Through my work in empowering youths to pursue excellence, I’ve had the honour of interacting with thousands of students, and their parents too.
Life as a student is stressful, but life as a parent is even more stressful.
The difficult life of a Singaporean parent
The parents I talk to work hard to provide for their family. By the time they get home from work on weekdays, it’s 8 or 9pm, so they don’t have much time to spend with their children.
They worry about how their kids are doing in school. They worry even more if their kids are struggling or are addicted to computer games, TV or the Internet.
Problems at work, problems at home, problems paying the bills, problems connecting with their children… problems, problems, problems.
No wonder so many parents feel frustrated and confused!
The destructive belief that many parents have
Given my experience working with youths and parents, I realize that there’s one belief that makes parenting more stressful than it needs to be.
It sounds like a correct belief, but it’s really not.
It’s a belief that has good intentions behind it, but it’s also one that causes parents to be annoyed and angry.
Here it is:
Parents believe that they are responsible for their children.
“What’s wrong with that?” I hear you asking.
Many things, in my opinion.
Are parents responsible for their children, or to them?
Parents aren’t responsible for their children. Instead, they’re responsible to their children.
There’s a big difference.
Parents are responsible to their children by providing for them, showing them care and love, and cultivating a supportive home environment.
But once children reach a school-going age, they start to become fully responsible for their own lives.
Parents aren’t responsible for their children; children are responsible for themselves.
Early on, children should begin to make their own choices and bear the consequences of those choices.
The crucial decision that every parent needs to make
When parents give up this role of being responsible for their children, they feel less burdened, less confused, less angry.
They have fewer sleepless nights and fewer stress-induced headaches.
They begin to enjoy being a parent.
So if you’re a parent, I encourage you to teach your children—from as young an age as possible—to take full responsibility for their own lives.
Practical examples of how parents can implement this principle
I hear you saying: “That sounds like a good principle, Daniel, but what does that look like in practice?”
Here are some examples of what it means to empower your child to take responsibility for his or her own decisions and behaviour.
- If your daughter forgets to bring her textbook to school, don’t bail her out by bringing the textbook to her school. Allow her to suffer the consequences of her behaviour.
- If your son is going to get punished for doing something wrong, don’t talk to his teacher about lightening the punishment.
- If your son refuses to brush his teeth and, as a result, needs dental treatment, make him pay for the treatment out of his own pocket. If he doesn’t have enough pocket money, make him pay for it using the pocket money he would have received in the future.
- If your daughter refuses to obey the house rules despite numerous warnings, cut her pocket money and reduce her other privileges.
This might sound like harsh parenting, but it’s really not. It’s tough parenting.
Harsh parenting is bad; tough parenting is good. Tough parenting is painfully lacking in our society today!
Tough parenting produces tough children
Tough parents produces tough children who are mature, independent and reliable.
Tough parents set boundaries and enforce them. As a tough parent, your children might complain that you’re too strict, but boundaries are necessary in order for children to feel secure.
The foundation of tough parenting is to decide that you’re only going to be responsible to your children, not for them.
No more stress and no more sleepless nights
Once you’ve made this decision and have done your best to live it out in your day-to-day actions, then rest.
No more anxiety, no more undue pressure, no more sleepless nights.
Your kids will turn out fine—or, at the very least, they’ll turn out a lot better than if you had tried to take responsibility for their behaviour and their lives.
Anyway, that’s a burden you were never meant to carry.
Parenting is a demanding task, but I have full faith that you’re going to do a fantastic job!
Daniel Wong is the bestselling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers The Exam Excellence (TEE) Mentoring Programme to help students to find exam success, while discovering new purpose in their journey of education. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-book, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?", here. Download his other FREE e-book, "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision", here.