90% of the parents I see, as a parenting coach, have difficulties setting boundaries. They are loving, generous, kind and compassionate parents, but they don’t know how to set rules, or discipline calmly and effectively. These are essential skills if a child is to behave well and thrive at home and at school.
When you understand the benefit to your child of being self-reliant, proactive, and strong, you’ll realise why it’s so important for you to guide your child, expect more from them, and discipline well.
It is tempting to believe that if you treat your child with enough love and gentleness, everything will work out. That somehow your child will pick up self-discipline and self-control, through osmosis. That your child will somehow learn respect for authority, and how to play nicely by watching other children. Sadly, that’s not the way it works.
Like many parents, you may think you are ‘showing’ your love by doing all the housework, clearing up after your child, dropping items to school if your child forgets something, and doing things for your child, long after they ‘should’ be independent.
Children with the most loving, generous parents, can turn out to be spoilt, demanding and selfish. If you think about it, if you do everything for your child, you’re training your child to expect you to do that. You’re teaching your child that your role is to give them what they want. To make them happy. To clear up after them and do everything for them.
Your child only learns independence by having to do things for themselves. They only learn compassion, by being given opportunities to help others. They only learn generosity, when they’re encouraged to give. They only learn to respect rules, when you set rules and, gently but firmly, insist the rules are followed.
Being too soft or lenient with your child, in the guise of ‘showing your love,’ can be just as bad for them as being too strict.
Your child needs you, as a parent, to expect them to help at home. They need to experience the satisfaction that comes from being independent and responsible. They need strong boundaries and effective discipline to develop their inner moral compass. That’s the only way they will grow up to be responsible, generous, decent and likeable. Just loving your child is not enough!
You may forgive your child for not lifting a finger to help around the house. Your future son- or daughter-in-law, may not be so forgiving. You may think your child will learn not to be so selfish or demanding when they lose all their friends, but that is much crueller than teaching your child yourself, to develop self-discipline and how to take turns, share, and how to win and lose graciously.
The art of parenting is to give unconditional love for your child, just as they are. But also, to steer your child towards success in life, with firm boundaries, and positive discipline. If you don’t know how to give these to your child, it’s important to explore how to do this or seek additional help. To give your child the best start in life, and solid foundations for their future success.