Author: Fred Buschhoff
Retired Elementary School Teacher
Current Families First Educator of Constructive Parenting Class
Author of "The Constructive Parent"
Parents want what is best for their children, to grow up healthy and happy and successful. But getting kids on the right track and keeping them there can be very difficult and often frustrating. Throughout my years of teaching in the Denver Public Schools and working with Families First I have seen many approaches to discipline. What works for one set of parents may not necessarily be correct for a different family. Even within the family, one parent often approaches discipline differently than the other. You will hear many different ideas about what you should be doing from your friends and relatives. Some will tell you that you are too easy with your kids, that they are being spoiled. Others will tell you that you are too strict, that your kids aren’t getting chances to make their own decisions. Listen. Think. Digest. Then settle into the style that suits you, that you are comfortable with. And once you do, maintain it.
The problem is not whether you should be strict or more relaxed with your expectations. Children who are raised in homes with tight rules, who are required to do their homework as soon as they come home from school, who have bedtimes set by their parents and schedules for meals, and who must use respectful speech, can grow up to be productive and happy adults. On the other hand, children who can do their homework when they want, but before the TV or Gameboy goes on, who help set the schedule for meals, and who can talk casually with their parents ,using their own words, can also grow up to be happy and productive adults. How tightly you run your family is your decision. You and your spouse or partner should discuss these matters and find a style that is comfortable for you as parents. But then, as much as you can, be consistent.
Children who grow up in homes where the rules and expectations remain generally the same, where the boundaries are predictable, feel secure. They, like any kids, will test the rules occasionally. But when they find that they can’t change things with misbehaviors, they will get back on track. Dramatic problems occur, however, when rules, expectations and consequences become unpredictable.
I know that you are not robots who can always react the same way. You have emotions and moods that affect how you deal with your family. That is normal. But it will help your children if the expectations you have set remain in a predictable range. Consistently, the children who had the most problems in class, who didn’t focus on reading, math or learning in general, and who used all their energies to test the rules and break the fences, came from homes where the rules changed greatly depending on the parents’ moods. They also had many problems making and keeping friends.
So, please do your children, and yourselves a favor. Find and maintain a style that suits you. And stick with it.
For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 877-695-7996 OR 866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.