Few things empower people (especially kids) more than giving them ownership of the decisions that effect their lives and circumstances. When they decide for themselves, they have both emotional and intellectual “skin in the game.”
So, let’s talk about Parenting Secret #5 to Empower Kids: Decisions Have Consequences. Let your kids make choices for themselves and then let them live with results – be they positive or negative. Kids must understand how the decisions they make affect their lives. To be clear, I’m not saying that you turn control of your seven year old’s entire life over to him or her. As the parent, you have veto power and the responsibility to use it. Going back to Secret #3, how you frame the choices to your children goes a long way toward them making good choices creating empowering routines. For example, if your child is focused on getting an “A” in a given subject, what choice do you think he/she would make the night before a test: study or video games?
Today, too many children are inadvertently being taught that decisions don’t have consequences. Well meaning parents and teachers will react by saying... “Oh, well, he’s just a kid.” As such, the kids think that behavior is OK since they didn’t get in trouble. They can do what they want and nothing bad will happen. If that is the consistent response from the adults in their life, what else are they supposed to think?
We all want the best for our kids and to protect them from pain. Many act as a shield that keeps any and all “bad” things from their child. In reality, as parents we should be more like a filter than a shield. Some things should be let through so that the kids can learn for themselves. Think about it. Of the life lessons you have learned in your lifetime, which ones were most impactful – what you were told by someone else or what you experienced for yourself?
Let me tell you a story that will demonstrates the simple process of Secret #5. As we all know, doing homework is a vital part of excelling in school. In our house, we have agreed that homework is done before any entertainment such as watching TV, playing a video game, or “hanging out” with friends. As concerned parents, we ask questions about the homework… do you understand it, is it done, is it put away in the correct folder, is it ready for school tomorrow? The answers all come back yes, yes, and yes. Over the years, each one of my kids has forgotten their finished homework at home. That’s understandable. Everyone makes a mistake once in a while. We get distracted when there is a break in the normal routine. It happens. Secret number 5 is not some kind of zero tolerance policy. It is about teaching kids to be responsible for themselves. The first time it happens, I’ll help out. I’ll call the school and discuss the best course of action. I’ve hand delivered or faxed homework. Later that night, I’ll talk with the child who forgot his/her homework and tell them howI helped out. I also explain to them that this is the only time I will do that for them. It is up to them to learn from the experience and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It’s up to you to decide how you want to work with your kids. My philosophy is to assist the first time in conjunction with a discussion about the consequences of a repeat occurance. Then, if it happens again, they have to deal with the consequences. It is then up to me to be consistent and live up to my word. This may be difficult for some of you initially, but I assure you it will pay off in the long run.
Next week, we'll cover Parenting Secret Number 6 for Empowering Kids: Kids are NOT Mini-Me.
Mark Papadas is a nationally recognized children’s empowerment expert and author of the highly acclaimed book “10 Secrets to Empower Kids and Awaken the Child in You” as well as President of The I AM 4 Kids Foundation – a recognized 501c3 charity committed to providing its personal empowering programs to public schools across the U.S. at NO COST to the SCHOOLS.
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