Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Written by Sharon Lamberth
Categories: Parent Leadership and Authority
When it comes to raising children, I’m reminded of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In the fairytale, Goldilocks tries out the food, chairs and beds of the three bears and selects those that are “just right.” My observation is that our current society reflects three types of parents: those who give their children too much attention; those who give too little attention; and those who give their children an appropriate amount of attention. The number of children who receive an appropriate amount of attention has been steadily shrinking. If you doubt that, just ask a school teacher. She/he will tell you that the majority of children sitting in classrooms today fall into the either the ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ category.
TOO MUCH (or overindulged)
Overindulged children have an air about them. It is an air that, by the time they reach adulthood, may be identified as arrogant, showing an offensive attitude of superiority and haughtiness. Overly indulged children are at the center of the family and are often ‘given into’ by their parents. As a result, they tend to possess an overabundance of “things”, are self-centered, have difficulty sharing, and can be argumentative and moody. Because they are used to getting their way, overindulged children are less likely to follow directives, even ones that pertain to health and safety. As they reach upper elementary, middle and high school, backtalk worsens along with the tendency to question adult authority. They may become obsessed with brand names, choose only to wear the latest styles, begin wearing make-up too early (girls), have more shoes/clothes than their peers and may brag to others about personal and family possessions, just to name a few. Children who are overindulged may flaunt a pseudo sophistication that some peers find enviable and others obnoxious.
TOO LITTLE (or neglected)
Parental neglect can take several forms. In its most obvious form, the neglect is reflected in a lack of basic sanitation. Rotting teeth, bad breath, shoes and/or clothes that are too small or dirty, body odor and malnutrition can all be signs of neglect. Even if a family is in financial straits, parents have a responsibility to take care of their children. With the many resources available today, it is willful neglect not to reach out for assistance to ensure a child’s basic needs are met.
Some neglected children may present themselves appropriately as far as well-fitting clothes, shoes, cleanliness, etc. but little else. These are the children whose parents attend no school events (even when time allows), fail to turn in required forms, fail to send lunch money, do not attend parent-teacher conferences, refuse help that the school is willing to provide their child, etc. These are the parents whose children are often absent or regularly arrive to school late.
Parents who allow their children to eat when they want to eat, grab food out of the cabinet or refrigerator at will all day, go to bed whenever, watch television shows without restriction or monitoring, play video games for hours on end, listen to inappropriate adult conversations, and witness inappropriate adult behavior are examples of treating children as mini-adults. Allowing children to make decisions with little or no adult guidance can also be considered neglect. Because this type of potentially harmful child-rearing tends to fall on a continuum, the pitfalls are often unrecognized or misinterpreted by parents.
Overly indulged and neglected children often struggle to succeed at school and in life because both groups lack proper adult guidance. Schools are filled with children who struggle every day to successfully cope with social and academic expectations. Some struggle to cope because they have never had to (indulged), while others struggle because they are emotionally drained from having to cope for so long without proper adult leadership (neglected). Neither group has had their needs met in a healthy way. They appear in schools undisciplined and unprepared for the expectations and structure necessary for teachers to teach and students to learn. As these children grow and move through the educational system, their performance and behavior often decline with their misguided parents baffled as to why such is happening and blaming the school for “not doing its job.”
JUST RIGHT (or ‘pretty darn close’)
Of course, there is no such thing as just right parenting. However, by effectively teaching positive behavioral expectations and holding children accountable for their actions, parents can lay the cornerstones that anchor a child’s emotional well-being and become the foundation for character development. Teachers can readily cite observable characteristics that make for a more positive student experience and learning environment - characteristics such as understanding the importance of rules, following directives, exhibiting personal responsibility and consistently demonstrating respect towards others and self.
Character development in children should be the number one child-rearing priority. Identifying early on the character attributes they want to see in their children 20 years down the road, and modeling those characteristics every day, is the best way for parents to prepare children to successfully navigate life. Simply stated: Be the adult version you hope to someday see in your child. Actively demonstrate the importance of setting attainable goals for yourself and your family. Actively demonstrate resilience and the importance of persevering when life fails to go according to plan. Instill in your children that ultimately it is not what we get in life, rather what we give, that brings true fulfillment.
Just right parenting doesn’t exist. There is no absolute guarantee of success. But at some point after the child-rearing journey has ended, parents who have effectively provided unconditional love and strong leadership, may discover that they got ‘pretty darn close’.
Leadership Parenting Coach