Parenting & Child Development
Parenting affects how kids grow up in so many ways. It might be how they choose to handle a difficult, stressful situation, or how they spend time with their kids reading. The kids are always watching and learning to model just how their parents model. There are other influences as well, such as other kids they associate within the school and other adults that engage in their life in various ways. These other adults can be a significant influence on kids as well in how they handle situations and offer support. Kids also have their own very individual personality that shapes and changes their interactions and development. Their involvement in competitive sports or music can also have a significant influence. As a former teacher of 17 years, that of a high school band director, I biasedly admit that the music kids are all around pretty good kids with whom to be associated. The kids that are involved with music and sports have an unparalleled dedication to excellence, perseverance, and problem-solving. You can’t, for example, play an instrument at a proficient level without a certain amount of self-discipline and dedication. The same with developing ability in sports, it takes years without any short-cuts.
Another of my roles was that of a school administrator of 16 years. Over the years of working with kids and parents, I would see parents that over-engage with their kids and many that under-engage with them. It is possible to be over-involved with kids. At times during a child-parent conference, I would notice that when I asked the child a question, the parent would parrot a response. After a few times, I would stop them and ask that they allow the child to form an answer. Often, they would discover something their child said that they didn’t know. They might respond with, “You don’t feel that way?” The child would say something like, yes mom and do and then proceed to fill them in with some detail. Interesting dialogue would ensue. Suffice it to say you can over supervise your child.
A parent can also under supervising their child, sometimes trusting them a bit more than they should. As a school administrator, the issue that most often comes up is that of truancy. The auto-dialer system calls home and reports that their child has missed one or more classes. When the parent or I should say, if the parent asks the child about their attendance, they would frequently respond, “Oh, I was just late to class.” The parent accepts that explanation, after all, it seems like a possibility, and we all want to believe the best about our kids. But in actuality, we need to press further and ask more questions. Questions like, “How late were you?” “Why were you late?” When a parent pins a child down, they quickly learn that their parents are not easily fooled. I would also suggest that as a parent, be aware of the school’s policy on how many minutes a child can be late to class and be marked truant. For our school, it is seven minutes. Beyond that, even if they show up, they are marked truant. Policies vary, and there aren’t any perfect ones, this one included. This follow-up is just an example of how to be more involved in your child’s day.
When parents over-parent, kids become reliant on their parent’s judgment for everything and do not develop the ability to make sound decisions and lead their own lives. When they make a decision that isn’t sound, allow them to make a mistake. On the other hand, when parents are under-involved in parenting, the kids begin to rely on peers and others with whom you may not approve. Having a real authority parenting style can also push a child to look to peer groups for answers.
Here is what I know: Parenting is a balance between trust and verify, and allowing kids to lead their own lives and make mistakes. Allowing the child some freedom is a part of the growing up process and will enable them to develop their own GPS inner guidance system.
Yours for Better Parenting,