Stop Enabling Your Kids

I was talking to a student the other day who mentioned that her mother wrote her brother’s college scholarship essay. When she confronted her family about this, she was punished.  I know another friend whose mother requested his college recommendation letters for him.  Other parents, upon recognizing that their children are engaging in drug use, still provide them with spending money.  Colleges complain about parents calling to ask about their children’s grades, evidently their kids won’t tell them. Here a free tip: If you don’t know what grades your student is getting in college… in fact, if you even have to question whether or not your child is passing, DO NOT PAY FOR THE CLASSES.  Why the heck would you pay the ridiculous costs of classes and books and living if your child is going to even think about giving a mediocre performance, and then DARE to keep you, the source of at least part (maybe all) of their income, out of the loop? It’s obnoxious.

Guys, this is a topic that gets me FIRED UP! I am so passionate about this because my generation is going to rule the world one day, and frankly, most of us are not prepared. The reason? We have not been prepared.  The following is a result of my observations of my parents throughout the years, who have raised two children, are in the process of raising two more, and the lot of us have never done anything illegal or stupid (well, we’ve never made a habit out of anything stupid). In fact, I remember one time I was asked to talk about a problem in my family- perhaps relating to drug use, alcoholism, divorce, etc. I did not have an answer. Not a single person in my close family (includes grandparents, their children, and my cousins- about 12 families total) has ever gotten a divorce. I’m not bragging, I obviously had nothing to do with this track record. I’m just saying, I’d be stupid not to take a closer look at how kids are raised ‘round here.

So lets get to it: Why do your children make bad decisions? Because they are human.

Here’s the real question, why do your children continue to make the same bad decisions?

Because they are enabled.

Parenting is hard, I get it. I am definitely no expert. Children come with no manual on their proper care and keeping. But at the very least, at the very least can we use our common sense? Whoever thought that raising kids on TV and McDonald’s and letting boyfriends sleep over and letting them wear pants below their butts and two piece bathing suits when they were 3 and thongs when they were 10 was a good idea? In what Universe does this make sense?

People, at the most basic level, make decisions based on effort exerted vs. outcome achieved. If a decision requires little effort and has a positive outcome, then people are likely to make it again, especially in lieu of exerting a lot of effort and getting the same outcome. Usually decisions that have a negative outcome, regardless of the effort, will not be repeated, unless the action has an addictive quality or an unforeseen benefit.

So here is what we are going to do.  We are going to implement a few strategies (strategies that I’ve picked up from my parents) to make bad decisions not worth it. If they’re not worth it, your kids will eventually stop making them.

  1. Stop Trying to Be Their Friend | Instead, be their Parent: Similarly, I am not my student’s friend, I am their teacher. Yes, we have fun. Yes, we laugh daily. Yes, they like me. But I do not stoop to their level. Do not try to be cool. You will never be cool. You are twice their age for Pete’s sake. I am only 22 and there is a generational gap between myself and the 16 year olds I teach. You have no chance.
  2. Stop Sparing Their Feelings | Instead, Tell them the Truth With Integrity: Part of living in this world is having a thick skin. Its learning how to give and receive criticism with integrity, tact, and kindness. When your child does something wrong, tell them. Explain why it is wrong (with integrity, tact, and kindness, model this for them). Then, tell them what and how they can do better.
  3. Establish Consequences to Match the Crime: This is where the rubber meets the road. Do not go too far and ground them for a week for rolling their eyes. The punishment should be in some way related to the crime. For example, if the child gets their phone taken away in school, take the phone away at home. If the child does not clean their room, or a does a poor job doing so, Saturday they cannot do anything until it is done. Might this mean waking up at 630 to do so before their baseball game? Perhaps. Clean your room right next time.
  4. Follow Through with the Consequences You have Established: This is how you earn respect, by keeping your word. Trust me, they will respect you. They may throw a fit, they may say they hate you, they may slam doors, and they may cry, regardless, stand strong. If you let them get away with things, you will have one heck of a time unlearning that behavior.
  5. 5.    Let Them Take Responsibility for Themselves, even if it Means they Fail to Accomplish a Goal: Good Lord, do NOT write ANY essay for them EVER. Much less a College essay! Here’s another free tip: I would wager that a grand majority of the students in college applied for it themselves. If your kid can’t manage to get an application TO ANY COLLEGE in on time, they probably shouldn’t go. They should probably work, learn responsibility, and build character. If the work could be some sort of manual labor performed outside, even better. Its good for the soul.

Parents, what are some other good strategies? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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