140 One-liners No. 3 - 011-015

140 One-liners No. 3 - 011-015

parents talk to teen

A Closer Look at One-liners 011-015

Many toys can inhibit a child's creativity and resourcefulness.

On numerous occasions, I have seen on television children in refugee camps playing. Their families had to flee from disaster or danger and left almost everything behind. These children didn't have boxes of brightly coloured toys and games; they used what was available to invent activities and games to amuse themselves; a few small stones, a stick, pieces of string, an old bicycle tyre, a cardboard box. They were happy and had fun, laughing and giggling. Sometimes they invented games and amusements that didn't require any physical items.

Out of necessity, the refugee children exercised their creativity and resourcefulness, two, valued character attributes. Compare this scenario with many children today in affluent societies that have many toys yet come to their parents and complain that they are bored. One day I heard a parent respond to a child who had many toys and was grizzling about being bored. She said, "You're just too lazy to find something to do".

There is a tendency for children who have many toys to want more. They pester their parents for more when they go shopping or see some new toy advertised on television. Toys become a 'one day wonder.' Most of them sit in boxes or cupboards and are rarely touched.

Children tend to play longer with toys that lend themselves to more creative play, e.g. Leggo, coloured blocks or tiles, Meccano and construction sets. In other words, toys that can be used for multiple purposes. Beneficial toys assist in the development of hand-eye coordination, patience, creativity, manual dexterity and inventiveness. Some parents do a toy audit and whittle the toys down to the more educational ones. Another idea is to sort the toys into three boxes. One box is left out for the child to use and put the other two boxes on a high shelf. Rotate the boxes every two weeks.

There is no question about the motives of parents who buy their children a lot of toys. Sometimes the parent is compensating for the lack of time they spend with their children, or they want to see their children happy. Unfortunately, they are teaching their children that if someone loves you, they will buy you lots of things. So, later in life, a young woman will determine how much her boyfriend loves her by the value and number of the presents he gives her. The more things a parent gives a child, the more the child will expect from their spouse when they get married.

Genuine love involves unconditional self-sacrifice and reciprocation of favours. In our interactions with our children are we teaching them what real love is? What does a child do for the parents in return for the time, energy and toys the parents invest in their children? If a child appreciates the gifts a parent gives them, they should be happy to cooperate with the parent in obedience and carrying out appropriate tasks around the home. Parents should expect that reciprocation. Genuine love is taught by training and example.

A child is a smaller cog in the family machinery.

Children should see themselves as a valued part of the family machinery. All family members have their unique role to play in contributing to the smooth running of the home. All members should be valued equally, but their positions will differ in importance. As children mature, their roles become more important, but their roles should never surpass the functions of the parents. Children should never see themselves as being more important than the parents, even if the parents are old and infirm and need the support of their children.

If a parent treats a child as if they were the 'most important person in the world' they set them up for significant difficulties in later life. These children tend to become self-centered, controlling and manipulative, even at an early age. They do not make good employees or partners. Are we teaching our children humility or pride? The two are mutually exclusive. All attempts a child makes to take over the role of a parent by attempting to control or manipulate them are to be reprimanded, firmly and consistently.

Punish in anger, and it's a lose-lose situation. 

Some people don't like the word 'punish'; they give it negative connotations. But are we preparing our children for the real world by helping them to understand cause and effect, i.e. actions and consequences. Answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Will a child be punished if they pick on the school bully?
  • Will a child be punished if they continually run out on the road?
  • Will a driver be punished if they are caught driving at 100 km/hr in a 60 km/hr zone?
  • Will a thief, murderer or arsonist be punished if caught?
  • Will a perpetrator of abuse or domestic violence suffer consequences (punishment) if they are reported to authorities?

Sometimes the 'punishment' is a natural consequence of a child's choices, at other times the consequences are imposed. The manner in which correction is given to a wayward child is critical to a positive outcome. If you have been in court, you will have noticed the demeanour (attitude) of the judge or magistrate. They have an air of authority, they speak firmly without emotion. They show that they will not tolerate any disrespectful behaviour. I have noticed how arrogant and rude teens, instantly become respectful and polite. None wear their caps back to front or chew gum when they appear in court.

There are rare occasions when anger may be appropriate, such as when a child is nearly run over by a truck when they ran out on the road, or when a child caused severe injury to someone else. But most of the time a calm and assertive manner is best.

Some children get a sense of power when they stir up a parent so much that they 'lose it' and get angry. Patience is a valued attribute when it comes to parenting. Don't get embroiled in an argument with children, increase the consequences every time children show disrespect. Arguing shows disrespect. Some children, when they get into trouble, are experts at explaining, and making excuses no matter how illogical or invalid they are. Parents should use their power and authority to stop arguments right in the beginning.

Parents need to be good role models, as children learn a lot by copying parents. When a frustrated parent gets angry, they are teaching their children that it is okay, when they are frustrated, to get angry. So that means when a child gets frustrated with a parent or sibling it is okay for them to get angry. Mostly anger is a lack of self-control. Most of the crimes committed in our society are a result of a lack of self-control. As drinking alcohol and taking certain drugs adversely affect the frontal lobes where the self-control mechanism lies, it is no wonder that drugs and alcohol contribute significantly to the rise in criminal activities. One of the most critical of character attributes parents should teach their children is self-control, even under provocation.

It is better if rewards are of educational value.

On a radio program, two people were discussing a research project which focused on what children want most from their parents. The results are enlightening. By far the most significant response was not going to Disneyland, nor presents, nor holidays or trips, but was quality-time with their parents. Time with parents is an excellent opportunity for teaching manners, ideals, the importance of character, good attitudes, positive communication skills and the like. So it seems that most children want more time with their parents. Why not give you time as a reward for good behaviour?

This time should not be for doing what the parent wants but what the child wants if the request is appropriate. Children could accumulate time for more time-consuming choices, like a half day outing to the beach.

Often your commendation will encourage a child more than lollies or toys. Children yearn for your approval even if their challenging behaviour might indicate otherwise. For the best effect follow the following suggestions:

  • Stop what you are doing, sit down near the child or place them on your lap so that you are at eye level with
  • Look into their eyes with a smile on your face and say something like, "I'm pleased that you did what I asked straight away, that's very thoughtful. It makes me feel warm inside. You are growing up to be a helpful and loving boy."
  • Notice the elements: Your positive emotional response, the child's contribution to the family, and the direction in which they are moving.
  • Focus on the child's choices. It may not be helpful to say that they are a good boy or girl. They know that they are not always well behaved. Let them know that they haven't arrived yet, but that they are on a journey.

I often hear parents say things like, "If you get into the car I'll give you a lolly." What these parents are doing is teaching their children to expect physical rewards like food, toys and trinkets when they are cooperative. The motivation then will be based on selfish motives when the best motive is to please their parents. Teach your children to do what is right because it is the right thing. Parents need to keep that concept in mind and communicate it to their children in the way they interact with them. The happy feeling of doing right can be its own reward.

Ignoring inappropriate behaviour is like training a dog to bite you.

Every time a parent does not correct unwanted behaviour, they are teaching the child that it is okay to act that way. To correct only sometimes confuses a child and leads to insecurity and lack of respect for parents. Insecurity breeds disobedience. Being inconsistent is unjust. Make sure you draw the lines clearly between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. If you don't, you will have a never-ending battle trying to control your children. No one likes a self-centered and rebellious child because if the child is not corrected, they are likely to become a rebellious teenager.  Most of us know where that leads.

When a child is born, they have in their genes the seeds of pride, selfishness, dishonesty and other negative character traits, the seeds of positive character traits are there as well. The seeds that are nurtured are the ones that germinate and grow.

Think of a child's character as being a freshly prepared garden bed. It is bare of vegetation, but the seeds of both positive and negative character attributes are in the soil. We'll call them positive seeds (vegetables, legumes, herbs and flowers) and negative seeds (weeds). Sad to say, the weeds tend to be the most vigorous plants in the garden and grow without any attention at all. The parents are the gardeners, and if they are dedicated, will be diligent in doing all they can to keep the weeds out and to nurture the desirable plants.

Every gardener knows that if the weeds are neglected the job of weeding gets harder. Not only that, but the weeds compete with the good plants for sun, water and nutrients and the quality of the harvest is impaired. Leave the garden neglected for long enough, and there will be no harvest at all.

Even from conception, parents need to exercise constant vigilance and intervention, to ensure the best environment and conditions for the growth of positive character traits. At the same time, parents need to hone their skills in eliminating or inhibiting the growth of undesirable character traits.


Richard Warden


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