Some time ago I was chatting at a picnic with a new acquaintance who complained that her son – 9 or 10 years old – never listened to her. While we talked the boy repeatedly visited the cookie table, in spite of his mother’s admonitions that he’d had enough. As he continued to help himself, she reminded him that he’d hit his limit, but she never followed up with any action. She then turned to me and lamented, “you see how well he listens?”
Me (in my head; not quite bold enough to critique someone I’ve just met on her parenting skills): Well, you’ve obviously taught him that he doesn’t have to. If there are no consequences for not doing what you say, why should he listen?
Another parent I know runs herself ragged picking up after her teenagers and fixing their mistakes, then wonders why they never seem to grow up and take responsibility for themselves. Those kids have learned that Mom will always come to the rescue, so they don’t have to develop coping skills.
I don’t know either of these mothers well, yet it is obvious to me that they have brought these particular parenting challenges on themselves. Perhaps that bystander status is what allows me to see the cause and effect so readily. A lot of us parents have a blind spot of some kind. Out of love for our kids we want their lives to be easy, and we want them to be happy. But we don’t do them any favors if we don’t set firm limits, or if we make the road so smooth for them that they never learn what to do when it gets bumpy.
So I wonder: what annoying and/or bad-for-his-long-term-development DB-behavior am I unwittingly encouraging? It should be obvious.