Okay team, lets get this party started! This weeks topic: When Bad Kids happen to good parents is brought to you by @breebop– if you are a twitterite go and say hello. Also, pick up your all important badge from Accidents and then write up your own post with thoughts on the topic at hand. And then come back here for the link up. (Notice how I didn’t make it sound like it was optional?)
Friends, lets be honest, this is essentially a question of nature versus nurture. And what do I say to any question of nature versus nurture? Yes. Column A and Column B. Both.
First off, as I said in my intro to this topic, I don’t believe in the concept of a ‘bad’ kid. Yes, some children have more socially appropriate behavior, better coping mechanisms for anger or stress, or a more well rounded approach to life. But I do not believe any child is ‘bad’. Actually, I have a hard time believing that any person is ‘bad’. There are people out there that do horrific, inhumane, down right evil things, don’t get me wrong. But I believe they do so for deep, painful psychological reasons born of horrible, inhumane, and down right evil things that happened to them. Does this excuse or make okay the horrible things some people do? No. But I do think every person is born with the capacity to be incredibly kind, compassionate and good and to be incredibly cruel, hurtful and hateful. And some of us may have a greater capacity for one way or an other. (AKA Nature) But if and how and what we become? That is because of the collection of all our experiences. (AKA Nurture). So, when it comes to kids, I think they all have the capacity to be amazingly confident, intelligent, kind and compassionate human beings. They also have the capacity to be little rotters; disrespectful, unkind, engaging in dangerous behaviour.
BUT. Before I get into to the parents in the equation, let me also just say that I fully believe that we (the royal we, as in North American Society) have an unrealistic understanding of what is ‘bad behaviour’ on a part of our children and what is 100% normal developmental challenges, AKA kids being kids. We forget (or don’t realize) that the business of going from newborn to our early twenties is one of the most complex, face paced, disorientating series of physical, psychological, emotional and cognitive changes one could ever imagine. With all the change and all that to accomplish, we have to expect that our kids are not going to be able to handle it all with 100% composure. Heck, I can’t handle one stressful month with 100% composure! Babies and toddlers rarely sleep through the night 100% of the time. Toddlers challenge, throw tantrums and act out. Kids and Teenagers? Well I am sure do stuff too (I just don’t have the experience yet to know exactly what it is, but I am sure I am in for a ride). Growing up is hard to do, yo. So I think we need to be very aware of this when we discuss the concept of a ‘misbehaved’ kid. Are they really misbehaved or are they just going through the roller coaster ride we call childhood and need more of our support? ( also, even if they are really misbehaved the answer is still more support in my opinion.)
I think most patterns of misbehaviour are a normal part of growing up. You know, ‘it’s a stage, they’ll grow out of it.’ That being said, I do wholeheartedly believe that parents have an impact, and a big one at that.
Let me explain it this way. My daughter is working her way up to what we call ‘the terrible twos’. Which are called such because toddlers are notorious for challenging and trying to establish control. As Janet says she’s “doing her job.” That is a stage where kids exhibit some fairly ‘bad’ behaviour. But as her parent, I can have an impact, both in making the behaviour worse and in making the behaviour better. Clear consistent boundaries, really being present and giving her attention, a regular routine that helps her to feel safe; these are all things I can do to make the situation better. Getting frustrated, ignoring her because she is driving me nuts, letting her see me get really stressed out; these are all things that I can do to make the situation worse.
Here is the thing. I don’t know about you, but I am human. Which means by definition I make mistakes. Which also means by definition that in some way, some how, it is likely that I will ‘screw up my kid’. I don’t believe in the perfect parent.
What I do believe in is trying our best to recognize when things are going down a not so good behaviour path with our kids. Then trying our very best to be better parents so that we mitigate the potential negative behaviour in our kids. To do this we need to be honest with ourselves that sometimes, even things we do that are well meaning, may be having a negative impact. So we need to be the adult and do whatever we can to turn things around. Especially when our kids are young, because by the time they get to be teenagers I think our impact lessens somewhat.
And sure, there are bad parents out there. I don’t believe in bad people but I do believe in bad parents. Parenting is a skill and we all have the potential to be bad at a skill. Particularly if we don’t care and try and make the effort. And chances are that kids with parents who really truly aren’t engaged, reflective, caring, nurturing and loving… well those kids probably are going to struggle in terms of their behaviour. They don’t have someone helping them to learn the skills we need to lead happy lives. And that sucks.
But I do believe that most people are good parents. And as good parents we make mistakes and sometimes our kids suffer behaviour-wise for it. But we always have the opportunity to make things better. To learn a few new skills for that parenting tool kit and help our kids be better behaved as a result. We are all going to screw up along this journey, but so long as we are trying our best and being really honest with ourselves about our role in our kids behaviour, then chances are they will be just fine. Might still need therapy for when we wouldn’t let them become a synchronized swimmer (just kidding Mom!), but other then that, they will be just fine.