No mom or dad wants to raise a youngster who grows up to be rude, inconsiderate or absolutely devoid of patience; unfortunately, however, we’ve all met adults with one or all of those characteristics. Dysfunctional social skills don’t typically manifest overnight. They are learned, and reinforced, behavior that often starts at home.
One word described Jane Krohn’s Milwaukee-area household in 2012: chaos. “I was very lenient with my kids,” the mother of five admits. “I coddled them. I let them be disrespectful to me, and they were nasty toward each other.” True, she had a lot on her plate. After logging in a full day as a tech consultant, Krohn, now 42, focused on cooking, cleaning and washing for six people after a difficult divorce. “I never thought about how I would handle discipline,” she tells EBONY. “My oldest daughter began talking back to me, one son started breaking things and another son completely stopped following the rules.”
Krohn’s nightmare can easily become an all-too-common reality. “Every child has temper tantrums, even through adolescence,” says Deborah L. Tillman, parenting expert and star of Lifetime’s America’s Supernanny. “The goal is to teach children how to communicate anger effectively.” Achieving this goal can be particularly challenging when parents are worn out.
A Prescription for Parenting
Talia and Chris Todd, both 32, can attest to the difficulties of raising a curious 2-year-old who is into everything. The couple, married five years, shares that they are “rolling with it” regarding discipline, as their daughter takes a quick glance at her parents before making mischief, such as climbing on or touching something she knows she shouldn’t. The New Yorkers are leery of corporal punishment. “I work with children who have been abused,” explains Talia, an attorney involved with child advocacy. The couple enrolled in preparenting classes at a local hospital while expecting. “The course taught us how to react to a kid’s behavior,” says Chris. “You can be upset at the situation but not the child.”
It’s heart-wrenching to watch the adorable face of the little one you love curl into a frown that quickly leads to tears. It’s no wonder, then, that so many well-meaning parents acquiesce. But according to Tillman, that is often the fatal flaw and may spring from lack of patience, exhaustion or even the guilt some feel due to spending long hours on the job. Regardless of the cause, being too indulgent of your children can have dire results.
“Permissive parenting often leads to rude or disrespectful behavior, poor social skills and limited self-control and self-reliance,” which typically occurs when adults set low standards of behavior, have inconsistent follow-through and often act more like friends to their children instead of authority figures, explains Tillman. “Empowering children is fine as long as it’s within boundaries,” she adds. “Proper parenting teaches right from wrong and gives structure. It’s important to teach kids how to control their ABCs—attitude, behavior and character.”
Tillman stresses that spoiling them robs kids of the opportunity to master age-appropriate life skills such as tying shoes or doing laundry. In an effort to “just get it done,” we can cheat our own offspring. “We must not do for children what they are capable of doing for themselves,” she cautions. “When we do, we don’t allow them to learn the value of perseverance.”
Mom and Dad as Role Models
Kathryn Hood-Moore is determined to make sure her two girls, ages 3 and 22, are able and willing to do for themselves. “I believe it’s your responsibility to help your children realize their divine purpose in life, but you don’t teach kids by telling them; you teach by showing them,” the 42-year-old Brooklyn-based filmmaker shares. To that end, Hood-Moore has a no-yelling rule that they all adhere to.
Anyone who’s ever been in a restaurant and seen little monsters wreaking havoc may cringe and vow, “Never my child!” But one thing to keep in mind about setting limits is to do so firmly, fairly and without raising your voice. “Your job as a parent is to teach and train,” states Tillman, “and children learn from what they see.” The goal of parenting is to give each child what he or she needs to help mold positive life skills. As challenging as it may be, losing control—i.e., screaming or spanking—only builds maladaptive coping skills in a child, so strategy is key.
Krohn can attest to the importance of creating a formula and sticking to it. With Tillman’s assistance, her household developed and posted rules such as “No hitting” and “Use kind words.” But most of all, Tillman helped hone the overwhelmed mother’s confidence as a parent. “I was scared of raising five kids alone, but she told me that God wouldn’t give me a role if He didn’t think I could do it,” explains Krohn, who touts immediate consequences, such as taking away social visits and confiscating gadgets, as the game changers. “We are all so much closer now,” she adds, noting her children know that she isn’t simply there to enforce punishment.
And what child—or parent—would cry about that?