Its school holiday time with Easter thrown in for good measure and the words will once again ring out from our children, our nephews and nieces and maybe even our partner. ‘“Egg, eggs, eggs!” “Mum can I have some chocolate?” “Can I, can I, can I”, they say and maybe even expect it. They say it as we are walking around the supermarket, in front of the TV and not necessarily just at Easter time, maybe it’s all the time. We can feel the pressure when going around the shopping aisles as the constant nagging little voice gets stuck on repeat and the pitch gets higher and louder with each request. We feel ourselves breathing deeply, we manage to say no at least 537 times; then we arrive at the checkout. After the constant requests we can feel worn down and drained. Next, it’s hello to every other conceivable unhealthy piece of ‘Treasure’ to a child. We all know supermarkets are strategically clever with positioning and marketing and they fully know that parents will give in when stationary at the checkout and, we do. We’ve deflected long enough and now there are other people looking, and listening to ‘nagging noisy children’. We often feel judged and want to hide under the trolley. The options of unhealthy goodies are enormous, the nagging becomes even louder, and for peace, we crumble to the demands and the pressure. “Oh, alright, just this once”, “If it will keep you quiet”, etc, etc. In this moment, the pattern is set; it is now challenging to break. We feel trapped, annoyed and sometimes powerless to do it differently. The rod is being built.
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach them”
– W.E.B. Du BoiS
Do our children manipulate us? Yes! Do we as parents assist them to develop this? It starts very young, up go their arms and we pick them up. As we have all done, we ask for things that we want, sometimes we receive and sometimes we don’t, depending on the circumstances we will often be denied. Do we need to teach our children where the line in the sand is, how much is too much? Where is the line and how do we put boundaries in place around this line?
By giving in to our precious children when we believe that it shouldn’t be, or they don’t need it, we are building the rod for our own back. By giving in against our better judgement, we support their behaviour and the more we support it the more difficult it is to change. Our children don’t understand why it would need to change, why would they, it’s always been this way. Does our behaviour or giving into their demands serve our children in their growth and development? Generally it doesn’t. The reality in life is that we don’t get what we want all the time. To receive something, some form of work generally needs to be done.
Can our behaviours change? Can we do things differently? Yes, if we want it to change and see the benefits. The dictionary definition for making a rod for our own back states: “You act in a way that creates more problems for yourself in the future”. So, where do we as parents draw the line? How do we create the harmony and balance? How do we educate our children to stop asking for everything they see? When we provide them with all they ask for, what are we teaching them?
When we stay strong we teach our children many skills including the art of communication, managing money, decision making skills, managing priorities and educating the importance of prioritising. In standing strong we encourage and enable our children to build resilience, a strong trait required in life. We also support our children in building character, good values and beliefs which will support them well in life.
Imagine their life in 10-20 years, what skills and patterns, habits, thinking and behaviours we are passing on and how will this serve them. Picture it now? How will these skills build their abilities and confidence to go ‘flatting, travelling the world, buying a house, car, or having a pet? How will these help with relationships, planning their future, raising their own children or saving money? How will being given everything all the time help as they grow and start building their life?
Take a moment now and sit with this vision, consider these questions. Consider their patterns and see the consequences or outcomes to them. Of course as parents, right now we are doing our best with the resources that we have, we are doing a great job in helping them develop life skills. For us to be our best as parents, it is worth considering the impacts around these patterns and behaviours our children have now, and their future impact.
Could we support them to act differently? By recognising this now we can start putting different strategies and boundaries in place as a reference point. We want to educate them from the onslaught and aggressive sales pitches of the banks with credit cards when they turn 18. It’s important that we empower them to say ‘no thanks’ when offered larger credit limits. How to respect their voting rights and other responsibilities that come with growing up. It’s important to educate our children to respect money, to earn money and understand money.
When we create that rod for our back, it can be challenging to shake because it’s engrained and we choose to live with it because it’s just easier to keep it. By making positive changes at any time we can turn patterns and behaviours around to be more enhancing and a stronger foundation for our children to develop from.
Empowering children for their future tips:
Take their own money when going to the shops.
Frame what the outing is about, Supermarket, Bunnings or the farmers market; get them to understand what will be purchased there.
Allow a treat once a week, every 2nd/3rd day (have boundaries).
Teach them about saving instead of spending.
Ask them to pay us back instead of our children thinking we are a bottomless money pit – give them a loan and organise repayments.
Stand our ground as parents, read supportive books, The Parent as Coach by Diana Sterling,
Listen into helpful listening, TedX talks, podcasts etc,
Have events, trips, adventures or holidays to look forward to and all save towards it (have a trip jar where all spare coins or money goes). Count regularly, children love this.
“Children are like wet cement, whatever falls on them makes an impression”
– Dr Hiam Ginnot