Parental Ping Pong

One of the things blended families get to deal with is the inevitable time when the children bounce from one parent to another.  My niece and nephews just went back to my brother in Wisconsin, leaving their mom in Idaho.  They do this yearly.

Last night my stepdaughter announced that she is going to live with her mom.  So we begin the volleys of kids coming and going.

My husband gets very hurt by all of this.  He says that he just doesn’t understand why they don’t want to live with him.  He gave them everything their little hearts could desire.  The truth is we all need both of our parents.  Not that all parents live up to that title, but we need their influence.

I’m going to go out on a limb here.  I’ve been a single mom.  I know what it is like trying to be all things to all people.  It is exhausting!  I’ve also been a juvenile probation officer for nearly 15 years.  I’ve seen things and come to some conclusions.  Now here is my disclaimer: what I am about to say is my opinion.  It is not proven by scientific theory after testing on test groups and control groups.  However, I do feel like I know a little about what I am going to say.

Kids crave boundaries.   They need to learn to work for that which they receive.  If we give in to their every whim, we are handicapping our children.  Plain and simple.

I grew up in an era that taught us to work.  I had a job from the age 14 on (with some breaks here and there).  I helped take care of 5 younger brother and sisters (only one brother).  I could mow a lawn, shovel a walk, do the dishes, sweep the floor and vacuum the carpet.  I folded laundry which included cloth diapers when I was growing up.

My children had a chore chart on the fridge.  They knew (in detail) what was required of them.  It was consistent and they could depend on it.  If they called me at work and asked if they could go do something they got two standard questions.  #1-  Is your Homework done?  #2- Are your chores done?  If the answer to either of these was “no” the answer was, “Then why are you calling me?”

We value that which we work for far over that which is just handed to us.

I see a growing trend amongst kids to get what they want by going to the parent who will give it to them.  Not that they have to work for it.  We are raising a generation of youth (Not all of our children ok?  So don’t lynch me.) that are entitled.  They honestly believe that just because their bright and shiny face got out of bed at noon, after playing video games all night, that they DESERVE whatever they want.

Okay, I know teenagers have been teenagers for thousands of years.  I just think that when we look at the problems like gang activity, disrespect to elders (did you see the video of the kids taunting the 68 year-old bus monitor?) teen pregnancy, and substance abuse, it is different.  Our youth are being taught to be liars, thieves, self-indulgent, drug-users, and hateful to their own parents.

Who is to blame you ask.  Well, to quote one of my former co-workers (a juvenile probation officer) who was speaking to a distraught father, “How long did it take to you teach him to be like that?”  Yes!  We are to blame.  The buck stops here folks!

If our children know that they can play one parent against another (triangulation) to get what they want… they will do it!

Here is what I mean.  Say you go to Las Vegas, you put some money in the slot machine and pull the handle, you lose.  You put some money in, you lose.  You do this several times and then, you win!  Not much, but you did win something.  So you again put some money in the machine only to repeat the process.  Why?  Well because you know that if you do it enough times, you win.

Our children are just the same way.  If they throw a tantrum to get their way and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, then finally the parent gives in and VOILA!  They win!  Do you think they are going to try it again?  Of course they are!  They have just been taught something very powerful!

Divorced parents are so much more susceptible  to this problem.  Remember I said that children crave boundaries?  Well how are they going to get boundaries if they can run to one parent and bad-mouth the other parent to get what they want?  There are no boundaries.  Children start to see the world as if they are in charge.

So how can we stop this?  I submit that we do not allow our children to bad mouth their other parent.  That we ourselves don’t bad mouth the other parent.  That we provide a unified front.  This all goes for married as well as divorced parents.  My parents were married when I was growing up, and they talked horribly about each other behind their backs.  This is simply not what a child needs.

We have to be actively involved in our children’s lives.  We have to have the backbone to stand up to them and be the parent.  Stop worrying that they won’t like us.  How many of us liked our parents when they were teaching us things we now value?

We cannot afford to raise a generation of entitled young people.  How can they go out into the real world and succeed if they think all they have to do is throw a tantrum?

So that is my two cents.  How do you deal with this?


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