Many of the parents that I work with are good-hearted, well-intentioned people that just want their children to be happy and they just want their children to like them and respect them. However, many of those folks are going about it the wrong way. A number of people make the mistake of thinking that if you let a child have what he wants, he will be happy. They think that if you give your child a lot of fun extras, the child will be grateful and will respect the parent for providing such great stuff. They believe that if they let the child have a lot of latitude, the child will look at them as being “the good guy,” and they believe that if they set limits that make the child unhappy, the child will view them as “the bad guy.” Unfortunately, all of those presumptions are false.
When we don’t make it clear to children where the limits are, they do not learn to control their behavior. They behave poorly and other people don’t like them. They are ostracized by the other children, the teachers don’t particularly enjoy having them in class, and other adults may even make snide comments about their behavior that will very much hurt their feelings. When we give a child everything he desires, we rob him of the important opportunity to learn how to work to earn things. When that child turns 16 or 17 or 18, and he realizes that he now has to work for the things that he wants, not only does he not know how to, but he’s really angry that no one taught him that any sooner. Additionally, most of what children want is not overly good for them – candy, TV, soda, chips, more toys, etc. Therefore, if we give them all these things that aren’t very good for them, we prepare them for a life of obesity and indulgence and when they hit 30 and are overweight and lazy, they look to blame the parents for not having taught them any better. Additionally, eventually kids do realize that candy and chips aren’t very good for them. Then they realize that you’ve been letting them have stuff that isn’t very good for them. That will either make you stupid or uncaring in their eyes and both result in them disrespecting you.
Your job as a parent is NOT to make your child happy or to get your child to like you. If you set reasonable limits on their behavior, teach them how to work to get what they want and help them develop self-discipline and healthy habits, they will be happy and they will respect you for what you’ve done for them. Don’t expect them to have that insight at age 8, though. At 8, they just want the chips and they get upset with you when you don’t let them have them. At 16 when they have a healthy, athletic build, they still probably won’t realize it and thank you. However, when they look around at their 25 and 26 year old friends who are all starting to sport love handles and who still work at the same Dairy Queen they did when they were 16, THAT’S when you MIGHT get a thank-you. However, it’s not totally unheard of for them to not fully realize all you’ve done until they are 30-40 years old. So, do what you need to do for them now and don’t expect the thanks to come for some time. But it will come.