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Over-Parenting


by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

Kirk_quote
Mother and father are tired. They are good and tired. Mother reports that she must constantly tell her older son to stop bothering his brother. “I don’t know how often I have to tell him to stop,” she exclaims, “but, if I had a nickel for every time I said something to him, well!” Father agrees. He notes that he is always reminding his son to clean his room, get his homework done, do his chores (of which he has few), and leave his brother alone. It seems their son is not listening, since he continually ignores his parents and chooses behaviors his parents wish to not have in the home. It happens every day, over and over again.

However, their son is listening. Because, when they are going out to dinner or the movies, he is smack-dab in the middle ready to go when they are. When he wants money for a school event or for pizza with his friends, he can negotiate with the best of them. When their son is asked what he wants for his birthday, he always is ready with a list of items. Their son clearly is listening. He is also simply misbehaving.

In fact, this son wants for nothing. He plays hockey on a special team that sometimes gets to practice at a professional rink in Los Angeles at a cost of $100.00 per practice. He has a four-wheeler that gets taken to the beach, so he can ride the dunes with his friends. He has nice clothes and great shoes. His parents are kind and generous – very generous. Maybe too generous.

You might say the parents are okay, but their child has the problem. In fact, it is the entire family that has the problem. The parents report they are constantly telling their son to stop hurting his brother, and he ignores them or simply refuses to comply. But, for things to change, the parents are going to have to “draw a line in the sand” and say enough is enough!

What to do? Something simple that’s not easy to execute. Basically, the parents have taught their child he can do whatever he wants with very little discipline being offered other than a “quit that” remark. The child has learned to feel entitled: I can do what I want and get what I want! Now that the parents have realized their error, they can begin to offer consequences for the poor behavior that has led to his feeling of entitlement.

1. When the older son is tormenting the younger brother, the parents will assist the younger brother by moving him elsewhere and refuse to speak to their misbehaving son.

2. Create a list of suitable chores for a teenager (not merely cleaning his room). Demand that he complete these chores as part of his responsibilities of being a member of the family.

3. Only when chores are complete and the parents are satisfied can the child be allowed privileges: use of car, TV, computer, cell phone, electricity for video games.

4. Last, the parents should be verbally attentive to this son ONLY when he has behaved as per their expectations.

Giving everything to a child without earning the rewards, never allows him to appreciate his hard work and feel good about his efforts. Giving gifts to a child “carte blanche” informs him he is special and not required to earn his way. A positive self-image is created in a child by his contributing and helping others. A self-centered image is created in a child who has nothing required of him but is given everything except positive discipline.

Until their son understands the parent’s new game plan, they will refuse to respond to him when he misbehaves. Thus, when he needs a ride or $100.00 for hockey practice, the parents can simply say out loud, “when our son begins to behave, we would be happy to help him out.” Then, we wait. When the son finally gets the message, and it will take about two weeks, the parents will see a gradual improvement in behavior. Then, the “overparenting” problem will be solved. And it is solved not by yelling but over Parenting.

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Tags: Featured Story, Parenting


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