Friday, April 6, 2012

Children Aren't Pets!

Educators report they are encountering more and more children who have not been taught to be responsible for their actions. Consider the following:

A young adult gets her first "B" ever in college. She calls her mother during class and passes the cell phone to the professor, demanding that he stop instruction and "explain the grade". He shuts the phone and continues with the lecture.

Why did this student feel she could stop the class and challenge the instructor? This is a pattern her parents set during her years in public school. When students don't get excellent grades, or get into trouble for violating rules, parents intervene.

Don't get me wrong. Families need to be involved in education. The problem arises when the point is to remove consequences. Life is full of consequences, and if the child doesn't have to face the results of his or her actions, the first true repercussion will probably involve law enforcement.

I've personally heard parents defend plagiarism (the father admitted he copied the reports of others for his job and didn't understand why it was a problem), stealing (the student didn't "mean" to take it), and assault (he hit the teacher because he likes her).

What if your child has a disability? All children with special needs can be held accountable for their actions to the limits of their understanding. Remember that when a police officer pulls over your child for speeding, he's not going to say, "You have ADHD? No problem. Go ahead and speed all you want!"

The big problem here is that when you don't hold your child accountable for her actions, you are treating her more like a pet than a person. Animals may have immediate consequences for making a mess on the carpet, but don't usually have to clean up after themselves. People do.

The next time you're tempted to remove a natural consequence from your child, remember the following:

  • It's disrespectful to treat children like they are incapable of responsibility.
  • The short-term consequence for a one-time misbehavior is generally easier to take than the results of a lifetime pattern of lying, stealing, etc.
  • Life will not remove accountability.
  • Parenting is hard--but you can do it.
  • Your kids will thank you for teaching them. Mine have:)