Don’t blink first

When you go eyeball to eyeball with a wilful toddler or teen, don’t blink first.

Having worked extensively with parents of children of all ages for over two decades, I have learnt that good people don’t necessarily make good parents. That might sound like a rather harsh comment to make but it’s not intended to be. It’s merely recognising that some people are gentle natured and just not up for taking on a strong willed child.

Sadly, this results in a child who grows up thinking that s/he is in charge and has the right to call the shots because their mild mannered parents (nice people), are not naturally confrontational, and rather opt not to get into an argy bargy with their child, just to keep the peace.

This may be a short term solution for keeping the peace because it takes two to have a fight and, if the parent does not respond, no fight takes place. But down the road, a cheeky five-year-old turns into an obnoxious, arrogant, selfish teenager who tells his/her parents what to do. And, with the way things are going, where children are staying in the family home well into their 20s, the parents end up with a 20-something dictator in the home. These mild mannered parents (the nice people) who spent years trying to avoid confrontation with their child then end up living in fear of an adult child whose lifestyle they are actually funding.

While it may sound like some countries we know, this is not the way it’s meant to be in the natural order of things.

So, prevention is better than cure because there really is no cure for a child who has grown up with no respect for their parents. Bad parenting results in a life sentence for both parties …

Accept, then, that parenting is therefore not for sissies. It takes a healthy dose of courage to parent a strong-willed child so, as a parent, you have to let your child know who’s in charge.

This doesn’t mean you go to the opposite extreme and come down heavily and harshly on your child for all sorts of minor things. And it also doesn’t mean that you have to be aggressive and heavy handed.

Few people know that gentleness is the ultimate form of strength. When you are truly strong within yourself and you know you are, you do not have to resort to all sorts of aggressive ways of dealing with a child. You can be gentle – but very strong.

If your children are still young, there’s good news for you. Start today. When your toddler throws a tantrum, don’t back down, don’t shout and don’t show any signs of weakness. Go down to their level, lower your voice and speak very quietly, very deliberately and very calmly to them. Tell them in no uncertain terms that their behaviour is unacceptable (use whatever language is most appropriate) and tell them what you will do if they don’t cease their unpleasant behaviour, then take action if they try to call your bluff and, believe me, they will.

Remember – don’t blink. If you do, you’re finished and will spend the rest of your life as your children’s slave.

Children come into the world thinking that their parents are there to meet their needs and do what they tell them to do. There’s nothing wrong with that – that’s quite normal, so don’t get angry about this. Your and my role as a parent is to teach them that it’s not all about them.

So, be gentle, be strong, be consistent and be forgiving when you need to be, and you will raise children who will be caring and compassionate towards you and others long after you have stopped actively parenting them. There’s nothing more uplifting than children who show love and kindness to their parents. But they have to learn it somewhere … 

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