‘Setting limits is a form of loving your child’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Are parents insecure around their children? I find that more and more young (and not so young) moms and dads with children in their teens or older seem tentative and uncertain in their presence. What happened?


Actually, I must confess to a shudder or two myself around mine. Seriously, it happens to my age group, too, but for very different reasons.


Time was when the dominant parent figure was the dad. The threat of “wait till your father gets home” struck fear in the hearts of children. I am told that it hardly works today. I wonder why.


There has been endless debate about how to bring up children. The arguments are as old as time. And every season seems to bring with it more newfangled theories about sparing the rod or not, and the misguided (my opinion) notion that one must be a best friend and not a parent.


Diminished authority


James Lehman, a master’s degree holder in Social Work and creator of the Total Transformation Program, tells parents to change their style of parenting. “If your child has trained you to be afraid of him and you back down when he acts out, realize that whatever authority you had originally has diminished over time,” he says.


“When these kids are in flower—when they’re really showing you who they are—you can’t tell them anything. They’ll tell you to kiss their butts. Basically, they’ll come and go as they please and they’ll say, ‘You can’t stop me.’ The sad part is that unless you change the way you parent and start holding them accountable, they are right.”


I believe that children are born with a special kind of radar. When they see their parent weakening, they pull all the stops. If you cave in, just once, you have lost the battle. It is difficult, though not impossible, to regain your position. But Lehman warns: “A child’s behavior won’t change, unless the parent’s behavior changes.”


My older children grew up in the Dr. Spock era. From his first book I learned about burping and colic; that hiccups are not stopped by a wet piece of cotton on the baby’s forehead; how to say no, and how not to give in to the urge to carry, cuddle and rock every time the baby cries. Looking back I wish I had, just a little bit more.


I raised my younger children by the seat of my pants. I was too busy (and tired) living in America to give in to their every whim. This also lined up with my disciplinarian nature.


By the grace of God, in spite of my many fumbles, all six have grown up to be fine men and women.


Fear of exposure


Alice Phillips, headmistress of a private school in Surrey, UK, and president of the Girls’ Schools Association, believes that “Facebook and Twitter are creating a generation of parents afraid to discipline their children for fear of getting embarrassed on social media.”


She says that parents are “becoming less bold and intuitive when disciplining adolescents amid fears that family disputes will be broadcast to hundreds of the youngsters’ friends online… Today, they are conscious that their every action is the subject of global scrutiny.”


Imagine for a moment how you would feel if you saw your latest family squabble online. It has happened to people we know. Their dirty laundry is aired and hung out to dry in cyberspace. The latest gossip is no longer just an idle chat over the fence with your next-door neighbor.


Parenting has never been easy. From the era of “children should be seen and not heard,” we have overcorrected our attitudes and have become child pleasers. Because of guilt and the busyness of today’s moms and dads, we have over-compensated. It should not surprise us then to see children bossing around their parents and running the whole show.


I came across a book by psychiatrist Robin Berman: “Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits.” In it, the author says, “Setting limits is a form of loving your child.”


Some parents cannot imagine how this works and end up raising kids who are “fragile and entitled.” In a television interview Berman stated, “You cannot farm out parenting. Just like a classroom needs a teacher, and a country needs a president, so a child needs a parent.”


Step up


We have delegated our parenting duties to TV and the latest electronic devices. We check on them through a camera lens. We text. This is not nearly enough. In one click, our children can access games and God knows what else from the Internet. Do we know who they “chat” with?


Dr. Berman tells parents to step up to the plate and do their job; but not to do everything for their children. We must allow them to fall, so they can learn how to get up.


Watch what you say when you scold, correct or even praise them. “Our voices will stay in their heads forever, on instant replay.”


Let us not settle for a minor role in their lives.


There is a chapter in the book called “Hate me now, thank me later.” This should be every mother’s mantra.


One last word: Being a parent can be a breathtaking or heartbreaking job; tears of joy with fear and trembling. Pays next to nothing in money. But, oh, the rewards are amazing. Trust me.