By: Nick Bloodworth, MFTA, MA Psychology
I work with kids on a daily basis who are in trouble for one reason or another. The trouble could be from drug use, issues at school, violence, or simply a lack of motivation. This is something that appears to be increasing in families all over the world. Some will blame the schools, or peer pressure, as a form of scapegoating. Some also tend to believe social media is to blame.
I have become an intense observer not only in my own life, but in those around me when it comes to raising children. It is time to begin looking at ourselves as parents, rather than looking for someone or something to blame for the way our children behave. Drugs will always be available for kids, technology will only continue to advance, and music and TV can continue to influence our children and their behaviors. Therefore, we as parents need to take an honest look at ourselves in hopes to combat these influences.
With all of this in mind, it is important for us as parents to realize that the choices our children might make affect them in many different ways. These choices also depend on the connections we have with them as parents. Some will ask, how is that true? If we buy them everything they want, or give them everything they need, then how can they still make choices that lead to negative consequences? The problem lies in us as parents not observing what our children are saying or what they are not saying. We can see why our children often report feeling empty or disengaged from parents. Children use games, phones, peers and drugs to hide their anxiety, feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem.
What is the key to building stronger relationships with our children? First, parents must be responsible for their own behaviors and feelings. We must understand the child’s goal behind their misbehavior’s. As we understand our own behaviors and feelings, then we can understand the goal of the child’s misbehavior through their responses to us as parents. As parents, we must withdraw from the struggle and not withdraw from the child. Parents sometime see withdrawing from the problem as losing the battle. It’s not. Its understanding that even we as parents need time to think things through appropriately before responding.
Finally, as parents we need to talk less and listen more while also respecting boundaries. When children act out, many times it is our first reaction to consequence them without considering the reasons behind their misbehavior. Consequences should be the last resort after talking with our children to discover their purpose behind their actions. Boundaries ensure that we never put our child in a place for which they should not be. An example is talking to our children about things we should discuss with another adult. Boundaries allow kids to feel safe by reducing anxiety.
There are many potential influences on a child’s behavior. But first of those influences is the relationship the child has with the parents. If parents take more responsibility for their behaviors and begin to really listen to their child, then their influence could greatly help the child.