Choices in Parenting

Last week I came across a video on Facebook of a father punishing his ten-year-old son by making him run to school. His child had been kicked off the bus for three days for bullying. There were a great number of comments on the video, some praising the father for posting the video as an example to other parents, while others criticized the father for bullying and humiliating his son by posting the video. (At no time during the video was the child’s face shown nor his name mentioned.) Admittedly I leaned toward the side of those who praised this father for his disciplinary method.

In light of the opposing reactions to this video, I wanted to point out a few truths that a lot of people commenting seemed to miss when it comes to kids and parenting. First off, just as all people have different learning methods that work best for them, so do all people have different disciplinary methods to which they respond to best. Some kids respond better to physical punishments, such as running. Others need to have privileges revoked. And still others learn best from time-outs. Age and mental development, temperament, sensitivities, and countless other factors that make each of us unique also help inform parents as to what works with their children. (For advocates of time-out corners, I’d just like to say that method never taught me anything as a child. As a constant daydreamer, staring at a corner just gave me an excuse to let my mind wander.)

Second, there seems to a disturbing trend among parents today to want to shelter their kids from anything that might induce “negative” feelings. They don’t want their children to “suffer” humiliation, defeat, or simply be told that they are wrong about something. How does this sort of sheltering help children? It doesn’t. If they never come across situations where they lose in some way, they never develop the skills necessary to handle such situations when they grow up. Their only choices are to throw an adult temper tantrum because they don’t get their way or they can give up prematurely because the situation they’re facing is not easy to overcome. How can you expect someone to become a successful adult if they never learn to properly deal with a little adversity in their life? This not only teaches them how to deal with bad things in their own lives; it also teaches them empathy for people who deal with bigger problems that they can’t overcome on their own.

Third, there also seems to be a trend among parents wanting to be their children’s friends but not actually be a parent. They seem to avoid laying down any rules. While a child should never be afraid to talk to their parent about anything, there is a major problem when the child controls the relationship because they lack leadership from their parents. When I worked as a summer camp counselor, one of the things we emphasized was respect. At the beginning of each week, we laid down rules with our cabin groups so that the kids knew what was expected of them and how they were to interact with each other. Some rules applied camp-wide, while others were promises the kids made on how they would treat their cabin-mates. As counselors, we gave the kids choices about the rules, but the important thing was that we guided them through those choices. Rules were set through “multiple choice”, not “fill in the blank.” The rules acted as guidelines that could be applied to any situation that came up, and they helped the kids learn how to respect both their peers and adults.

My current job involves teaching kids in a non-traditional setting. I see over a thousand students come through my facility each year, and I see the results of different approaches taken by various schools as well as the parents within those school systems. I’m not in a position to discipline the kids who come to learn from me, so those who don’t receive appropriate parenting and leadership at home tend to distract other students from my lessons. The teachers often see these fieldtrips as a “day off” for them (which is another blog entry entirely), which doesn’t help me in maintaining an atmosphere of learning when students get rowdy. Parenting needs to start at home, because that is the only place where parents can tailor lessons in behavior, morals, and respect to their children.


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