Now I’m aware there are good kids out there being raised right. I also know there are children who get raised by loving parents doing everything right and the kid still hares off into all sorts of crazy. There’s also some children out there being raised by well-meaning but not terribly effective parents. The kids who are terrorizing the rest of the school and making life hard on everyone. So forgive me if I sound cynical, pessimistic, or really sarcastic. I’ve listened to too many kids talk about being; raped, bullied, beat up, ostracized, stalked, slandered, poisoned, drugged, and run over by their peers.
Think I’m exaggerating? I’ve been a therapist for 17yrs. You do not want to know what I’m leaving out.
And the kids doing some of the worst behaviors were not physically abused, sexually traumatized, or raised by drug addicts. These are “nice” middle and upper class children who were more subtly allowed to get warped. You cannot take all the credit or blame for your child. He or she has their own choices to make. But if you are doing one of the following, I can pretty much guarantee problems will be coming for your family.
In the hopes that you will be able to see yourself in some of these and save yourself from the outcome, here’s 10 easy ways to completely ruin your child (and by extension your happiness, any hope of decent grandchildren, and the future of the species. No pressure.)
- Give them EVERYTHING! Never even suggest they work for what they want. The good stuff should always be free and a fit should get you what you want. When this ceases to work because peers and bosses do not find this behavior attractive, your child can experience depression at a much higher rate and be unable to take effective steps to help themselves. When you’ve never had to help yourself, you don’t know how!
- Let them watch adult themed shows with sex and violence. They’re going to deal with that eventually. Give them a head start! Seeing so much death, destruction and confusing sexual innuendo will help your children feel overwhelmed by their surroundings and unable to reach for real intimacy. They will be more sure that bad things are going to happen and feel less able to take care of themselves. As a bonus, if they get into porn they will fail to develop any real skills for sexual intimacy and be even less likely to make you a grandparent!
- Don’t allow your child to fail. Failing and surviving will give them skills that might actually get them out of your house. Fear of failure will paralyze your child into a fetal curl in your basement. Children figure out that failure must be the worst thing that could happen when you NEVER let them even get close to it. They will continue to rely on you to save them as long as you are willing to take away their right to learn and grow.
- Tell your children they’re smart, constantly, without ever commenting on or asking for hard work. Your kids will expect problems to be easy and think hard work is what stupid people do to make up for being brainless. When your child inevitably hits the moment that brain power alone won’t get them through, they won’t even attempt perseverance! They’ll give up and move back into that sweet cocoon you’ve got set up in the basement.
- Helicopter in to rescue them from any discomfort they may face at school, with friends, at church, or on sports teams. The ability to withstand discomfort and be graceful under pressure takes practice. Don’t allow your child any room to grow in this area and they will still be whining about how people don’t treat them nice when they’re 35. Better yet, they may feel justified to give in to road rage, screaming fits in public, and any other number of embarrassing public acts.
- Completely ignore any issues they have at school, especially bullying and sexual harassment. Better yet, tell kids it’s their fault and related to the way they look. Unbalanced reactions that reflect your own need to avoid conflict or prove how right you are, are sure fire ways to screw things up! Be sure to act surprised when the school calls about your child attempting to seriously hurt someone, the failing grades, etc, etc.
- Have an extreme reaction to their emotions. Either pay so much attention to feelings that they are the center of the universe and a reason for everything, or discredit all of them and act like John Wayne crawling through cactus. This can include being scared of your child or making sure they’re terrified of you without any mitigating attempts to show love and acceptance. Your child will learn to either over-emote to an unappreciative audience, or be the unassailable tower of solitude and emotional distance.
- Don’t ever teach them any of your values in an attempt to let them find their own. Obviously, we all slavishly followed what our own parents said. When you give a child something concrete not to do, they know right where to start their rebellion. Without guideposts of some kind, your child will just keep right on going with their behavior until they can get hurt. They’ll also be confused by the multiple choices of belief systems about their own self-worth, their place in the universe, and the worth of other human beings. Of course they don’t need some way to evaluate all this information and come up with a working model for themselves. Just let them founder around!
- Let someone else do all the work, say a grandparent, without having the power or the long term stability. That way your child can grow up confused about who’s in charge and acting out against everyone. If you do this sporadically enough, your child won’t even be able to trust that relationships last and bad behavior doesn’t mean abandonment!
- Pick a favorite out of a group of siblings and do a LOT of comparison. This way everyone can be turned against each other, you’ll completely ruin any attempts at cooperation or group cohesion, and all the kids will suffer equally whether or not they got picked to be the golden child! The repercussions can last into adulthood as your children perceive all situations as a winner take all grabfest with no room for cooperation!
These are all the worst case scenario. Doesn’t mean they can’t happen. If you see yourself doing one or several of these, get some help. It’s easier to stop if you have someone helping you be accountable. And just so you know, number 9 was my issue during my son’s first year of life. I let him be raised by a caring friend who finally got tough with me and made me rethink the whole set up of my life. It was NOT pretty! But I can’t thank her enough for getting in my face about the issue. Correct these, hold yourself and others accountable to raising children right, and remember that you won’t be perfect. Just keep striving for effective.
See you back here next time for the blog on ways to make your child resilient and able to live through any of the above!