Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Another Habit of Highly Ineffective Parents - Consulting

As I've mentioned before I work with many parents many good ones and some bad ones. Not intentionally bad they just don't have much experience with bringing up children and bringing up children along with being a great lover are two things in life where we are expected to excel yet we receive no training in either. I am being facetious but there is quite a bit of truth in what I say. We don't get much training in life skills unless we go looking for it and if you don't know it’s out there, where do you look? Bringing up children is a key life skill; it’s the life skill of communication; our ability to successfully communicate with others, in this case our own children.

Although many of us have children, how many of us really know how to communicate with them? Often I see that grandparents have a better approach to raising children, probably because they've seen it all before and now are not so near to the problem. Other times I see parents who treat their children as something that hangs around the house being noisy and every time they appear they're packed off to their room to watch TV or play on their computer. These kinds of parents take a laissez faire attitude to parenting pretty much leaving them to their own devices. I also meet children of parents who are immigrants, Indian, Chinese or Jewish and see how their children are well behaved and a pleasure to be around. Their parents often have a great work ethic, believe passionately in education and structure their children's future from day one, probably because the family unit and structure and hierarchy is firmly established through many thousands of generations.

Some parents take great care to treat their children with respect, involving them in all the decision processes of the family and these are the ones who are practicing the bad habit of - Consulting. 

Consulting ones children about family decisions sounds on the face of it to be a caring and sensible thing to do doesn't it, and it can be except when your child is too young to know what is good and what is not. Kids are young, developing their minds, thoughts and ideas and the younger they are the less developed their thought processes are. They are less able to consider consequences of cause and effect - in short they don't have enough life experience to make a decision. For instance if you asked a child if they'd like to have Xmas everyday they'd probably say yes, but an adult knows that this would simply devalue the experience to such a degree that it would become dull and lack lustre. Kids base their decisions on what is best for them and struggle when they are young to take themselves out of the equation and consider other people. This is obvious stuff isn't it? And gradually over the years as the child grows and develops she builds up her life experience and ability to make well informed and considered decisions and opinions. 

However, I have more than once listened to a concerned parent ask their 5 year old about making a decision: 'It’s a lot of money Johnny for Mummy to pay, are you sure you'll stick with it for 6 months?' The kid nods enthusiastically 'ok then but you have to promise Mummy and Daddy that you'll stick with it'. Then the same parent comes back to say 'he doesn't want to do it any more.' Well he has to do it; he made a promise didn't he?' "I know, but I wouldn't him to do anything he didn't want to do". This might sound stupid to most parents but you might be surprised at how often I deal with parents who consult their children about decisions that they have no concept about the consequences of. What do kids know about money? You as a parent have bottomless pockets filled with money haven't you? No? Well your kids think you have don't they? But then they've never worked a 50 hour week in a job they don't like for a boss who bullies the have they? They don't understand because they are too young and inexperienced. So why do parents ask them about a subject that they don't understand? Let's face it this kid is still counting the days to Xmas in 'sleeps'! 6 months? They have no concept of how long that is or what is involved in keeping a promise. Parents consult their children because they assume that because their kids can speak and communicate that they have more intelligence than they have. I have three dogs and I often speak to them using sentences like 'would you like to go for a walk?' and they eagerly wag their tails appearing to understand but all they heard was a word, 'walk' which they learned usually precedes getting out of the house. Sometimes they look at me as if they know exactly what I'm talking about, but they don't! Kids are much more intelligent than dogs but they still don't understand much about life which is why we look after them till they're almost 20 years old, 20 years in which they have the time to build life experience and make good decisions. As a good parent you wouldn't let a young child cross a busy road and by the same measure neither should we consult them about decisions concerning things they have insufficient knowledge about such as time and commitment. 

I like parents who look to find things their child might enjoy and that also will benefit them in the long run, but also make sure that their child commits to and sticks with when things start getting a bit tough too. Parents who are willing to stand by their decisions that they've made for their children even in the face of tantrums! I hate wimpy parents who consult their children about decisions that they're not qualified to make and then let the child off the hook when he won't commit to seeing the decision through. 

So consider carefully when you ask your child about making a decision that affects your money, time or even where the family moves house to. What experience can your child bring to the table? If the answer is very little then don't consult them in the first place. I'm not saying that you shouldn't tell your child what is happening in the life of the family, by all means keep them informed of what's going on but when it comes to deciding what is the best for the family you as a parents and adults are the only ones with the necessary life experience to make such decisions. 

Gradually as your child gets older let them be involved in decision making but also feel free to disagree with their contribution if you have to, just explain to them why you aren't taking their offering without insulting their intelligence or letting them lose face. Like any good leader a parent has to sometimes make tough decisions that are questioned by their subordinates and like any good leader a parent will sometimes doubt you and also get things wrong. Both of which will happen fro time to time and which you will be reminded of later.

Thanks for reading today and I look forward to speaking with you again soon 

Best wishes

Tony Higo
Chief Instructor
National Martial Arts College
0800 0920948

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