Written by Zahara Almira Ramadhan, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
We all know that most parents are willing to do anything to protect their child, be it from physical or emotional harm. For example, parents tend to pick the “best” school in town for their children to study in, hoping that these children will study at peace and be away from “bad” kids. However, you can’t completely control every aspect of your children’s lives, can you? It is possible that you won’t really know how your children behave at school or at other places where you can’t directly keep an eye on them. What if they cause trouble? Should you take responsibility for their wrongdoings?
Before going further into this discussion, let’s take a look at some exemplary cases of kids’ wrongdoings. A common example is bullying. It is common for bullying to happen at schools all year round. Consequently, the school often drags the parents of both the bully and the victim onto this problem to clear out the atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, the parents of the bully most likely won’t admit their child’s actions. Another popular case in Indonesia is that children tend to steal toys, sometimes expensive and rare ones, from their older cousins, but the parents refuse to consider this as a crime. They will typically tell the older cousin to forgive and forget about their toys for good.
Have you ever wondered why?
What is it with parents defending their children from wrongdoings? We could blame a psychological, cause-effect paradigm that believes children’s behavior comes from faulty parenting. According to Dr. John Rosemond (2005), this paradigm started its popularity in the 1960s. Ever since then, parents’ minds have been hypnotized by the belief that a child doesn’t have a mind of their own, thus their behavior is a direct reflection of what the parents have done or not done in raising them. This can be one of the reasons why parents tend to deny and defend their children’s wrongdoings; either they can’t accept that their children’s wrongdoing is a reflection of their parenting, or they believe these children will grow out of their current behavior once their mind is settled.
How does it affect children?
If you think defending children from their wrongdoings is a way to protect them, you are in the wrong direction. It can actually bring harm for their well-being, as they will not know what discipline is and how it works. Discipline is the practice of obeying a code of behavior, something that is used to teach children about what is right, what is wrong, and how to make things right. Without discipline, children will eventually lack important social and emotional skills (Lee, 2020).
There is a tendency that children will continue their bad behaviors that are harmful to other people as well as themselves. If this behavior continues without any corrections from the parents, how will they know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors? It can actually come back right at you. As your child drives far and further away from understanding appropriate behaviors, they will grow to be disrespectful, selfish, non-emphatical, and basically unpleasant to be around. Are you sure you want to keep defending your children regardless of their fault?
What should we do then?
You can start with a simple conversation. Correcting children’s bad behaviors isn’t always about punishment such as grounding or taking away their gadgets. Instead, take your time to truly ask them the reason behind their actions, and make sure to listen to them because the reasons may be linked to how they are feeling deep inside. Dr. Stuart Shanker (2016) wrote about managing children’s stress as a part of self-regulation. Their stress typically comes from disappointment regarding relationships, schoolwork or other purposeful activities, or having too much to do in such a short time. It can also come from other aspects such as biological, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects. Once you know what triggers them to do such behaviors, you can slowly find ways to reduce or avoid those triggers and build strategy with your children for when they encounter their stressors again.
Another thing you can do is by explaining the consequences of their behaviors. For example, if they vandalized the neighbor’s front door, this neighbor will spend hours cleaning the mess or even have to replace the door. Ask them whether or not your child would be happy if they had to go through the same thing. When you’re talking about consequences, also teach them to take responsibility for their actions, such as making amends and helping the neighbor clean the door. This way, you teach them about the right and wrong behaviors, and how to correct the wrong ones.
Once you and your little ones have set the same perspective, it’s important to also start appreciating their good behavior. You don’t want them to think misbehavior is the only way to catch your attention, do you? Deep in our hearts, we know that kids sometimes misbehave just to get our attention, so maybe it’s time to show them that good behavior is the right way to your heart! You can praise them for the little things they do, perhaps when they are being nice to their siblings or when they go to bed on time. This can encourage them to continue behaving properly as they know that they’ve got your attention as well as your praise.
To put it briefly, you shouldn’t let your kids get away with bad behaviors. Not only does it harm other people, but it also directly impacts your children negatively. They will someday grow up into teenagers and adolescents, so it’s best to stop defending your children and start stimulating their logic and empathy to prepare them as an individual of their own. A simple conversation and appreciation for what they do are only some ways towards correcting your children’s behavior. You can always explore your own ways, be creative, and do what’s best for your family! Learn more about children and parenting at our website.
Lee, K. (2020, October 1). Surprising Reasons Why We Need to Discipline Children. Verywell Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/surprising-reasons-why-we-need-to-discipline-children-620115
Rosemond, J. (2005, April 18). Defending Kids’ Bad Behavior. The Buffalo News. https://buffalonews.com/news/defending-kids-bad-behavior/article_eea6ddba-591b-5189-b13c-216c2f8d5ad1.html
Shanker, S. (2016, August 22). Five Ways to Help Miss Behaving Kids. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_to_help_misbehaving_kids
What’s the Best Way to Discipline My Child?. (2018, November 5). Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Disciplining-Your-Child.aspx