Sit properly. Respect your elders. Listen to your teachers. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t use bad language. We’ve heard them all before. They’re from the universal parenting handbook. However, it seems some parents must have been sick the day they were handed out from the way their children act.
In one of my previous articles, I talked about there being four main forces that influence and shape a children’s character and attitude – their parents, school, their friends and, to a lesser extent, TV. But especially in their formative years, for most children, parents are by far the biggest influence in their lives. It’s not even close. Parents influence every aspect of their children – how they eat, talk, sit, study, exercise, brush their teeth and, most importantly, think.
I take my son to swimming school and Karate lessons each week and meet all the kids and their parents. It’s rather revealing. Watching parents interact with their children, it’s easy to see the like-father-like-son phenomenon in action.
I’ve seen kids kick and scream on the floor and their parents just sit there, not doing anything. I’ve also seen parents grab their kid by their ankle, drag them into the corner and let’s just say, show them why they should never do that again.
I get both approaches. There’s the new age approach of giving their children space, and then there’s the old school approach, the one my butt remembers well.
Now I admit, I like the sound of the new age approach. It’s hands-off and doesn’t require parents going nuclear (which requires a whole lot of energy as well as whole lot of evil looks). There certainly were times when I didn’t want to spend ten minutes fighting with my son. All I wanted to do was have a nice, quiet dinner. But here’s the question I asked myself, if I don’t teach him what he’s doing is wrong, who will?
I so wanted to be the cool dad. Here’s the thing though, I’m not supposed to be cool. I wanted to be his best friend. But that’s not my job, I’m supposed to be his dad.
There are plenty of times when I’m funny and play the role of a big brother or good friend playing pranks on him. We goof around all the time. But when it’s time to be his dad, that’s who I become. When it’s homework time, he doesn’t need someone who will help him get out of studying. He needs someone to sit him down and teach him. I can be his friend or like a big brother some of the time, but I have to be his dad all the time.
I didn’t always think like that. In fact, I used to be just the opposite. I was known as being super kind. Starting out my career I taught kids for a living at a language school in Japan. I taught 126 kids, from the ages of 2 up to 12, week in and week out. 20 more students than any other teacher. I was nice. Super nice. But over time, I noticed that children were taking advantage of my kindness. I struggled to keep control of some classes. That’s when I realized that being strict isn’t always bad.
So I changed. I became the strict but nice teacher who was happy to play games, show them magic tricks and have fun, but only, if they behaved themselves and respected one another and myself first.
Kids need structure. They are just starting out. They don’t have enough knowledge to make good decisions. Giving them complete freedom isn’t the secret then. As adults, we have a responsibility to set boundaries, to teach them what they can and cannot do. We must teach them to eat their vegetables, go to bed early and all those things we hated when we were children.
It might not be cool. It might not be fun. But it’s the right thing to do.
Photo by c dempsey