immediate consequences of behavior. End of spanking doesn't mean end of discipline. There are always a lot of dishes to wash, floors to mop, garbage to take out and many rooms to clean. Kids must have daily chores besides cleaning their rooms. This rule should be enforced by parents and be increased when punishment is needed. Children should be taught the consequences of behavior, responsibility, and accountability.
12. Teach children to deal with failures, painful emotions, and differences with peers. Children see movies; they see what adults do with guns when they get angry. Impulsive reactions to situations have been what some kids have seen, regardless of what they have been told. By human nature, we believe more in what people do (attitudinal behavior) than what people say. Parents should utilize negative incidents in life to teach great lessons to their children regarding what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. As long as there is life, failure will emerge from different angles. Children should be taught that failure is a temporary setback, and that the greatest success usually comes from the ruins of failure. When children are going though painful emotions, parents should move closer and talk to them more often to evaluate their states of mind. Sometimes professional help may be needed in a prolonged painful situation. One of the most important things children must learn is to find ways to resolve their differences with their peers without resorting to a fight, continuous anger or animosity.
13 Parents must set limits for children. Children must be given enforceable behavior guidelines by their parents. This rule should start from the time the children can understand simple communications. Starting to enforce behavior guidelines when children are already teenagers makes is much harder for parents to achieve objectives, and the children to conform.
14 No parties without parental supervision. Although most parents will want to trust their kids, but it is unreasonable to leave a bunch of teenagers having a party or a sleep-over without parental supervision. Teenagers are still testing the realities of life under the influence of curiosity and other desires. In the absence of a supervising adults, inappropriate behavior may happen.
I hope these 14 points will help parents with guidelines in helping their kids grow because trees grow with a little beat of water and sunshine. However, humans need more than just water and sunshine. We need nurture, food, counseling, parental love and caring, and much more. Consequently, children don't grow like trees -- they need a lot more to grow up to be healthy adults. From OUTCRY Magazine of June/July, 1998. E.mail the author