Monday, 1 July 2013

Don't Spoil Your Children.

What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? - Matthew 7:9
I honestly believe that in today's modern world we are forgetting how to raise our children.  Think back to your childhood summer holidays, what did you do?  I was out with my mates at every opportunity, riding bikes, swimming, playing cricket, I was always outdoors and most, if not all, of the things we did were totally free.  All I needed was a couple of bucks in my pocket for lunch and 20 cents for a phone call (from a public phone box) if I had to call mum or dad.  This was summertime bliss, never in my life have I ever felt this free, and never in my life did I own less, I was not wrapped in cotton wool and I survived just fine....

We all want to give what is best to our children, we want them to be happy, healthy, well educated, and safe.  We delight in seeing them grow, watching the varied nuances associated with every stage of their physical and mental development.  In my opinion however it's blindingly obvious that as societies values have changed so we as parents have had a priority shift analogous with that change.  More and more focus has been placed on the importance of our children having everything they want.  Parent's evenings seem filled with sports practise, music practise, gymnastics, singing and dancing classes, drama classes, play rehearsals, just to name a few.  The weekends then revolve around parents rostering themselves as taxi's to transport kids to even more outings and events.  When parents finally get some "time off" they are usually financially and mentally drained and thus don't do much more than watch footy and have a beer (or something similar) in an attempt to recharge their own batteries ready for the onslaught of the coming week.

I would like to pause for a moment and say two important things; firstly, in moderation these activities are not the problem.  Secondly, a family consists of more than just the children, parents don't neglect yourselves!! It seems the balance has shifted so far from centre that parents now base what they do for their children more on consumerism and keeping up with the Jones than they do on good old fashioned common sense and values.  SLAP..... wake up people... We are spoiling our children to death and in the process turning them into selfish teens without realisation of family values or an understanding of what is important in life.  With every generation I notice this gradient of moral decline seems to be getting steeper.  If they ask for bread, of course you won't give them a stone, but increasingly pressured parents seem to give kids not just their daily bread but the whole bakery as well.

I have friends whose lives revolve around their children, it's sad because as their kids want more and more so they spend more and more time and money trying to provide for them.  The result of all this effort is usually at the expense of their own relationship.  Find a balance parents, you were not put on this earth to live solely for your kids.  Below are some simple points that I find helpful for parents to follow :

1.  Establish appropriate bed times, children need rest and structured routines... Not forgetting that parents need child free relaxation time too.  We need it for our own relationships and general sanity.  If you are not looking after yourself how can you expect to look after your kids.  Possessions and countless external activities don't grow relationships or develop meaningful value sets.

2.  No means No, think your decisions through carefully then stick to them, always however be prepared to gently explain your rationale.

3.  Present a united front, make sure you discuss decisions with your spouse in private, make your decision, and stay firm and united.  Children are masters at divide and conquer, it's no surprise that this saying dates back to the ancient Latin  Divide et impera.... it was probably scribed by a frustrated parent :-) (actually I think it was Caesar).

4.  Don't involve your kids in too many activities, two or three at most, the most nurturing times you spend with them will be during family activities not individual ones.  We allowed one musical instrument, one sporting commitment and a sensible personal choice for our daughter. If she wanted to change then something had to be dumped in favour of another activity or personal pursuit.

5.  Let the kids pick the activities they want to be involved in, and allow them to decide to change if they don't like their current endeavours.  Don't however indulge ridiculous requests, sensible boundaries based on time and finances ultimately need to govern this decision making process.  It is damaging to a child if a parent indulges their every whim, but it is equally or more damaging when you don't give of yourself and your time when children REALLY need it.

6.  Don't live your children's lives for them.  You have had your crack at life, let your kids develop their own personalities and interests.  Never try to relive your life through them, children are not show pieces - Don't be SOCCER MUMS,  pushing kids into all the things you wished you had done means you are doing it for yourself not for them.

7.  Encourage productive friendships.  Every parent has met the "friend from hell", someone you know has the potential to lead your kids down the wrong path.  Gently discourage such friendships while supporting and encouraging healthy and productive ones.  At the end of the day however your kids need the freedom to make choices of their own, so be ever mindful but only intervene when really necessary.

8.  Be natural, honest and open, don't be scarred to talk with your children even if the subject matter is confrontational.  Remember we raise our kids we don't own them, so allow them to grow and developed in an informed, open, and honest environment.

9.  I know the old bible says "spare the rod spoil the child", but it is one bible verse I do not agree with.  I have never found the need to be violent toward my child and I never, under any circumstances, will find a reason to.  Violence is reactive not proactive, developing an open and transparent relationship with your children will ensure you can talk all issues through in a non confrontational manner.  Talk, talk, and more talk, be kind in what you say yet firm with your opinion.  Using threats and intimidation against children is a recipe for a rebellious teenager.

10.  Encourage, applaud, smile, love, hug and constantly reassure your children.  Love them with all your heart not all your money!!

To conclude I would like to encourage you to think carefully with all you do regarding your kids, you have been given stewardship over their lives but you do not own them.  Gently steer them with love, encouragement and understanding so that when they finally leave the nest they soar greater and higher than you ever expected.  This is the greatest gift we can ever give our children.  The link below has some sensible and relevant ideas, please have a look and feel free to comment.

 
~~~ James Miller ~~~