FINCH: How did I get here?
By Curt Finch
As a person who has been involved in the education world my entire life, I frequently get asked by parents, "How did I get here?"
Often they are struggling with their child from 2 to 20 and can’t believe how they got on this bad road. Several of these parents have been coming to me for decades and can’t see how they got into this position of frustration, disappointment and confusion about what to do with their child. Not one of the parents wanted to end up in this position, but many do. So, how can parental frustration be reduced? Since every human is different, the answers may not be simple, but there are a few tips that may help.
First, your child doesn’t come with a manual. It’s too bad they don’t; it would make life so much easier! Just because they don’t come with instructions doesn’t mean there aren’t folks who can provide support and advice that can help you. Grandparents, clergy, school teachers, administrators and fellow parents who are in the same boat are all viable candidates to provide you tips that may be useful for setting up guidelines for increasing parental success.
Second, decide as a parent what things are really important to the functioning of your house that are non-negotiable. Choose these guiding principles carefully and stick to those rules through thick and thin, regardless of the pressure. You’ll hear things from your child like, "other kids …," or "no one else …," or "I have to have or I’ll …" Set up consistent consequences for bad choices and make sure to discipline the choice and not the child; the child needs to know up front before the choice is made that you aren’t going to be happy and there will be appropriate consequences. When the incorrect choice is made, make sure your child knows you still love them, but you have to discipline the bad choice, especially if they willfully broke your rule.
Lastly, get help early. The earlier you intervene and set up a workable system, the better chance parental success will increase. Children don’t need an adult friend, they need you to parent. They will respect you in the end if you are looking out for their best interest. They might not tell you that, but it will increase behavioral success later. As the child ages, the principles shouldn’t change, but the consequences should evolve into what is the best reminder of improper decisions.
One could argue the "How did I/we get here?" also can happen at work, in communities and in governments. Behavioral evolution happens over time and if consistent principles aren’t followed, you can easily end up in the wrong spot as a parent, employee, company and/or government without even knowing it. Years of consistent choices, quality guiding principles and a focus on what is right will only increase the chances of avoiding a place where you really didn’t want to go.
Dr. Finch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ CFinchMOISD