Disclaimer: I don’t have kids, so I’m not a parenting expert (not that having a kid makes you one), and I’m also not an LFMT or child/adolescent therapist. However, I’ve had interactions with kids and observed their interactions with their caretakers, adults, and other kids enough times to notice some patterns and be able to make some generalizations. I’m aware I’ve probably missed a million things and that I may die laughing/cringing at this when I become a parent. I apologize beforehand if you find any of these as coming from a perceived place of moral superiority and I’m happy to remove anything deemed insensitive by parents or caregivers.
Here’s what people need to stop doing to their kids.
Stop Threatening Your Kids
Many parents threaten their kids to get them to “behave.” This practice is extremely dangerous to a child’s emotional well-being.
- “If you don’t stop, I’ll leave and the monster will come eat you.”
- “If you don’t turn the TV off right now, you’re not going to your friend’s birthday tomorrow.”
Stop threatening your kids.
Child development & the cognitive development theory
Jean Piaget is known for his cognitive development theory and his pioneering work in child development (and also for waking up every day at 4 am to write at least four pages #goals). His work showed that kids between the ages of 2 and 7 (the pre operational stage), are highly egotistical, it’s all about them. Their needs. Their desires.
Being unable to see things from others’ point of view, according to Piaget, is a defining characteristic of the preoperational stage.
Like everyone else in the field of psychology, I also have an issue with the term “normal,” but it’ll have to do for now to explain children’s behavior (tantrums and all) is perfectly normal. We didn’t spend an entire semester in Abnormal Psychology discussing what normal even is for me to have this conversation again goddammit!
Threatening kids messes up with their self-confidence and sets them up for failure, by giving them an unhealthy attachment style, which will affect them throughout their entire lives. Which brings me to …
Stop Making Your Love Conditional
Attachment styles are très important. The four main attachment styles are:
- insecure ambivalent
In her informative video, Kati Morton, one of my favorite therapists, explains:
“Kids with the insecure-avoidant attachment style do not attach to their caregiver because they don’t feel they can count on them. This usually means that their primary caregiver either hasn’t been there for them when they needed it or has been rejecting or dismissive of their needs altogether.”
In order to develop a healthy attachment style and thrive in the world, kids need to feel safe.
Children need to know their parents or primary caregivers will be there for them, unconditionally, even if the kid “messes up” or does something wrong (don’t even get me started on how long we talked in Abnormal Psych about “right” and “wrong”).
In Albanian culture, it’s common to tell kids “Nëse ____, mami do të ketë shumë xhan,” meaning “Mom will love you a lot if you ____.”
Here’s my thought process. I wrote: “Conditional love should be reserved for objects and products, and we should discard them whenever they no longer serve us (or bring us joy – hi Marie!)”. However, that’s not my truth, well it’s just a part of it.
My unpopular opinion on unconditional love is that our love for others should be conditional, even for our best friends, partners, siblings, spouses.
We should end toxic friendships, relationships that make withdrawals, if our spouses make us miserable, we should divorce them. My love for the people in my life will, in that sense, always be conditioned by their actions and behavior towards me.
When it comes to kids, though? Parenting is selfish and selfless, but our love for our kids should never be based on external events, on kids’ achievements or mistakes. There should be no ifs.
Stop Denying Your Kids Quality Time
Have you heard of “the love languages”? With 35 years of pastoring and marriage counseling experience under his belt, Dr. Gary Chapman realized and shared with the world the concept with the help of which he had saved thousands of relationships and marriages. Love languages extend to friendships and non-romantic relationships. You can take the online test to find out your love language, and the book is a more exhaustive guide.
Quality time is one of the five love languages, also my main one.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, quality time is “time that you spend with someone, giving them your full attention because you value the relationship.”
Unfortunately, more often than I’d like I see parents spending the opposite of quality time with their kids. Usually, the kid is at a coffee shop with their parent and their parent’s friend, both aren’t paying attention to the child, who’s just been given a phone to keep them busy, while the adults carry on with their conversation. Lonely. No one asks or engages with the child in any way. It’s like the kid is not there. If a kid can form basic sentences, you should be talking with them. I’m reading Moheb Costandi’s book Neuroplasticity, and here’s an excerpt that came to mind:
“It showed that proper development of the visual cortex is highly dependent upon visual stimulation, and established the critical period- a narrow developmental time window during which the nervous system is especially sensitive to particular environmental stimuli- as a key concept not only in developmental neuroscience but also in psychology.“
Please, talk with your kids. Relish your time with them. Be present then and there. Stimulate their brains. Include your children. Make them feel seen and valued.
Stop Forcing Your Kids Into Adulthood
A friend of mine, who was a teenager at the time, had to raise her baby sister, a job she did miraculously great at, despite being extremely under qualified for. Don’t treat children like adults, no matter how mature they might seem. Let them have a childhood, they’ll have plenty of time for taxes.
Whereas maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age, and some kids can be mature for their age, they’re still kids nonetheless.
Holding them to impossible standards is just setting them up for failure, as well as making sure they will hold themselves to impossible standards when they grow up, then their kids, and so on. You can break the cycle. Don’t force children into adulthood.
Stop Sexualizing Kids
Not necessarily your own, but kids in general. Don’t sexualize them. Please.
If you have something to say about a child wearing something you consider too short or too provocative for a kid, first of all, don’t say it, and second of all, check yo’ damn self! Listen to yourself. Let kids be kids and wear what they like.
The over-sexualization of little girls is especially used as an excuse to justify predatory behavior and pedophilia. Let’s put an end to it.
Some time ago, I was walking down the street with some friends, and one of them commented on a girl who’d just walked by. Apparently, my friend deemed her clothes inappropriate for a ~10-year-old. I answered with exactly what I wrote above.
She paused for a sec.
Then, she said, “Actually you’re damn right!”
That felt good, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Each of us can help make the world a kinder, safer place, even if just a little bit.
Stop Making Your Kids Believe They Don’t Deserve an Apology
What’s an apology?
Apology n. the study of apples
Jokes aside, that seems to be the way most parents view it. They never acknowledge their mistakes and as far as their kids know, apologies might very well be just that, the study of apples. You have to apologize to your kids, though. You have to validate their feelings and concerns and be fair to them. Create healthy boundaries for children since early on. Be honest and apologize when you should.
Stop Thinking It’s Too Early To Teach Them About Consent
Teach them about consent. Also, teach your uncles and aunts who want to coercively kiss or hug your kid.
1. permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
Teach them about consent- the sooner, the better.
On that note, teach them about racism.
Stop Underappreciating Them
Kids are fucking amazing!!!
Stop Underappreciating Their Parents
Yes parents, that’s your own damn selves. I can only imagine what kind of upgrade it is for a relationship to have a kid with the other person. Scary. Raising a person, being 100% responsible of how they turn out? You truly have the hardest job in the world. Kudos to you, badasses.
Dolphin, thanks! And thanks for sharing your great posts every week!