As a counselor and pastor who teaches on parenting issues, I can’t help observing the parenting I see in public. Tonight at the supermarket I saw an extreme example of bad parenting. I realize how difficult parenting is and we all have bad days, but thankfully the situation I witnessed tonight presents a couple of important lessons and reminders all of us need.
A mother was shopping with her two small children, both I would guess between the ages of about 4 and 7 years. The children were hyper, excited, and inquisitive. In my observation they were not misbehaving as much as acting their age, but I had not been with them all day and have no idea what stress the mother was under at the time. I’m not casting any judgment on her frustration, but looking at the situation from the outside, I think most of us can agree it was not the best way to handle it.
Several times in the course of a few minutes the mother yelled at her kids, “Shut up or I’m gonna break your teeth.” (I’ve never heard that line before, but that’s what she said.)
The problem with that, aside from the abuse standpoint, is that even if she doesn’t intend to do this to her children, she’s talking to very literal thinkers. Does she realize what her children hear at that age? “My mom’s going to break my teeth.”
Reminder: Young children are listening and the way you communicate with them must be age appropriate. Not to mention that children should never be scared of their parents. Threats produce fear. A reverent fear or respect is one thing, but terror is another.
She said this several times, which probably means she never intended to follow through. I’m glad she wouldn’t break her children’s teeth, but that really exemplifies another problem. When a parent makes a commitment to punish the child and nothing happens, the child begins to quickly learn there are no consequences for wrong behavior, and so the misbehavior continues, further frustrating the parent and the child.
Reminder: Don’t make threats to your children you aren’t prepared to carry through. Say what you mean and mean what you say. (Just be nice in how you say it and say it with love.)
Again, I’m not trying to pick on one mother. I don’t know her and she will probably never read this blog. I really do believe, however, that our children are too important not to continually evaluate our parenting techniques.
How are you doing in your parenting this week? Since the ultimate goal of this post is to help parents, for some parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.