Providing the Structure Kids Need
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Providing the Structure Kids Need 

מאת    [ 22/11/2020 ]
מילים במאמר: 610   [ נצפה 179 פעמים ]

Well, summer’s (finally) coming to an end, and along with a chance of cooler temperatures, the kids are back for a vacation-packed September in school. It’s hard to believe that they actually looked forward to the structure and routine. But alas, we shouldn’t be so surprised.

All of us seek the comfort and security of clear expectations and defined boundaries. We gravitate to standards, such as how to behave and what to wear – even if it’s in order to test those boundaries or do the opposite. Very few people thrive outside of a regular job and a daily routine.

Yet the Israeli norms of parenting don’t necessarily accommodate this basic human need. All around us, we see instances of parents ostensibly being very tolerant of their kids – often to their child’s own detriment. So maybe a word or two on limit-setting is in order…

There’s no doubt that the complexities of life in Israel affect our parenting in multiple ways. Many bear the scars of cross-generational traumas, from Holocaust experiences to forced expulsion and the long-term challenges of klita in a foreign culture. For others, the threat or opportunity of today’s global economy results in an ethic of winning at all costs – which keeps them away from home and/or conveys destructive values to their kids. All of us are caught in the web (pun intended) of an inhumane pace and media overload, and the Israeli reality of recurring war and grief no doubt takes its toll.

All of these factors can affect our ability and willingness to set painful (for us, not them) boundaries for our kids. But that doesn’t mean our kids don’t need them.

In the course of normal childhood and adolescence, kids will misbehave. When they do, we’ll actually be doing the child a favor if we clarify the expectation of appropriate behavior and hold them accountable. If the child misbehaves again, they receive a consequence such as time out, loss of a privilege, early bedtime or the like. They get the point and the behavior occurs less frequently, or extinguishes altogether.

Other parents will seek to avoid conflict and ask the child why they behaved as they did. These parents hope to discuss the motivation and talk their kids out of engaging in the misdeed again. However, few children or even adolescents possess the cognitive ability to truly reflect on their motivation and articulate it to their parents. And secondly, parents are mistaken if they believe that discussion alone will nurture the development of self-control.

While the child may display understanding and make promises of amends, from the child’s point of view, in the absence of a consequence deterring the misdeed, he or she still got away with it. Hence the child will understand the expectation, but still engage in the misdeed because there is no real or meaningful consequence – apart from some special time with the parent, which may actually provide positive reinforcement of the misbehavior.

While it’s fine to help a child understand simple motivations and rules through discussion, don’t be mistaken that this alone will deter misdeeds, nor provide the boundaries they need.

To help your child socialize to our (somewhat) civilized society, and provide the security of clear boundaries, hold your child accountable to reasonable expectations and provide a consequence. The consequence may be as simple as your clearly voiced disapproval, a brief loss of privilege or time away from a preferred activity. Think of being caught for speeding. The officer may discuss with you the wrong of your offense, but will surely still give you the ticket. It’s a short discussion. Lesson learned, now on your way.

Randy Tischler, MSW, MFT
(עובד בעברית או באנגלית)
Couple & Family Therapist, Psychotherapist, Mediator
23 Rashi Street, Tel-Aviv
Tel: 054-810-3550

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