Tearing Children "In Half"
Many parents wonder why small children and even teenagers become disrespectful, defiant and disobedient toward their parents. There are actually many reasons why children become so difficult. The biggest reasons include lack of discipline, parent conflicts, alcohol and drugs and peer influences. There are many more reasons. Because there are many reasons it can be difficult for parents to know what to do.
To a large extent these problems are part of the natural process of growing up. But many kids get hung-up or have problems moving past this rebellious stage. The traditional approaches to these behavioral problems include the judicious use of rewards, incentive, consequences and punishment. These methods will work with many children and with some degree of success. Learning how to effectively use rewards, incentive, consequences and punishment is important. It is a foundation of parenting. But those methods alone arenít enough Ė especially when parents are contributing to the problem.
One important reason that children are so disrespectful, defiant and disobedient is because their parents are "tearing their children in half." I donít mean they are doing this physically. But some parents are tearing their kids apart psychologically. There are three ways that parents tear children apart.
Small children canít explain how they feel very well, they just feel it. Fear usually results in crying, running, hiding or trying to find their parents. Sadness usually teaches kids how to receive and express support and comfort. Anger is supposed to teach other people to stay away and it teaches kids how to keep people away. As kids get older they start to anticipate how people will feel, what could happen next and what actions they can take that may influence the outcome. Part of belonging requires us to feel what other people feel, to understand what that means and how to respond to a given situation.
Imagine for a moment what it would be like to grow up with one parent who is crying and upset all the time and the other parent is not. What would it be like to live with one parent who is extremely angry in front of their child over little things and the other parent is never that way? How would you feel if the people that you loved and needed were always fighting and never agreed on anything? The answer is simple. Confused and conflicted inside. You probably wouldnít know what was important, how to feel or what to think. Even worse, you would need to find some way to get along with these people.
Children are naturally afraid to take sides when their parents act so differently. They worry that taking sides might cause one parent to stop loving them. It is very hard for a child to know what to do. Many kids end up blaming their self and they think it is their fault. Other children learn how to act differently with each parent. Still others simply stop caring what their parents think, feel and do.
One way children learn to get along is to develop separate approaches and attitudes when dealing with each parent. In effect, they define their identity in terms of the parent they need to get along with. Over time this can cause a child to become uncertain about whom they are. Some kids develop personalities for different people and different occasions. While charming and polite, they can also be manipulative, divisive and demanding. Many end up overly influenced by other kids who help them decide who they are, what to think and what is or is not acceptable behavior.
Children learn to see the world through the eyes of people they love, need and depend on. Children can end up feeling frustrated and upset when they are facing parents with vastly different perspectives, attitudes, values and opinion. These kids can become disrespectful, defiant and disobedient. Why? Because they are frustrated with their parents and they donít respect or care what their parents think or want. Their parents have lost credibility in their eyes. They may fear their parents but they are tired of listening and trying to "learn" from them. Instead, they bond with kids who agree with them and feel the way they do. This is one way that parents lose their kids to a group of kids or a gang.
Adults can usually understand and deal with conflicting views and emotions that donít make sense. But even adults get confused and upset. Still, young children and even teenagers have great difficulty appreciating and respecting parents who view, act and approach life differently. There are some steps you can take that will help your children avoid these problems.
copyright 2006 to 2008, Michael G. Conner