Parenting Techniques That Produce Persistent Kids…Or Don’t
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about nature versus nurture, and which of my habits, behaviors, thinking patterns, and, really, circumstances, are effects of my childhood—specifically of my parents parenting styles—and which were just…happenstance, or, rather something that developed long after my parents were done influencing me. There are many reasons I’ve been thinking of this. One of those reasons is that, I’ve grown very distant from a childhood friend—someone with whom I was once so close—and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I mean, I know why. She’s exhibited some behaviors that I’m just not down with. She’s become sort of elitist, superficial, and is dabbling in cheating on her husband. She’s going down a road on which I don’t want to join her. But why? Why did she turn out that way, while I turned out this way? The more I think about it, the more I realize it could be because we had very different parents.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about this subject because I’m at a pivotal point in my own career. I’ve been having to reach deep within myself for strength that I’m not sure is there—sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t—in order to keep going and keep believing in myself. And I recently read an amazing book called “Grit” by “Angela Duckworth (read it, like, yesterday) that discusses many studies that prove our ability to find that inner strength in the 11th hour has a lot to do with our upbringing. So I’ve been chewing on the subject, and researching it a bit. If you are a parent or plan on being one, you’d probably like to parent in a way that leads to a resilient, persistent, and patient child, right? Well then you should know about these parenting habits that produce patient and persistent kids…as well as those that don’t.
Blaming the teacher for their bad grade
I know a few people from my childhood whose parents would march onto campus, demanding an explanation any time their child got a bad grade. They were certain their child was perfect, and that the teacher had just failed to see it. That is not exactly healthy for a kid to witness—the idea that they are perfect, don’t need to improve, and should just force others to see their genius. Even more so, you insinuate that the expert in this matter—the teacher—knows less than the amateur.
Making them respect their teacher
It’s important that kids have at least one role model—but hopefully many—outside of the home whom they must respect and answer to. It’s too easy for them to pull those sad puppy dog eyes with you at home. You’re their parent, and give in too easily. So it’s good that you require them to respect teachers, sports coaches, and figures like that, and to make the improvements those figures ask of them. At least those figures will have the self-discipline to push your child, even when you don’t.
Requiring extracurricular activities
If your kid goes to a good school, then that institution will probably require extracurricular activities of their students. Even then, ask your kids to do one more. Make sure they regularly have something in their life that puts skills and abilities that aren’t often tested in school, to the test.
Letting them quit when it’s hard
There will be days when that extracurricular activity is hard. There will be days your child doesn’t hit one ball in softball practice, after taking 100 swings. There will be days the coach reprimands her. She isn’t allowed to quit on those days. Those are particularly the days you must tell her that she has to go back. Letting her quit on the days things get hard tells her that, in life, she can walk away when things get hard.
Making them see it through
Look, there will be endeavors that just aren’t right for your kid. Your kid can quit an extracurricular activity, but just make her see it through to its natural conclusion. So, she can quit when the season is over. Or when level one of that music class is over. Or when year one of that volunteer program is over. When those natural endings come, she can assess whether or not she wants to quit.
Letting hired help do everything
If you can afford to hire someone to walk the dog, clean the house, mow the lawn, clean the pool, and things like that, then you likely will. And you may not ask your kids to help with those things, thinking their time is better spent on homework and things like that. But having them participate in those chores isn’t about money or time. It’s actually about limiting an entitled mentality in them. You don’t want them growing up believing they are too good for things like that.
Giving them chores
Give your kids chores, even if you or a housekeeper or someone else is around to do them. Teach your kids to balance homework, extracurricular activities, and chores. Outsourcing unpleasant or tedious tasks is a slippery slope, and you want to raise kids who become adults who are willing to get in the trenches and do things themselves, when they must.
Justifying their tantrums
Sometimes, your kid will throw a tantrum because a teacher or coach reprimanded them. Sometimes they’ll throw a tantrum, crying and screaming, because a friend picked some sort of fight with them. Don’t immediately assume everyone else is wrong and your kid is a victim, marching off to confront her “attacker.” Ask your kid what happened. Make her think through it and talk through it.
Telling them when they’re wrong
Sometimes, you’ll find that your kid’s teacher or coach or friend was right to reprimand your kid—your kid may have messed up. If you don’t ask her to think and talk through the events, but rather just go off and accuse the other party, you raise a child who becomes the type of adult who sees everything that goes wrong in her life as everyone else’s fault. You raise someone with a victim mentality.
Asking to switch instructors, every time
If your child complains that she doesn’t understand a teacher, that a teacher is bad, that a teacher is too strict—or something like that—don’t just immediately request that your child be moved to a different instructor’s class. This type of behavior also teaches your child to believe that any obstacle she faces is due to an outside factor, and never her own need for improvement.
Assessing the teaching style
There will be times when a teacher’s style just isn’t right for your kid. That’s okay to admit. But first, assess. Sit in on a couple of classes. Talk to the teacher about her philosophy. Ask your child to get specific about what she doesn’t like—rather than just letting her say, “I don’t like this teacher!” and letting that be that.
Making your kids compete
If you have more than one kid, then you may feel that the siblings provide natural, healthy avenues of competition for one another. You may offer rewards to the child that cleans her room the fastest, or things like that. Unfortunately, that gives them a comparison mentality, in which, rather than focusing on their personal progress, they just compare themselves to others, which rarely makes anyone feel happy or ambitious.
Having one kid instruct the other
If you want your kids to be a part of each other’s success, then have them help one another. It can actually be good to have one child teach the other something, because she is put in the position of an instructor, and can learn what some of her instructors struggle with. And the other child can see peers as sources of information and help rather than competition.
Quitting on your parenting endeavors
If you set a rule—your kid must clean her room each night before bed, or your kid must finish level one of piano classes before quitting—but then you go back on that, you can give your kid a quitter’s mentality. It’s important that she learns that, when a goal has been set, it must be seen through to the end. And even you enforce that, for yourself, in your parenting techniques.
Sticking it through to the end
Whether it’s your parenting tactics, or your own endeavors—second language classes, organizing your closet, a fitness class—see them through to the end. You have to be a role model for your child, if you get to quit things when they become tedious, then why shouldn’t your kid feel she can do the same?