The first thing every child needs is a parent or caregiver who loves and cares for them. If everything I do as a parent or caregiver is rooted in love, I’m much more likely to handle the following three things with commitment and consistency:
- Boundaries – also known as rules or expectations. Boundaries aren’t set as a parachute for our kids after they’ve fallen over the cliff. Expectations or rules are to keep our kids 15 feet away from the cliff. We don’t want to guide them to the edge of alcohol abuse, we want to keep them away from alcohol until their developing minds (and the law dictates) can handle the responsibility. The crucial issue with rules or boundaries is they are reinforced consistently, and without wavering from either parent or guardian. Inconsistent enforcement of rules/ boundaries/expectations leads to a child’s anger, resentment and rebellion.
- Stability – parents and caregivers need to act like adults, not friends. If we do not take responsibility for the stability and safety in the home, children will seek to provide their own “safety” through acting out or isolating themselves. Acting out can lead to school issues and legal troubles. Isolation leads to depression, self-harm and suicidality. Routines can enhance the feelings of safety and stability for children. Routines provide a structure for when we eat, do homework and bedtime. Children crave structure, and also need “down time” just be creative and utilize their imaginations.
- Empathy – empathy says, “I am so sorry your science project fell and broke, let me help you pick it back up and put it back together like you had it.” Sympathy says, “that’s too bad. Hope you can rebuild it.” Empathy says, “I’m so sorry your friend hurt your feelings. I know it hurts to be betrayed by a friend. Tell me more.” Contrary to what we may believe, empathy is taught. So as parents and caregivers, we should both teach and model it!
Written by: Allison Wray