While most parents likely find themselves doing the tasks that they have already asked their kids to do many times, the idea that they are being masterfully manipulated might seem like a stretch. Kids, after all, are hedonistic by nature, says psychologist Kevin Leman, the author of Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. But Leman also has a secret: Good parenting isn’t easy, but it’s simple, and doable.
The first thing parents need to know is that the world has changed. After shootings like the one in Colorado, or the recent one in Parkland, Florida, the fact that children can be gunned down in their own school yard has become a disturbing reality for most parents.
“Today’s kids are growing up faster, and they’re living in a tumultuous, dangerous jungle,” writes Leman.
He also notes that while social media gives us all access to a vast range of information, the result is that more kids are aware of sexting, cutting, and even where to score some heroin.
“Today’s kids don’t consider sexting wrong. They think nothing of taking a selfie of a body part and sending it to a boy or girl they like,” writes Leman.
To make matters worse, while most kids are media savvy, they lack discernment; they don’t realize that those pictures and statements they post remain there forever, and often with unintended consequences. In such a world, how can we create kids who make wise decisions and take responsibility for their actions?
According to Leman, it all starts with the parents. What most parents might not realize – or want to admit – is that how they were treated as kids directly influences their style of parenting. Parents often fall into two extremes: They are either authoritarian, reverting to strict rules, tight control, and dire consequences, or permissive, giving in to their children’s every desire.
“Clearly, the authoritarian parenting style — giving out edicts, controlling every aspect of your kid’s life, and barking orders about when, where, and how high to jump – doesn’t work long term,” writes Leman.
Yet clearing the path for children and never saying “no” leads to children that are incapable of making decisions for themselves or doing their own work.
“Neither parenting extreme provides what children crave — order. That desire is so strong in children that if they’re given the opportunity to do anything they want, I’ll believe they’ll eventually come back to dead center – just as the pendulum of a clock does when it winds down,” writes Leman.
A better way is to allow children to make decisions and experience real-life consequences in the safe environment of the home. This is what Leman describes as authoritative parenting.
“Authoritative parents aren’t afraid of failure. They welcome failure as part of the learning experience of life. Their self-worth isn’t based on whether their children fail or succeed in a certain area. They give their children the freedom to explore their interests, instead of controlling the direction they feel the kids should go,” writes Leman.
“Remember you are a Leman,” he reminded each of his five children before they would go out on a date. When one of his children asked what that meant, he responded, “It means that we’ve reared you with certain standards and morals, and we trust you to act within those.”
By giving children the opportunity to live up to morals and values, authoritative parents allow their children to develop a sense of confidence, and the inner radar needed to detect unscrupulous behavior. And sometimes, parents will also fail.
Parents can give their kids too much too soon, fail to follow through on consequences, make all the decisions for their kids, rescue them from their mistakes, and do everything for them.
“There’s nothing wrong with a kid being miserable for a while when she’s done wrong. It’s a good life lesson,” writes Leman.
Parents can get their children involved in giving back to the family, limit their activities to a doable amount, and allow quality time that is free from distractions and devices.
“The simple truth is what your kids want most is you. They want your time,” writes Leman.
For a parent at the end of their rope, that message likely feels tremendously reassuring. And while it may not be easy to accomplish — in Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Leman offers the wisdom, reassurance, and common sense strategies that have made him an internationally sought after speaker, educator and radio personality.
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours – Revised Edition
Softcover, 313 Pages