Nice Parent Problems

In my counseling practice, I not only run into all types of kids, but also all types of parents.  No matter the type of family; step-family, single-parent family, two parent family, multiple children families, single  child families....most experience what I call the "nice parent problem" at some point.  The "nice parent problem" consists of a situation where one or both parent falls into the trap of wanting to maintain their status as a "nice parent."  It means that consequences, for some reason, are seen as something a "bad parent" does. My job, when encountering the nice parent problem, is to re-educate and remind parents of one of the inescapable truths of human nature: we learn through consequences.  Everyone of us, no matter age, personality or culture learns through experiencing consequences of life.  The most loving thing I can do as a parent is to allow consequences to occur to my children.  Sometimes they are delivered by me or sometimes they are delivered by someone else.  In either event, one of the most precious gifts I can give my children, second to love, is the gift of consequences.  Without them, I am foolish to think my child will learn those oh-so-important life lessons. So here is a general guideline that works just about all the time in just about every situation.  When I am unsure what consequence is sufficient for my child's choices, I ask myself this question: "what would happen to me, if I exhibited the same behavior my child is exhibiting, in the real world?"  Example: if I were to carpool with my neighbor to work, and over multiple occasions complain about his driving, his music and possibly make him wait in my driveway while I repeatedly wake up late, the real life consequence I'd likely experience is a neighbor who tactfully says to me, "hey, Joel.  Its not working out for us to carpool together.  It think it would be best if you drove yourself."  In short, I'd lose my ride. How many parents allow their middle school and high school kids to treat them poorly virtually every morning, and yet those same parents still give them rides to school along with repeated warnings about attitude and getting up on time?  Perhaps the most loving thing that parent can do is to call the school and let them know that their son might be late for school the following day due to repeated problems getting up on time.  And that if he is late, that parent is not excusing his tardiness or absence.  Then, joy of all joys, the next morning, Junior is surprised to wake up to a quiet house with a note on the fridge saying, "My Loving Son, my car leaves for school each morning at 7:30 sharp.  Your sister was lucky enough to make it.  Please find your own way to school.  Try not to worry about this today." So, my loving reminder to every Nice Parent:  the nicest thing you can do for your child, aside from loving them, is to give them the gift of consequences.  They'll grow up to find a world that looks very familiar, one in which they've already figured out how to succeed, all because they were blessed to have parents that taught them about real world consequences from an early age.