Meanest Parent on the Block: Values Based Parenting
By Suzanne M. Anderson
Being the parent of three children ranging in age from 8 to 12 and teaching parenting skills I am frequently pulled up short to think and rethink what I am doing in my own home.
Recently I have been jolted into rethinking about what each of my actions teaches them. Am I teaching them strong positive values that will propel them into a healthy future themselves and within the global village? Am I crippling them to struggle without a strong foundation or learn from painful circumstances that which I didn’t teach them early on?
Have I thought about teaching values before now? Yes, in a general sense. I want them to be well behaved, successful and happy. But did I concretely think about how they would learn the building blocks of responsibility, persistence, and commitment? Honestly, sadly, no.
So let me get concrete here for a few minutes and share with you some of the everyday situations that have me thinking and rethinking. What do our children learn when…
…they spill milk and the maid cleans it up?
…they wreck the car and they get to pick out the color of the new one?
…they attend class parties where there is more food than the class could possibly ever eat?
…they are packed up and taken out of the country if they have a positive drug test?
…they can receive full or almost full marks for assignments which are turned in after the due date?
…they miss school for being sick, but can go out and party in the evening?
…authorities confront them for having broken a rule and endangering people and parents lie for them saying the kids didn’t do it?
…parents work on the children’s homework as hard or harder than the children?
I am not making these up. This is what I think they are learning.
Others will clean up after me.
There are benefits for being irresponsible.
My parents will take care of my problems.
Deadlines are just suggestions.
It’s okay to play even if I have not met my responsibilities.
My parents will take care of my problems and it’s okay to lie to avoid responsibility for misbehavior.
My parent’s don’t think I am capable or I don’t have to worry about this, someone else is.
How are these lessons going to translate into behavior in our children when they are in college or in the work place? Will they have learned delayed gratification, frustration tolerance, honesty, hard work, responsibility or will they be the next generation leading us into financial crisis through dishonesty, lack of integrity and greed?
Think back on the most important lessons you have learned in life? What were the circumstances? What did you learn? Universally when I ask these questions values were learned in adversity and difficulty and they made an indelible impression. We need to allow our children the opportunities to experience adversity and learn as we did.
Sometimes I joke with my friends with some embarrassment about being the “meanest parent on the block.” As I think more about what I am trying to teach my kids, I begin to hold my head a little higher when I have once again—in an effort to teach my children values—earned that distinction. Will you join me in being the “meanest parent on the block?” Should we start a group?