Loving our children to death — and not in a good way

Can you really love your kid wrong? When you break it down into black and white, the sad answer is "yes."

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  • People have a lot of things to say about kids and parents today. Apparently, the rising generation acts spoiled, entitled, impulsive and out of control. Meanwhile, their parents are permissive, weak, lazy and fad-oriented. Talk about a hard time to parent.

  • The truth is that parents today, just like parents of every other generation, love their kids to death. We would do anything to ensure the health and happiness of our children, but popular opinion makes it unclear how to accomplish that goal. We've supplanted millennia of parenting wisdom in deference to the social media critics. We've gone from figuratively loving our children to death to actually loving them to death.

  • Call it old school, but maybe it's time to bring back some tried and true parenting techniques. We've come to view discipline as the antithesis of love instead of a means to teach a child to control his thoughts and emotions. Discipline is not a dirty word, and neither are rules, boundaries and respect. If we want to opt out of the parenting free-for-all, we have to acknowledge these four ways we're loving our kids all wrong.

  • Parents preside

  • Children are autonomous beings with their own rights and opinions. Cool. Now that we have that out of the way, someone still has to be in charge at home. We think we're showing our kids love by deferring to their wants and needs, but kids need examples of strong leadership. You can act with authority without becoming a dictator. There is a way to balance the need for respect with the need for compassion, and your kids need you to show them how to do that.

  • Parents need to set limits

  • As a society, we're big on helping our kids find their bliss. We sign them up for classes, camps and clubs, and then we spend all afternoon running them from here to kingdom come. We live under the assumption that our kids have exquisite buried talent and that it's our job to unearth all things wonderful in our children.

  • Unfortunately, we're stressing our children out more than we're unleashing their inner creativity. You are not doing a disservice to your kids by limiting their activities. It's not withholding love to withhold signing children up for every good opportunity. Your kids need time to breathe each day, and you need to help them set those limits.

  • Parents enforce rules

  • Sometimes, we mistake love for letting our kids get away with anything. If our goal is to never upset or disappoint our children, it's awfully hard to enforce any rules. Kids don't like being told what to do. Setting rules and enforcing consequences will make you the bad guy from time to time, but your kids need boundaries.

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  • Our kids live in an orderly world that runs on rules. If you don't teach obedience lovingly in your home, what happens when your little one grows up and mouths off to her boss or breaks the law? We're not doing our kids any favors when we act as if the rules don't apply to them. In adulthood, rules apply to everyone, so your kids may as well learn now.

  • Parents create boundaries

  • We can't let our lives revolve around our children. We just can't. As much as we'd like to play teacher, doctor, therapist and best friend to our kids, it's bad for our children and it's bad for us. Everyone in a family needs his or her own identity, separate yet complimentary to the family. You need a relationship with your spouse, and your kids need relationships with their siblings outside of the parental sphere. Give each other some space.

  • We can love our kids with our whole hearts without smothering them to death. Our kids need us to offer a framework of stability so that they can develop some independence. Our kids need us to be parents so they can behave like kids. Our kids need our love without us loving them to death. Read:"The 6 most effective behavior management techniques for children"

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Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan and mom to three crazy boys.

Website: http://moderatelycrunchy.blogspot.com

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