Children need structure. Children in fact crave structure. But children will also test the boundaries of how much of a “well okay” parent you will be to them. We all know those parents. You’re in a grocery store and a child is acting up and to appease the child (read: reward the behavior) the parent will say, “well, okay, but you have to clean your room when we get home.” Chances are the room got messier and the behavior grew bolder. It’s not always easy being a parent. Telling a child no often brings tears to the child’s eyes and a look of sadness you want to trade in for the next 5 hugs they will give you later in the day, but as parents, we have an obligation to provide proper structure for our children. We are their parents and not their friend. That is a fine line to draw, but one they most certainly need to see.
I am often interested in hearing stories of misbehaving children and learning that the child is often given free reign because, and finish this sentence with me, “it is often easier to give in then to cause a big uproar or scene.” But the uproar is needed. We are all born with an uncanny desire to do as we please, which is not always what is required of us. It is through discipline, structure, boundaries, dedication, responsibility, love, example and, leadership that a child will truly learn right from wrong and begin to emulate responsible adults. This is where having good examples around your child will be most helpful at an early age. If a child sees an adult or role model smoking cigarettes or chewing dip, then the child will naturally assume those are qualities he or she can replicate as they grow older. This is where being a parent gets tough. It is not enough to simply tell the child that behavior is undesirable and “icky,” you need to take them out of the situation entirely. It is like showing a young child a rated-R movie. You can tell them it is not “ok” to chop off someone’s arm or that smoking is bad, but once they have seen it and they know what those behaviors are, they could fall into destructive patterns much quicker than you can offer correction. It is best they are never put into those situations. A parent should be more of a guardian and much less a friend.
When you want what is the best for your child, you have to show them with your actions, not just your words. Turn off the movie, leave the place where smoking is occurring, give them milk in place of soda and be a parent. It is not always easy, but it is more than essential. We are a month into a new year. If you made resolutions you might already have fallen back on those wishes and desires. When resolutions are not backed by the conviction it takes to keep them, they are often easily forgotten. Doing what is best for your child should not be among a list of resolutions, changing your behaviors to be a better parent is a calling for each of us who have been blessed with a child. This year, stop playing best friend to your child and become the parent they deserve. Be firm, fair, consistent and predictable and you will be glad you are on the observing end of the grocery aisle. The next time a tantrum is thrown, it will not be your child.