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Questions from Children

March 17, Q 4
March 17, Q2

My parents tell me I get annoyed all the time but they don’t complain when my sister talks back and acts so much worse. Is this normal?

What you describe isn’t fair but it’s not uncommon. I wish it were.

Have you tried talking to your parents about it? And if so, what do they say? If you haven’t spoken to them, I suggest you do so. But do it when you’re calm. And come prepared. Give them a few examples of times when you feel they’ve been unfair. Tell them that part of your annoyance comes from you feeling like your sister gets a pass while you get reprimanded. And most important: tell them how it makes you feel. If you approach them in a really calm, gentle manner, and let them know that you’re not accusing them but that you want to explain what this does to you, they might realize that they have to make some changes in how they parent. Good luck!

 

 

 

Why do parents act like they're mad at their children all the time?

 

Too many of us have a tendency to express ourselves when we’re angry. And when we’re pleased or happy or even proud we don’t say anything at all. It’s sort of like if you were watching a movie. If it’s good you might not talk about it. But if it’s a bad movie you probably speak up and act really annoyed. It should be the other way around. And I’m sorry you feel the need to even ask the question.

I hope you have a good enough relationship with at least one of your parents to ask them this question. Maybe it will make them realize that they’ve been unfair to you. I hope so. Because too many parents take their kids for granted, when what they ought to be doing is saving the best of who they are for the ones they love.

 

 

 

How do you follow the rules and allow yourself to be told what to do? Like when parents, teachers and other authority figures want you to follow their rules?

 

Following rules can be hard. But maybe it would help if you looked at it this way: Think of rule-following as something that’s helping you rather than you having to give something up or do something you don’t want to do. When you follow a rule you don’t agree with, you often make it easier on yourself. It’s not so much about whether or not you agree with the rule.  It’s more about you honoring yourself by making life easier for yourself. And when you follow rules you are also kind to others. Because a lot of rules are set up as a way to be fair to everyone. Can you imagine driving a car for instance if nobody followed any traffic rules? You wouldn’t get anywhere.

So instead of looking at rules as being ridiculous or unnecessary and unfair, maybe it would help if you can see them as a gift to yourself and to others.

You can also look at rule-following as a way to practice being an adult. Because you can’t drive a car, keep a job or run your own business, stay married, raise kids or even own a pet without following rules.

And there is one more thing. When you follow most of the rules you become really good at figuring out what you like and don’t like, and what rules you would like to change. And figuring out how to make things better is a great opportunity to make a difference. As long as you go about it the right way.

 

 

Why are kids usually better than adults at conflict resolution? Most kids who fight are friends again the exact same day whereas most adults take days, weeks and even years to forgive each other. And some never forgive.

 

Awww, the innocence of childhood. Don’t you wish adults could be more like kids? When I was growing up I had two friends who lived across the street from one another. One day they got into an argument. They both ran home to tell their parents. A day later the girls became friends again. But the parents never made up. One threw apples at the other (and she had great aim) while the other one made sure to tell the whole neighborhood about the incident. What finally stopped it? One of them passed away.

A big reason why children forgive and forget so quickly has to do with their lack of egos. Kids are more focused on the immediate gratification that comes with making up than on polishing their pride. Their need to remain friends is so much stronger than their need to stay in control. When kids fight they are practicing conflict resolution skills. Their coming together, arguing, and getting close again is often a way to test friendship boundaries. And it often follows a predictable script.

 

Kids also have more to lose by NOT being friends. To a child, losing a friend (and maybe a whole group of friends as a result) is devastating. Parents, on the other hand, are often less dependent on others. And hurt feelings are harder to heal when that mountain of pride gets in the way. 

 

 

Why are you all such bad parents?

What an interesting question! It sounds like you are frustrated by all the poor excuses for parents you see around you. And that’s a good thing. Because this is what makes generations move through life, committed to doing better than the one that came before.

I would never want to make excuses for terrible parents (and there are lots of them/us out there) but let me explain how parents become parents. Most of us become parents by trial and error. We have no idea what we’re doing when we start. We either parent the way our mom and dad parented us or we try to do the opposite. And no matter what we do, mistakes will be made.

 

Another thing is that being a parent today is a lot tougher than it used to be. If you were a child a century ago, you were expected to play outside all day and show up for dinner when the sun went down. Parents were expected to give you a roof over your head, warm meals, a pat on the head when you scrubbed your knees, and Grandma’s kitchen china when you left home. The expectations you have of your own parents are different. The problem is that a lot of parents haven’t prepared properly for the new job requirements. And many don’t even realize that parenting today requires a different set of skills and some knowledge of how to do things the right way.

 

Your generation demands more. This is great. But this also means that no matter how hard parents try, there is more room for parents to fail and to disappoint their children. No matter how much information is available to us, and how many parenting books we read we will fail. Because bad parents don’t think, and good parents think with their hearts. And neither approach is very effective. But I want you to know that most parents WANT to do well. And it’s lucky for us that most kids are very forgiving. If we would only ask for forgiveness, we would know this.

Do parents actually have fun playing with their little child even though they could easily win? Do parents enjoy having to dumb down every game they play for their little kid? Especially outside sports?

 

Yes, they do have fun. Playing with your child is not about winning but about spending time with your favorite person (or one of your favorites if you have siblings). It’s about teaching your child through play and about watching your child have fun. It’s about watching your child develop new skills. And it’s about showing your child that it’s okay to lose.

Why do parents punish kids when school punishes them? They are already punished.

It seems totally unnecessary, doesn’t it? And most of the time it’s probably not very effective. But even if it might not be the best approach to dish out punishments to someone who already had to pay a price for messing up, there still might be a reason why your parents are doing what they're doing. Because while a school might be punishing you for something you did, a parent’s job is more focused on the person you will become.

Your parents know your full history. Maybe this was not the first time you behaved a certain way, so your parents might feel the need to reinforce the message.

 

So even if you get punished twice for the same thing, I bet you can handle it. As long as the punishment seems fair that is. Because HOW your parents reinforce the message is key, in my eyes. Shaming, humiliating, or physically or emotionally punishing a child is not okay. Figuring out a way to fix the issue, and setting up goals to make sure this doesn’t continue (with the removal of privileges for instance) would be a much more effective way to teach a child right from wrong. 

Is it common to have to deal with parents that ask really obvious questions?

Yes, I’m afraid so. Here are a few reasons why parents do this:

  1. What might seem obvious to you might not be obvious to them.

  2. You’re getting older and all of a sudden they might not know how to talk to you in a natural way. So they ask you questions.  It might be their attempt at maintaining a bond with you as you are trying your best to become independent.  

  3. Asking these questions might be their way of reinforcing their message, making sure you still remember what's important to them. Look at it as their way of trying to keep you safe. Remember when you were little, and how they used to hold your hand when you crossed the street? Even when there were no cars around and they really didn't need to? Well, their questions might be today's version of that exact thing. 

Or they could just do it as a way to annoy you enough for you to shake your head and smile. Sometimes parents get desperate and will do anything to see their teen smile. It takes them back to that time when you used to laugh at their jokes and look at them like they were your favorite people in the whole world.

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