6 things parents do that undermine relationship
Parents can unknowingly undermine relationships when interacting with their children on a day-to-day basis. Over time the break down of the relationship will affect your child’s response to you, their behaviors, and their adherence to rules. You need to establish boundaries in relationship with your children, but it must be done in a healthy way that guides children to make positive decisions. Here are 6 things to avoid when interacting with your child.
1. Inconsistent rewards and consequences
Discipline is ineffective when rewards and consequences are inconsistent. When rewards and consequences are inconsistent it means they are not given based on behavior, but sway based on your mood or schedule. Children do not learn how their behaviors affect consequences when parents change without explanation. Children may also become resentful when they don’t earn something they have worked towards, instead remember the broken promise their parents have made. They also learn they can get away with many negative behaviors. A child will take the gamble of behaving negatively if there is a chance they won’t get a consequence for it.
2. Inconsistent expectations
Inconsistent expectations can hurt a relationship just as much as inconsistent rewards and consequences. Children thrive with predictability and routine. They become confused when parents expect one behavior during one situation and a different behavior during another situation. For example, if a child is allowed to draw on the walls in his own room, but then receives a consequence for drawing on the walls in the living room he may not understand what behavior is not okay. Children can become anxious and depressed when they don’t know what is expected of them because they are unsure if they will get in trouble or not for doing a particular behavior. They will often still use a negative behavior, but be anxious about whether or not they’ll get a consequence for doing so. Over time this may lead to anger and tantrums when receiving any consequence.
3. Inappropriate teasing or joking
There is always some truth in sarcasm. Sarcasm is not productive and is used as a way to cover up real feelings. Teasing or joking at your child’s expense could hurt your child’s feelings, without you even realizing it. Children care a lot about what their parents’ think of them and may internalize a comment made by a parent on a deeper level than if said by anyone else. Steer clear of any comments that may be seen as a negative reflection on your child, even if said in a joking manner. If a child is used to being the brunt of inappropriate teasing and jokes at home they will also learn to use that same communication with others, which will then negatively affect those relationships too.
4. Lecturing vs. teaching
Talking for long periods of time without consequences does not encourage your child to behave better. They will eventually tune out what you are saying, which can be angering for a parent. As a result a parent may turn to guilt, anger, or other inappropriate techniques which hurts the relationship further. The best form of teaching after a negative behavior is the skill of Correcting Behaviors (LINK). Teaching includes explaining to your child what they did wrong, how you expect them to behave, how it will benefit them in the future to behave well in the future, and practicing that positive behavior. It is brief and concise and does not require further urging or explaining that comes from long lectures.
5. Poor boundaries
There is a great paradox of establishing boundaries for your child. It may seem that allowing your child to do anything helps them feel free and learn from natural consequences, however this is not the case. Children feel safe when they have boundaries because they know someone is watching out for their well-being. They also learn socially appropriate behaviors to use outside the home when interacting with peers and other authority figures. Poor boundaries also robs your child of learning how to be self-disciplined. When your child is used to no boundaries they do not learn how to work hard for something or how to say “No” to peer pressure or other negative decisions that may greatly affect their life. Setting expectations and boundaries for your child to follow will teach them how to reach toward larger goals.
6.Conditional love or acceptance
The most severe way to undermine a relationship with a child is when your love and acceptance is dependent on their behavior or successes and failures. Throughout their life, children want to be accepted by their parents. No matter how unhealthy the relationship, children still want to be positively recognized by their parents. Children quickly sense when your love and acceptance is not freely given at all times and they will forever struggle with self-confidence. Always tell your child that you love them no matter what. Movies and TV shows often joke about how we may “not love a behavior but we still love the child”, but this is actually very true. Acknowledge behaviors, both positive and negative, but don’t label your child. Maintain high tolerance levels, follow through with positive and negative consequences, and most importantly, express love no matter what choices your child decides to make.