About a month ago, a news story broke in Philly about of group of ten-year-olds who were involved in the home invasion and violent assault on a mentally challenged adult woman. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where the hell were those kids’ parents?” I mean it’s one thing if your 17-year-old breaks curfew after a night of partying, but you have to wonder what went wrong in the short ten years of a child’s life when he’s facing criminal charges in elementary school. I can’t help but think that situations like this can be avoided by a little pro-active parenting.
When I refer to “lazy parenting” I’m not talking about the methods of co-sleeping, baby wearing and cloth diapers of attachment parenting that has recently become a trend in celebrity motherhood. I’m talking about the failure to realize that parenting is work and continuing to live a lifestyle that is most convenient for you after choosing to become a parent. Parenting is kind of like IKEA furniture: It looks great on the outside, but actually getting it together is time-consuming, makes you instantly feel like an idiot and even though you may have directions, they aren’t very useful. Every parent has a bad day where Lucky Charms is the main course or you forget it’s your turn to pick them up from soccer practice until they’re left stranded for hours…in the rain. But lazy parenting is a completely different animal and chances are you already know if you’re a lazy parent without having to read the 11 traits listed below:
1. Not visiting school unless your child is in trouble.
Report card conferences and a call home from the principal shouldn’t be the only reasons you make an appearance where your child spends 7-8 hours of his or her day. As a parent you should be familiar with the school staff, have a decent idea of the school calendar and knowledge of the rules and policies. You can’t advocate for your child or monitor their school performance if they know more about the system than you do.
2. Assuming that your child is “grown” just because they can walk, talk and have their own key to the house.
It hurts my heart when I see parents letting their young children run the streets at all hours of the night because they mistakenly believe that once they know their address and can operate a microwave that they’re “grown.” The truth is that a parent’s job is never done and even in their teen years as they pass the driver’s test and begin to work a part-time job after-school, that’s often when they need you the most, just in a different way. As much as we want to encourage our children’s independence, that doesn’t entitle you to an extended vacation from being a mom or dad. And you better believe there are peers and predators alike who are savoring the opportunity to take advantage of your child while you’re taking some time off.
3. Thinking your child’s questionable behavior is amusing.
Your five-year-old reciting the lyrics to Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop” shouldn’t be amusing for more than two seconds. What annoys me are the parents who think a four-year-old’s random F-bombs are the funniest thing since Damon Wayans used to say “Homie don’t play that” in the ’90s, but want to enforce discipline when they’re embarrassed in public. It’s easy to laugh away disrespectful behavior that suddenly turns adorable once your toddler is the culprit, but as with many things in parenting the easy way is usually the wrong way. It’s all fun and games until they’re throwing F-bombs in your direction.
4. Not making an effort to get to know your child’s friends.
Whether you live in the hood or the Hollywood Hills, you should know that every parent doesn’t run their household or raise their children like you do. So before you allow your child to spend the night with Little Cece down the block, you should get to know Cece’s mom and everyone that is in and out of the house. So often I see parents who have no phone number to reach their children at or don’t even know their child’s best friend’s last name. Because they are in the dark about things so important, when something serious occurs, they are left in the dark and helpless. Children can be very susceptible to the influence of their friends so it’s important to know if those friends are more into doing homework or playing hooky.
5. Only implementing spanking or time-out as discipline.
After unsuccessfully yelling and trying the calm down corner, most parents buckle from frustration and resort to cracking the whip. But the few discipline methods that are familiar to most parents don’t work for every child or every situation. Teaching your child that there are consequences for misbehavior requires creativity. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to YouTube yourself shooting your child’s laptop, but healthy discipline does require a parent departing from the traditional ways they might have been disciplined as a child to trying a method that works for the world today’s kids are living in. Discipline isn’t about you kicking your feet up while your child suffers, it should teach a child self-control and why his/her behavior is inappropriate.
6. You avoid the awkward talks because they make YOU uncomfortable.
Whether it starts with a question like, “Where do babies come from?” or “Why won’t I see Grandma anymore?”, you are your child’s first teacher and they are depending on you to come with the cold hard facts even if they aren’t the most pleasant. Most of the time parents skip these talks altogether and replace them with cute stories that are absolutely of no real use for your child, but spare the parent a few minutes of awkwardness. You aren’t doing your child any favors by throwing around terms like “cookie box” instead of “vagina” because YOU get grossed out. All you’re doing is confusing them. If you can’t bring yourself to truthfully answer the tough questions, take them to someone you trust who can.
7. Allowing everything and everyone else to raise your child.
Drake is not the reason your 14-year old is “practicing” everything but the piano and believes “twerkin” is a talent. While it’s true celebrities have significant influence over what today’s teens think is acceptable or attractive, at the end of the day if a parent is doing their best building a child’s confidence as an individual, Young Money will only have so much of a say in how they conduct themselves. You’re the parent, act like it. Turn off the TV, seek some positive role models to introduce into your child’s life and stop blaming the media for your child acting the fool.
8. You expect your child to help you parent.
There’s a big difference between being a sibling and a parent, but time and time again I see parents bringing child after child into this world expecting the older siblings to change diapers, pick them up from school and damn near care for the child like they created it. Teaching older siblings about contributing to the family and being responsible for their brothers or sisters is one thing, but it’s irresponsible for a parent to take away one kid’s childhood to ensure another sibling has one. An older brother or sister should be there for their younger sibling, not have to take care of them.
9. You’re quick to assume that your child has ADHD or a learning disability.
It never ceases to amaze me at how truly perplexed some women will be when their child starts acting out suddenly in school. Immediately that child is labeled as having a “behavioral issue” or ADHD. No, your child is just reacting to the new man you just moved into the house who is not his father or he is having trouble focusing since you are arguing at all hours of the night with your boyfriend. If your otherwise well-behaved child starts to suddenly experience a behavioral change for the worst, the problem may be more easily solved with some time, talking and attention rather than a prescription.
10. You give your child the dreaded “black bag” for lunch on the regular.
I’m sure you have an equivalent in your city but in Philly all children frolic away from the corner store with a little plastic “black bag.” More and more I’m seeing children join the Black Bag lunch program on the regular. Its contents usually include a bag of Hot Cheetos, a Little Debbie snack cake, sunflower seeds and an Arizona Iced Tea. If a parent is especially ambitious, that black bag may even contain last night’s egg roll, a pint of shrimp fried rice and two fried chicken wings with ketchup, salt and pepper. A wholesome lunch this does not make. Shoot, the latter isn’t even that great of a dinner. If free school lunch is not an option for your child, you should be finding a way to invest in lunch meat, fresh fruit and Sunny Delight so your child is not subjected to processed crap during the day, everyday. The “black bag” was what I wasted my allowance on, not what my mom packed for me for the school day.
11. Leaving it to school to do all of the teaching.
In recent year’s what I’ve witnessed in my city’s school system are overworked teachers, dumbed-down curriculum and students that are getting passed along without truly learning any kind of life skills because educators solely crave a classroom free of conflict. Even in better school systems it’s no longer enough to depend on the school alone to teach your child the basics. You don’t have to necessarily home school your children, but education should be a priority in both school and home. Even if it means encouraging your child to read the newspaper or writing something that’s more than 140 characters.
What lazy parenting traits have you witnessed?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog Bullets and Blessings .