I heard it so often as a child, "We can be friends when you get older, right now my job is to be your Mother." I used to think she was literally crazy. Like, seriously? How cold can ya get? Here I am years later, repeating the same words to my kids. Sometimes we struggle with this. It is SO MUCH EASIER to just be the "good guy"... the "cool parent". I see this so very often in parenting. There is always that parent that just "doesn't want to be mean." I am here to tell you... YOU ARE NOT BEING MEAN! You are being MOM! ;) That is the difference! How often as a child did you think your Mom or Dad were being a complete jerk and were literally just trying to ruin your life? Alot huh? Yeah, me too! Now, how many times have you found yourself saying, "Mom, NOW I GET IT!" I find myself shouting out apologies to my Mother at random! "I am so sorry I ever doubted you, Mom!" The truth of the matter is... we are put in our children's lives to be their parents. NOT to be their friends. They need us to be parents, they want us to be friends. It is time for us to focus on our children's NEEDS rather than their WANTS.
As parents, we are stuck in a constant limbo between teaching our children what they need and wanting to give them what they want. My Mom was very famous for saying, "Your wants won't kill you." Sometimes the line is so very thin, we hardly realize we have overstepped it. We all want to give our children everything their little hearts desire, but sometimes we forget... our JOB as parents is to cover their needs. Now, lets think about this. What are our children's needs? Food, water, shelter, clothing, etc... What are out children's wants? Toys, movies, televisions, games, "cool" clothing, etc... I often think that we as parents are to blame for the issues that plague children and teens these days. We feed in to the idea that our children NEED these things in order to meet some sort of status quo. We become so consumed and focused on these wants that we in turn forget about their EMOTIONAL NEEDS. Like a hug, a simple "I love you", just sitting down with them and talking to them like they are a human being. If we can learn to balance our children's wants and needs we will find that we are rearing healthier, happier, more emotionally stable children. I challenge you as a parent to give your child what they need, not what they want. When they are grown, they will thank you for those long talks and hugs... they will REMEMBER this. I promise you, they are not going to remember how many toys they got for Christmas when they were 5.
I also want to talk today about positive vs. negative reinforcement.
Ex. Positive Reinforcement- You ask your child to clean their room, they do so in a timely manner and without fuss, you reward them with a small toy or a special privilege, praise... etc.
Ex. Negative Reinforcement- You ask your child to clean their room, they fuss and do not pick up, you bribe them with toys and privileges in order for them to do what you ask.
As you can see, in a negative reinforcement situation, the child is STILL being rewarded for NEGATIVE behavior. You never thought of it like that, did ya? A very common misunderstanding is that bribing a child is effective. I am sorry to burst your bubble here, ya'll... but it is NOT. Let's apply this same theory to an adult and see what we get.
Ex. Positive Reinforcement- Boss asks employee to volunteer some time to the company. Many employees are getting together and raising funds for charity. The employee does their part and volunteers for several hours throughout the year. End of the year comes, employee gets a very nice bonus, recognition from their boss and respect from their fellow employees.
Ex. Negative Reinforcement- Boss asks employee to volunteer some time to the company. Employee gripes and moans and says he will not spend a minute of his time without being paid. Boss bribes employee with a small pay raise in order to get the employee to participate. End of the year comes, employee is stuck with their small pay raise.
In the end, you may think the result is the same. But let's focus on the details. If you were the employee in the Positive example, how would you feel knowing that someone else was rewarded the same as you when you were the one putting in the time and effort? You would not have much respect for that individual would you?
I didn't think so. ;)
Our children strive for positive reinforcement. They want to be rewarded and recognized for their good behaviors. They want to know that their efforts as YOUR child are paying off. Just as the employee wants to know that their efforts are paying off. I challenge you to focus on your child's positive behaviors and reward them accordingly. It is so easy to get caught up in what our children do wrong that we often forget to tell them "Good Job" for what they do right. Most importantly, I want us to remember that our children are people NOW. We need to treat them that way.
I challenge you to be a parent to your child, not a friend. I challenge you to give them what the need, not always what they want. I challenge you to reward them for their positive behaviors and not focus on their negative behaviors. I challenge you to love. Always love.
Ya'll have a great day and I'll see ya soon.