Saturday, June 09, 2018

Kim Frencken: It's time for parents to be parents

I've thought about this for years. And years. And surprisingly not been overly vocal about it. But after parent conferences, a thought would always cross my mind. Why can't parents be parents? I even asked a parent in a conference, once, "Who is the parent and who is the child?" That one didn't score me any congeniality points, but it did hit the nail on the head.

This problem is as old as me and then some. Parents trying to be friends. Buddies. Parents too busy to parent. Parents who don't know how to parent. Parents who shouldn't be parents. Let's face it, parenthood isn't a cute, cuddly moment. It is a lifelong commitment to a human being that you brought into this world. This isn't a puppy or a kitten (although a majority of pets need to be treated with more love and kindness!). This is a child. Your child. Your responsibility.

Responsibility doesn't have an ending. It is ongoing. There isn't a manual or a test to take. Maybe there should be, then so many kids wouldn't be left floating adrift wondering how to function and maybe there wouldn't be so many kids hurt and neglected. Maybe.

Parenting is all about time. Take time to ask them about their day. Hold them. Read to them. Listen to them. Teach them. Don't drop them off at school or the sitter and let strangers (relatively speaking) raise your child. Teach your child right from wrong. Good manners. Or about life. Don't park them in front of a TV or computer and let entertainment or social media take your place.

When your teenager refuses to clean his room, don't ask what to do. You should have figured that out 12 years ago. It isn't about the room. It is about the lack of respect for you. The parent. Your child doesn't respect you because you never taught them about respect. You didn't expect it and you didn't show it.

We've all been in a store and seen a child throwing a fit or throwing objects. Don't you wonder how it gets to that point? I do. I've seen kids do things to their parents that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing to mine. Why? I respected them and loved them. That's why. Yes, I was spanked with a clear understanding of the reason why and never when they were angry.

I was disciplined not abused. There is a difference. Are parents too afraid to discipline their child so they whisper, "Please don't do this honey," or "I'll buy you a toy if you stop." That's right. Go ahead and reward disrespectful behavior. You are setting your child up for a rude awakening. Life doesn't reward you for making a 'bad choice' or mistake.

You see, times have changed. Life hasn't. Life is still as tough and unforgiving as it was hundreds of years ago. Life hands us consequences. Life has expectations. Life doesn't make excuses or offer positive rewards. We can learn a lot from life. We can learn from our mistakes. But not if we never acknowledge that we make them. Or can't accept that we messed up. Or maybe we're just sitting around with our hand out waiting for our reward.

Who knows? But it sure seems to me that teaching love, respect, and responsibility all start in the home long before they are of school age. That means that it is up to parents to do their job. Get off of the computer, stop texting, and start listening to your child. Start teaching them that there is a wrong and right and if they choose wrong... there will be consequences. Prepare them for life.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, check out her blog Chocolates for the Teacher.)

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