Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Control Your Child Not the World

The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that eighty percent of parents surveyed did not think alcohol and marijuana are available at parties their teens attend while 50% of teens said the parties they attend did have both substances regardless of living in a city or suburbia. Heather Gehlert, “Parents Misjudge Teen Access to Drugs and Alcohol”, Tampa Tribune, August 20, 2006, p. 19.

Parents do not know what their teenagers are doing even though they might know where they are. As children get older they eventually face many forms of temptations of which parents are unaware.

Modern parents are under the illusion they somehow can protect their children throughout their lives by imposing their will to control the child’s world. This unrealistic notion is based on the following premises:

  • The children will be under their direct supervision throughout the parent’s lives.
  • Their power will be sufficient to dominate other authority figure’s attempts to discipline their child.
  • Their lives must end simultaneously with or only after their child’s as they will always be there for them.

This juvenile and illogical thinking can be seen when a father races onto the football field and knocks down a child on the opposing team of his son’s Pee Wee football. A mother gives a verbal tongue-lashing to her 6-year-old daughter’s friend at school because the daughter was not invited to her birthday party. A thirty-five year old college graduate divorcee moves back into his parent’s home rent-free since his parents feel responsible for his inability to function as an adult.

Instead of teaching their children “how to fish”, modern parents want to catch, prepare and personally feed their children the fish. A more mature strategy is to teach the children to be independent fishermen. The wisdom of teaching a child how to behave when the parent is not there should be obvious. Although many modern parents are under the impression their omnipresence as a parent of a young child will continue as the child grows into a teenager especially now with the use of cell phones and cars with global positioning systems. It will not.

Parents are running interference for their pampered children attempting to protect them from the hard knocks of life. The over-controlling of their children’s lives robs them of the unsupervised interactions with their peers that helps children gain coping skills.

Controlling the home environment is do-able. The parent can determine the people who enter the house, the food eaten, the sleep schedule and almost every aspect of an infant’s life. However, there is no way a parent can directly monitor a child through adulthood. No matter how hard parents work at choosing the right preschool, sit in viewing rooms watching their child do drama, gymnastics or karate their child will be confronted by peers and authority figures in ways the parent does not appreciate.

As the child gets older it becomes impossible to micromanage his world. Sleep-overs, bring dropped off at the movies, attending concerts or just hanging out in shopping malls creates situations that cannot be directly supervised or evaluated by parents. Instead of attempting to over-protect our children it is better to teach them to do the right thing even when the parent is not there.

Parents need to share the wisdom of their experiences with their child. Children should be taught to develop a moral compass through moral training. Obedience, responsibility, empathy, pain, will power and critical thinking training take the sacrifice of time and energy of the parents. This training provides correct thinking and behaving that is essential to function at the highest level. People who have learned how to befriend, avoid, compromise and confront depending on the situation will have the ability to be successful.

Children should be prepared at home for life outside the home. When parents apply their skills at child rearing they will train their children to develop self-control and function well without the parent’s direct involvement. Children who possess a strong foundation in moral values and competencies will be able to achieve their potential.

Parents, do your homework when your child is young. You will be able to relax as they mature and reap the benefits of your work by thankfully watching them fly on their own when they reach adulthood.



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