We all love our children. We all want what is best for our children. And we all like to think our children are the wonderful human beings that we so diligently have invested all of our time and energy creating, shaping, and molding.
But what happens when these blinders prevent of us from seeing what is really going on? Is your child really so wonderful that he or she can do no wrong? Do you really believe that your child is incapable of making a mistake or a bad decision?
Too often these day, parents choose to defend their child at any cost. On the one hand, this seems natural, that you love your child and believe him and want to protect him from trouble. On the other hand, though, what kind of parent does this make you? And what message are you sending to your child and others?
Let’s get something straight here. All children, even the “good ones”, are capable of doing wrong. These are called mistakes or bad decisions, and everyone makes them sometimes, even you and your child. Growth and maturity come from these instances, so to disregard or ignore them is a real injustice to your child.
Let’s say, for example, your young child is arguing with another child on the playground at the park. Perhaps you didn’t really see all that happened, except when the other child threw sand in your child’s face. Are you the parent who gets upset with the other child and only the other child? Do you immediately believe your child when he says he didn’t do anything wrong, or do you consider that it’s unlikely that another child threw sand in your child’s face totally unprovoked. Do you at least consider that your child may have had a role in this and reprimand him accordingly?
Unfortunately, it seems these days that most parents rush in to defend their child and are unable and/or unwilling to see that their child may have had a role. Each step of the way, crucial learning moments are lost, and you begin to see the development of a person who believes they can do no wrong, does not learn how to own their mistakes and wrong doing, and lacked both empathy and the ability to apologize. This person will continue to do worse and worse things, knowing that he will never be called out on it or held accountable. He plays his parents for fools, knowing they will always defend and believe him and that there won’t be any consequences for his actions. He essentially becomes a monster, the kid you never wanted him to be. Unfortunately, you helped create this.
Maybe when he is in grade school, you get a call from another parent that your son was with a group of kids that damaged some property. You ask your child about this, and he denies it, saying it was the other kids that did it. Do you immediately believe him and defend him and assume all the other kids did it, but “not my son”? While it seems instinctive do so, there is grave danger in doing so.
Let’s look at the message this sends to your child, and even the other parents. Here is what your child thinks: “my parents think I can do no wrong, I just got away with that. I get away with everything. They believe everything I say. I never get in trouble for anything. I can do whatever I want.” And this could be what the other parent thinks: “Oh my goodness. She really thinks only the other kids did this but that hers had no part in it? How blind can she be? This isn’t the first time her son has done something obnoxious like this, but he never has any consequences, so why am I surprised? He is really turning into not such a nice kid. All the other parents apologized and made their kids help repair the damage they caused, but this one just got away with it.”
As he gets older, more and more opportunities for some important life lessons present themselves, but if you continue to ignore them, you are essentially giving your child permission to behave badly. Once he has your permission, he will continue to behave badly. Is this really what you want? Think about what you’re doing here. It is your JOB to teach your child right from wrong, about consequences, making things right, etc. What will your child grow up to be if you fail at this?
Here are some things you can do to make sure you don’t fall into this parent trap:
- Start from a very young age teaching right from wrong.
- Use every opportunity you can find as a chance to teach your child something about being a good person.
- Do not be so quick to defend and deny on behalf of your child.
- Accept that your child is no better than all others, and is capable of and likely to make mistakes and bad decisions.
- Recognize that teenagers, especially, are known for making bad decisions. Even “good” kids will do “bad” things sometimes, in order to fit in. Yours is not exempt.
- Assume that if another parent, or the school, call to tell you your child did something, he probably did. Kids lie a lot in order to avoid trouble. Don’t fall into the trap.
- When your child does mess up, which he will, hold him accountable. Work with him on how to help fix the problem, and make this error in judgement a learning lesson.
- Always be thinking about what messages you are sending to your child with how you react.
- Think about the kind of person you want your child to be in the world.
- Constantly work at making that a reality. Sometimes, doing the right thing for your child is not always the easiest thing.