Teaching Children by Imposing Consequences

We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows where children of the 1950’s era may steel a little candy from the store, and their parents make them return the item (if possible) or at least go back and pay for it with a hefty apology.  And we hear more stories today of parents “interfering” with their children’s lives, even when their children are legal adults.  The parents might talk to the school administrations of the university, or worse, call into their children’s employer to remedy a situation for their child.  It’s unbelievable to me that a parent would interfere to that degree.

We recently had a co-op employee, similar to an intern but this student acquires university credit for the work experience, anyway, her parents called in to the office and arranged to hang posters with her picture in the office for a birthday celebration.  I would be mortified if my parents thought of treating me that way.  Although I believe it was completely by accident and lack of awareness by my parents, their hands off approach has made me extremely independent.

So why do parents think that this kind of interference is good for the kids.  I was listening to a memoir of sorts (book on CD), Between Good and Evil by Roger L. Depue and he describes the time period in high school where he became nckvery disobedient as a kid.  This is common for kids and teenagers as they try to test boundaries, and learn to gain their independence before adulthood.  Luckily in his case, for every action, there was an imposed consequence.  After punching a kid in school a few days before graduation, his parents did negotiate for him to clean every window in the school instead of suspension which would prevent him from graduating.  And it struck me the importance for parents to show their children that there are consequences for every action.  We should be fostering the development of independence in children, so they learn how to deal with life situations.

We all see parents today try to rationalize with their kids, even as young as 2 or 3 years old when they are not of a mental development to have a rationalized conversation.  I think the conversation is good, and is important when the kids do reach that mental development.  But first the parent has to be in charge!

NPR had a good story about parents trying to deal with the outbursts of their teenagers.  Kim Abraham, a therapist in private practice in Michigan, specializes in helping teens and parents cope with anger.   I’m now adding to my reading list:  The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler


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