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Is it even possible to be a ‘fair’ parent?
I know that during the early stages of raising my children, I tended to complicate things. One of my children was the type that liked to push every boundary I made. What’s worse is that no punishment I tried ever seemed to deter her from doing what she wanted to do? Although we had some minor complaints which most children give regarding their punishments, she usually took them in stride. However, there were times she would even push the boundaries on those by trying to get out of them hoping I wouldn’t notice. She accomplished this on the rare occasion, but mostly she got caught and she rarely cared that she did. It was like a game to her.
Because of her behavior, I spent the first several years of my parenting trying to come up with ‘better’ consequences, or ‘tougher’ rules that would be harder for her to overcome. But then this created a child who thrived on overcoming my authority. What I learned from this experience was that I needed to pick fair rules and fair consequences for those rules if they were broken and be determined to stick to them. By parenting this way you give the child the opportunity to learn two things:
1: That you are fair
2: That you will be consistent in what you say.
So now instead of a child who will thrive on trying to overcome your rules, although will still not like them, you now have a child who knows her actions will give her consequences that are set in stone.
So if you are like me, you may want to ‘tweak’ the rules and or consequences a bit as you have learned a thing or two along the way and know of something that is more fair, either for the child or for yourself but if you can, stay as consistent as possible without changing them. Check out my next article on “Don’t punish the parent, punish the crime”.
I am sure it is no surprise to you that this child that pushed boundaries as a child was the same one that gave me a hard time as a teen. She broke every rule and curfew she could find. She also kept me on my toes with things she was doing that I had not even thought of as an adult. She was very entrepreneurial. She had figured out how to make equipment (you can guess for what purpose) that kids in her high school would want to use and she rented them out to get lunch money. Although I didn’t find that out for years after she was done high school, it was no surprise to me. She was also the one that I had to go through her computer weekly to take off music and pictures that was not suited to her age.
I had one mom ask me what I did when she would sneak out of the house or break any of the rules. She wondered if I stayed up and worried when I found out she had snuck out the night before. My answer was no, at least not anymore. I used to, but I learned that even if I stayed up and worried hoping to catch her if she snuck out again, she learned I would eventually give up and she would do it again when I was finally in bed exhausted. For children like this nothing is going to stop them until their ‘want to’ has changed (or click this link for the video on this subject). You cannot force them to change their ‘want to’. After exhaustion took over and I realized that it was a game to her, I stopped and just followed through with the consequences that were set down and went about my life not allowing her to stress me out with her chosen behavior.
Sounds like I don’t care, but in truth, I do care very much and this child is now the one that has come back to me more times than the rest put together to ask for advice. She admits now that nothing would have stopped her and the only reason she changed is that she saw how it was hurting her. But in the midst of all of that, she learned that I am a fair parent, that I love her completely and that I would do anything I can to help her be the best person she can be. I did not compromise my value of her as a person or myself as her parent and that taught her more than me fighting with her constantly would have done.
A side note that you might be interested in, this child is the one that is a real go-getter. She is a single mom, holds a couple of jobs, attends college and runs her own home now.
Check out our FREE chapter in the Parenting Book called ‘I was the Perfect Parent…then I had kids’
And this video on Frustrated? Don’t let them steal your joy.
Picture provided by: *www.abft.co.uk