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The Trouble with Children


The Bowers question what it was that has caused their child to become so belligerent, often causing so much havoc within the home that they have made remarks to their son, "If you don't like it here, why don't you just leave?" The son, Allen, makes no move, but the statement has an impact on him nonetheless. This family argument results in Allen feeling unwanted and his parents feeling like failures. What might make Allen feel a little better is if he could see how parents can often be only as good as they were taught.

Ask most parents to come up with stories about their childhood and often you'll get "My parents pushed me too hard," "My parents were never really around, and if they were they were always angry with me," and "My parents never really seemed to be happy with me…or each other." The Bowers agree that when they were growing up their parents were not that attentive. Mr. Bowers reported that his father was extremely critical, "...always finding something to yell at me about." Ms. Bowers reported that her mother"…was always chastising me for something, she made feel two feet tall."

When speaking with these parents, they were asked to consider just how often they spontaneously ended up using the same parenting techniques they remembered their parents using on them. They acknowledged that quite often they would act exactly like their parents, noting that it never really worked that well, though at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. While Mr. Bowers reported that his father "…never really did anything with me," he also reluctantly noted that while he pushes his son to keep playing soccer, he does not ever just casually play soccer with him. His most intense interaction with his son Allen seems to be arguing over the fact he needs to get off the computer and complete his homework.

The trouble with children is often the trouble with us as parents. We often seem to be so busy that we are unable to recognize that part of our responsibilities as parents is to play with our children. Play is a great time to enhance the sense of bonding we have with our children. Bonding with a child involves being with him in a supportive and caring manner, participating in an enjoyable activity. One father reported that while his father was not very sports minded, he had a significant level of positive activity with his father because they were always doing things together in the house from cooking to cleaning the basement. "Some of my best memories of my childhood were when Dad would say 'Let's go clean the basement.' It was a day long exercise and I had such fun with him, now my kids do it with me."

The Bowers have begun to realize that their expectation to have happy and compliant children is based on just how effective they parent. Research indicates that the more a parent interacts with a child in a positive manner, the closer the relationship they have and the better their child behaves. Just as people practice their golf swing or attend workshops to do scrapbooking, parents have to practice being good parents. It takes regular, daily effort to reconnect with your child and find out what she is up to, often easily done by going to where she is in the home and sitting down close to her while casually reading the newspaper. Your positive and casual presence implies that you enjoy being near her. Make semi-daily efforts to engage with your child, invite him to help cook a meal, work on the yard, go the golf range, or go shopping. Use this time to converse with your child about what he is up to, not for reminding him about how he disrespected his mother yesterday. Your child will eventually begin to view your presence as less threatening, perhaps even enjoyable, and that is how the bonding process works. The better parent you are, the better your child will behave.

The trouble with children may often be the trouble with us as parents. Maybe we can get more out of our children when we give more first.

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