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There are a lot of different parenting beliefs out there. Some that help us and some that don’t. Today we’re going to learn about 3 parenting myths therapists wish we didn’t buy into.
Janet Cazier, LCSW
Myth #1 Parents are 100% Responsible for Their Children
One myth I see parents getting sucked into is that they are 100% responsible for their kids success in ALL of the following areas:Y
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Emotional health
- Scholastic success
- Social success
This is so easy to do, because when a child is born, you are responsible for SO MUCH in their life. It’s your job to try to meet their needs. However, unless you’ve been taught differently, it’s very easy to continue to feel like your role is to keep meeting all of child’s needs.
Here’s why this is a problem:
- Parents that feel responsible for everything in their child’s life, unintentionally become controlling. Often, kids that feel controlled will rebel.
- If you are trying to be 100% responsible for your child’s life, they will never learn how to be responsible for themselves. Rather, they learn to sit back and let you do all their work, make all their tough decisions, and fix all their problems.
- Taking full responsibility for everything in your child’s life will wear you out! It takes a lot of effort just to deal with the challenges of your own personal life. Now imagine being fully responsible for ALL the people in your home! It’s no wonder some parents are EXHAUSTED.
- If your child struggles, you may feel like a failure because you feel like you were responsible for their success.
What are you responsible for?
We don’t want you to read this and think “The therapist told me I am not responsible for my kids, so I’m going to sit back and take a break.” That is not what we’re saying.
Parents have many responsibilities and parenting is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever have.
Parents are responsible for:
- Their own personal health and happiness
- Providing a loving home
- Providing structure, rules, and boundaries
- Meeting the basic needs of their children: food, shelter, safety
- Teaching their children skills that they need to be successful in life
- Being aware of issues and trying to provide help where needed
- Teaching their children how to become happy, healthy adults
Parents are not responsible for:
- Their children’s choices
- Their children’s success
- Their children’s happiness
We want you to avoid the trap of feeling like you are responsible for everything in your child’s life. We don’t want that for you or for your child.
Here’s an example of a parent who is taking too much responsibility.
Parent #1 Taking an Unhealthy Amount of Responsibility
“Susan” wanted her son to get good grades. He hadn’t cared about his grades for a long time though. He would put off doing his homework until last minute or not bother to do it at all. Susan couldn’t stand the idea of her son getting a bad grade or not graduating from high school, so she’ll did her son’s homework for him.
She did this all through high school. Finally, during her son’s senior year of high school, his teacher’s told him he would not graduate from high school unless he turned in an overdue paper. The son didn’t care and refused to do it. Susan wrote the paper so her son could graduate.
It is good that Susan wanted her son to do well in school. But in the end, did Susan’s son get good grades or did just Susan get a good grade. Did her son learn to work hard or to take responsibility for himself? Is her son going to be successful in the workplace or in college?
Do you feel like you might be taking too much responsibility for your child? Are you wanting to have your child learn how to be responsible for themselves?
We suggest starting by choosing one area of your child’s life that you feel like you’re taking too much responsibility for. Talk to your child and let them know that they will be responsible for that now. Let them make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.
Gradually let your child be 100% responsible for more and more in their life. By the time they’re 18 years old, you want them to be responsible for pretty much everything in their own life.
*Remember that you can provide guidance along the way as you’re not taking responsibility from them.
Myth #2 I Have to Be Patient With Bad Behavior
You do not have to be patient with bad behavior! Whatever behaviors you are patient with are behaviors that will be repeated.
We DO need to patient with some things:
- Kids that are slower learners. Still have firm boundaries and consequences when they violate boundaries, but some kids do learn slower than others.
- Honest mistakes your kids make. It’s important for children to learn that mistakes are a normal part of life and that they are still good people even if they make a mistake.
- You do need to control your temper. It is never appropriate to yell at, shame, hit, or demean your child. Those behaviors should be off limits for parents and children alike.
- Things your kids do that might be a little obnoxious, but are really normal for their age. Of course, you are allowed to have boundaries around obnoxious behaviors, you don’t have to let them go on continuously. However, you don’t want to be constantly annoyed that your child behaves like…a child!
Some things you should never be patient with:
- Being treated disrespectfully
Those behaviors do not need to be tolerated. Instead, give an immediate consequence any time and every time those behaviors are used. With time, your kids will learn that it’s not worth their time to use those kind of behaviors.
How to know if you’re being too patient with a certain behavior:
If you feel resentment towards a certain behavior your child uses, that’s a sign that you need to no longer let that behavior continue. Be aware of the ones that bug you the most and create some clear boundaries about that behavior.
Myth #3 Having Control Is Bad
The word “control” bothers some parents. This may be because some parents seek to have control over their kids in unhealthy and domineering ways. That kind of control IS unhealthy and should be avoided.
However, research has shown that parents should be the authority figures in their home. When children become the authority and run the home instead of the parents, that creates a very unhealthy family structure.
Why parents don’t like to have control:
- They feel it’s mean
- They’d rather have fun without boundaries
- They want to make their child happy
- They don’t want to deal with the tantrums that will happen when kids don’t get their way
Here’s a real life example:
I have a client who was sent to me because her child’s doctor told her she needed to. The child was suffering from a nutritional deficiency because she refused to eat anything but Twinkies. As I talked to the mom, I found out the mom was offering her daughter lots of healthy food choices, but would give her daughter a Twinkie if she cried for it long enough.
In this situation, the daughter, who was 4 years old, had complete control over her eating. The mom was not in control at all. I taught her to regain her control by creating boundaries around eating. For her that meant that her daughter could not eat any junk food until she’d eaten an appropriate amount of healthy food. This is having healthy control.
I do want to make it clear that you should control your home, but not your children.
How do you control your home without controlling your children?
I want to teach you this by sharing an analogy:
Cows want to get out of their fences. They will lean on the fence over and over again until it bends over enough for them to hop over. A smart rancher will make sure that the fences are firmly in place day after day. Eventually the cows will learn that the fence isn’t going any where and that they should stay in their boundaries. They are allowed all the freedom they want as long as they stay within the boundaries.
Smart parents, like smart ranchers, have healthy control in their homes by establishing boundaries around their children’s behaviors. Every time their children “lean” on those boundaries, the parents enforce the boundary to show that boundary is firm. Eventually the kids learn not to lean on those boundaries. They then can enjoy all the freedoms they want as long as they stay within the boundaries.
You want your child to do a short chore each day. You and your child work together to decide which chores they’ll do on which day. Then as the parent, you get to establish what time you want the chore completed based on what works for the family. This could be different for each family. In our family, the chore just needed to be completed before 7:00 PM. You also establish what the consequence for not completing the chore will be. Then the child gets to CHOOSE when before 7:00 pm (or whatever time you choose) they complete the chore. If they do not complete the chore, they have chosen to lean on your fence. Now you keep the fence firm by giving the consequence you talked about. If you keep doing this, your child will learn to get their chore done by 7:00 pm.
You get to have healthy control by deciding what boundaries you need in your home to make it a happy, healthy place, then keep those boundaries really firm. We know that enforcing boundaries with a strong-willed child is rough. They don’t like boundaries, they may escalate when they receive a consequence for crossing a boundary, they may act like they don’t care but you HAVE to keep those boundaries firm. It’s the only way that you will provide your kids what they really need…a parent who is in charge.
If you’re having some resistance to the idea of boundaries, you might want to explore why boundaries are healthy. Here’s a list of reasons to get you started.
Why boundaries are healthy:
- Teaches children how to treat other people
- Teaches children that each person has personal boundaries and that it’s important to honor those boundaries
- Teaches children to create personal boundaries that protect themselves
- They learn that their choices do matter to other people. That each choice has a result: positive or negative.
- Teaches children how to interact with others, especially authority figures.
We want you to believe truths that will help you enjoy your child now and raise healthy adults in the future. Evaluate yourself to see if you’ve gotten trapped believing some of these myths. If you have, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, adjust where necessary.