Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

Follow this blog! I always like to know who my readers are! Just scroll down and click on "Follow" on the right-had sidebar.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Parent Now, Friend Later

Gary Ezzo's book Childwise: Parenting your child from 3 to 7 years outlines several guidelines or "principles" to parenting children in this age group. Each one of these principles is outstanding, however one of my favorite is Principle #2: Use the strength of your leadership early on and the strength of your relationship later.

Young children, especially those under 2 are almost solely led by the power of your authority. You are the one who dictates what they'll eat, what they'll wear, how long they'll stay on the blanket, how long their bath will be and so forth. Children at this age simply do not have the cognitive reasoning skills to make solid decisions at this age.

As children get older, you may begin to give them more "freedoms" and decision making authority if they have demonstrated they are ready to do this. For instance, you may let them choose their own clothes because you have taught them to make logical choices in this area--you can't wear a sundress when it's 25 degrees and snowing.

As children get older, it should be our goal to parent by the power of our influence, rather than by the power of our authority. I think we all know teenagers, or we can remember from our own teenage years, that parent screaming and yelling at you [aka: trying to assert their authority]. And this produces what from a teenager? Eye rolling? Extreme frustration? Profanity? Depleted sense of self worth? All of the above?

Ezzo puts the stages of parenting into a "sports" metaphor which made it very clear to understand, although note that I have changed his analogies slightly...

Phase 1: "Leadership"
Birth to age 6
This is the time when you assert your authoritative (not permissive, not authoritarian) role as a parent. You set clear limits and and have fair, logical consequences. You set boundaries. This is the point where you need to let your child know that YOU run the show. You child cannot control you.

To put it in a sports analogy, pretend this is the phase where a player comes to you knowing NOTHING about the game. It is your job to teach them the basics. But if you can't control the child, will you be able to teach? Will they be able to learn?

If you have this phase down, it plants the seeds for future success throughout the other phases.

Phase 2: "Coaching"
Age 7 to 12

Ok, so the kid knows the basics of the game now. They know they're supposed to hike the ball and try to get it into the endzone. They know they're not supposed to use their hands in soccer. Heck, given the great coach/leader you are, you might have even taught them some fancy plays like a Hail Mary or Statue of Liberty. Now it's your job to continue their finesse, continue to run plays, train in the weightroom--and pulling them aside at certain times when they do something wrong and help led them in the right direction again. You're not teaching them the entire game--you already did that. They get it. Your role is now slowly moving from more of a teacher of the game to a coach. They still have a lot to learn, they still need your coaching. That's OK. You're still on the practice field.

Phase 3: "Game Time!"
Age 13-19

Yep, we hit the dreaded teenage years. This is game night. Your child is now officially in the game and your role is the coach. Now as a coach on the sidelines, you can still call plays, still huddle during timeouts and give a few pointers. But you can't stop the game and say, "You know Billy, you are supposed to try and hit the ball when you step up to homeplate. Then you try to run around the bases." By game time, I would hope to God that you had already taught your kids the basics!! The training period has passed and here is the scary part: this is the time when you see how good of a job you did training and coaching.

Ever hear an interview of a losing head coach who says, "We were just out-coached?" You can't let this happen to you. We can't fail our kids in the leadership and coaching phases, because once it's game time (age 13+), there is not a whole lot we can do completely change a "player." Ezzo says, "How well you coach your children will determine how well they run the plays of life."

Each of these phases rests upon on another. Your child will not accept your coaching if you didn't do a good job as a trainer (setting limits, establishing authority). They will only listen to your coaching if you established yourself as a leader (a parent, not a friend). And most important, they will only play well and make good decisions in the game of life if you were a good coach and leader.

Do you see how that works? Do you see how if a good foundation is not set from the beginning, yelling, screaming and lecturing your teenager will never work? A child has to be open and willing to accept your coaching on game day. You do this by establishing yourself as a good coach. This is not to say that your teenager will always respect you and listen to what you have to say (not to mention, LIKE what you have to say!). But you will get much further with your kids down the road if a solid foundation is established.

Before I forget, here's the last and best phase, in my opinion...

Phase 4: Friendship

A few years (maybe more!!) down the road the player comes back to visit his coach. They sit down, have a cup of coffee and they two begin their new relationship. No longer as player and coach, but as friends. This is the end goal, I think, and every parent's hope. To sit down with their grown children someday and have a true friendship and closeness with them. I think too many parents want to rush this step much, much too early. I like how Ezzo's puts it: "Too many parents try to cash in on this friendship early...but with so many things, if we spend it now, we may not have it later."

No comments:

Post a Comment