I’m excited about my guest today. Author Kassandra Lamb is visiting with great parenting tips. Not only is she a parent herself, so she’s had plenty of hands on experience; but she is also a retired psychotherapist, so she has the professional credentials as well.
Hi, everyone! I’m a retired psychotherapist and psychology professor who now writes mysteries in my old age. (Note from Rhonda: She isn’t old.) Today I’m talking about child development and parenting.
Some of these things may surprise you; others, you’ll be thinking Well, duh. Number one’s probably in the well, duh category.
1. Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives.
Thank heavens this is so, because as parents we want to shape our children into the adults we think they should be. But they aren’t going to just listen to our words of wisdom and model our behavior during our finest moments. They are going to model EVERYTHING we do.
I learned to cuss like a sailor from my father. I tried not to do it in front of him, because that got me in trouble. He was a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do kind of parent. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. So I learned from his mistakes and tried very hard not to cuss in front of my son.
When he was seven, my husband took charge of him one Saturday, so my mother and I could wallpaper the stairwell and foyer. Uh, yeah, a stairwell is not the best place to learn how to wallpaper.
Fast forward past several frustrating hours and we were finally down to the last, and theoretically easiest task, putting the border across the top of the wallpaper. We cut the border, gooped it up with glue and smoothed it out along the wall. And it was crooked. Peel it off, put fresh glue on it and try again. Still crooked. After the third try, it was stretched totally out of shape.
I lost it! I yanked the border off the wall, balled it up, threw it on the floor and jumped up and down on it (seriously, I did). But I wasn’t totally out of control. I was mindful of the fact that my son was somewhere upstairs, so I kept my voice down as I let out three F bombs in rapid succession.
Unfortunately he was a lot closer to the top of the stairs than I thought he was. He turned to his dad, wide-eyed, and said, “I didn’t know Mommy knew that word!”
2. You cannot spoil an infant.
In my developmental psychology classes, I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I made that statement. I would have to quickly repeat, “I’m talking infants here, folks, as in below the age of one! When they reach the terrible twos, it’s time for discipline.”
Imagine being a baby for a minute. You’re clueless. There’s this vague, noisy, sometimes cold, sometimes warm cosmos out there that you can’t even see all that clearly. You have no concept of up or down, much less cause and effect or right and wrong. And your ONLY means of communication is to let out a loud “Waaaa!” when something’s not right in your little world.
So how will attempts to discipline your behavior affect you? They will make you anxious and insecure because you won’t understand what’s going on.
Why do I bring this up? Because every few years somebody writes a book to make money and resurrects a theory that research disproved several decades ago!
In the mid 1940’s, members of the still fledgling field of psychology advocated letting babies “cry it out,” saying that picking them up to comfort them would “reward their crying behavior.” Sounds logical, right?
That’s not what really happens. Babies who are immediately comforted every time they cry actually cry less, not more, because they develop trust in their parents that their needs are going to be met. Tons of research has shown this. A quick and warm response to a baby’s cries promotes a healthy, secure attachment to the parents, and has positive effects on later mental health. And vice versa!
Which brings us to…
3. Your children will love you no matter what you do.
This, my friends, is a double-edged sword.
Children bond to their parents during the first year of life and it is, by far, the strongest emotional bond on the planet. This means, unfortunately, that seriously flawed parenting can do a lot of harm, and it’s very hard, even for grown children, to distance themselves emotionally from harmful parents.
But there’s another implication here as well. Parents need not be afraid to discipline their kids appropriately. They will not end up hating you. While harsh parenting is obviously harmful, too permissive parenting does its own kind of damage. It’s okay to step up to the plate and be the ‘mean’ parent as needed. No matter how much your kids scowl or scream at the time, they really won’t stop loving you.
Which brings us to…
4. Your children will NOT know that you love them unless you tell them so.
Despite this automatic bonding that happens between children and their parents, kids don’t assume that their parents love them. Seriously, they don’t.
I learned this when I was 13. I got my first pony, a dream come true. I was so excited, and so was my mother. Which surprised me because she had initially been resistant to the idea of housing a large-four-legged creature in our backyard.
“What, you don’t think parents want their kids to be happy?” she had asked. Actually no, I’d never thought that before that moment. Because my mother’s generation didn’t say “I love you” very much. They assumed that we assumed that we were loved.
So yeah, we need to say it out loud, and when we’re disciplining their behavior, we need to make it very clear that we still love them, it’s just their behavior we’re unhappy with. Even though it sounds quite silly to our adult ears, we need to say, “I love you, but it’s not okay to try to flush your baby brother down the toilet.”
And finally, if your kids are still under eighteen, brace yourselves…
5. Being a parent doesn’t end when they’re grown.
I called an older friend of mine the day I realized this. Her kids had been grown for years. “I thought I could stop worrying about him [my son] when he turned eighteen,” I lamented.
When she finally got her guffawing under control, she said, “Welcome to the real world of adult parenting.”
You still worry about them, what’s happening to them and what they’re doing. But you have NO control anymore. It takes some getting used to. If you’re lucky they’ll move about an hour and a half away. Close enough for visiting but far enough that you don’t know what they’re doing most of the time. Trust me, ignorance is bliss!
There are tons of important things parents need to know, but these are five biggies in my opinion.
Thank you, Kassandra! Those are some great tips. And even if a few people might think “Duh!” at times, I know from experience working with families that not everyone received these things as a child themselves — so they don’t just automatically know how to parent. I think sometimes the best thing we can do is keep it simple so everyone has a chance to be a great parent. And even though mistakes will be made in every household, tips like these can prevent some of them. Hopefully more often than not. So I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge and expertise with my readers.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Kassandra and her writing, visit her website.
Kassandra has been a guest in the past. She talked about alcoholism and domestic violence in the post, Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love?
Originally published on rhondahopkins.com. This post has been edited to fit the needs for this site.Follow Rhonda Hopkins/Navigating Family Court: