Linda & Richard Eyre: Parent traps: Learn to avoid these pitfalls

Published: Sunday, Nov. 28 2010 3:55 p.m. MST

Love is not enough!

To be the best parents we can we must apply our love intelligently, and we must avoid the seven parenting traps that our love for our children can often lead us into.

Just loving our kids, without thinking enough about how to make that love work for their good, can cause parents to spoil their kids, to compare them too much, to put undue pressure on them and to give them things rather than time and license rather than responsibility.

Specifically, there are seven mistakes that we see parents making so often … seven traps that are so easy for well-meaning parents to fall into.

We will write about three of them today and about the other four next column.

Trap 1: Entitlement

(When kids feel that "the world owes them a living" they lack motivation and discipline and don't have as many chances to develop their own identity and self esteem)

It's not only that we spoil our kids by giving them everything, we also deny them the satisfaction and confidence that comes from earning things and the added appreciation that results from delayed gratification.

Even "allowances" when they are not tied to any kind of performance or responsibility can create a kind of "welfare economy" in our homes where children feel entitled and privileged rather than grateful and responsible.

"Ownership" is a prerequisite of responsibility, and kids don't feel any ownership of their money unless they have earned it in some way or traded something for it.

And if they feel no ownership of money, then they feel no ownership for what they buy with it … and their toys and their clothes will continue to be thrown on the floor rather than put away and taken care of.

Set up a real family economy where kids have a simple, limited list of responsibilities each day including taking care of some common area of the home or some regular task that benefits the whole family.

Have them keep track of their own performance with a chart, a peg board or a computer table, and turn "allowance day" into "payday" where the amount they get each week is directly tied to how many things they remembered and did.

For further detail on establishing this kind of system, go to valuesparenting.com

Trap 2: Comparisons

(When we compare our kids to each other and to other kids, we not only create insecurity, we rob them of their individuality and uniqueness)

One of the biggest traps we fall into as parents is comparing our kids.

We compare them with their siblings, their friends and even kids we see on TV and in movies. We worry about why our child is slower, more obstinate, not as caring as or less responsible than other kids.

Instead, we need to look for their unique gifts and appreciate them for who and what they are. Rather than try to change our children or make them become who we want them to be, we must nurture what is there through constant awareness.

Trap 3: Overprogramming

(By trying to have our kids do everything, we give up the most important things)

By trying to get our kids into every lesson, every sport, every dance or music program, every summer camp or every after-school program, we often just exhaust them (as well as ourselves) and we end up with no time left for quiet, unstructured play or for spontaneous family moments.

Save some time just for family. Setting aside one evening each week for a "family night" is the best thing you can do.

Organize the week ahead, sort out everyone's schedule, have a gripe session, work on a family mission statement and have a little lesson of some kind, on a value or a "joy." (see www.familynightlessons.com for some great little lessons that kids can give.)

Join us here next week to take a look at the other four "biggest parent traps."

New York Times No. 1 bestselling authors Linda and Richard Eyre are the parents of nine children and, by coincidence, the authors of nine internationally distributed parenting and life-balance books. They lecture throughout the world on family-related topics.

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