Let your children punish themselves – no, really

When it comes to parenting, there is no right or wrong answer. Most people are just taking it one day at a time, and when something comes up that they don’t know how to handle they usually have people they can turn to for advice. Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook looking for advice on a parenting issue; here is her post (with her permission and names changed to protect the innocent):

Parenting moment: I've been a broken record over the years about putting the Nerf guns away and not leaving them out in the yard to be rained, snowed or peed on. And, it's gotten a little better, but a pair of guns has been in the yard all week. I'm trying to be patient, let them make mistakes, but hate to see expensive toys neglected. So, I picked them up and told Voldemort and will tell Malfoy this afternoon that they are going to goodwill today. Voldemort is in full on meltdown! Trying really hard not to back down. Should I let him buy them back with his Xmas money? Here's the gut-wrencher: he's not totally upset on his behalf. He's upset because it's the favorite gun of our neighbor who likes to come over and play with the boys. Hmmmmm....

My responses:

If they get ruined, you may take the position of not buying more for them. If they want more they are free to use their money to buy them. Take yourself out of the argument and hand the problem back to them.

(she asked for more on this)

The point is to make it their issue, not yours. You tell them of the consequences ahead of time and can then be a support system when they jack it all up! They will most likely be pissed at themselves. You give them two choices – leave them out to rot or take them inside. The choice is theirs and it is no longer your problem.

Before you hear the rest of my thoughts, I will tell you that there were a plethora of competing viewpoints and parenting styles.  None were wrong, just different than mine.

Here are my thoughts on the issue:

We need to let our kids mess up and EXPECT it to happen.  When you expect these things to happen it lessens the anger response.  You just think to yourself, “Oh, ok, that’s the screw up I was expecting and I don’t need to get all worked up.”  These are learning / teaching moments that you actually want to happen. Children must learn that shit happens and that there are natural consequences when shit happens, especially when it is their fault. Do not rob your children of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to figure it out on their own. Quit inserting yourself in their teaching moments. Get out of their way and be happy that you don’t have to get pissed off at the situation; this is what you expected to happen! As my friend wisely said, “they aren’t trying to be assholes.”  

You have enough on your shoulders already, let them handle their own mistakes.  Please don’t be the punishment that they can bring on themselves.  This isn’t true for all mistakes, obviously, but for these smaller infractions, let them be the cause of their sorrow and you be the love and support.  The end result will likely be the same - no more nerf guns. The difference is that instead of the punisher, you can be the safe place they come to for comfort while they learn their lesson.   

If you need help dealing with parenting issues, I would love to talk to you! Reach out today