You Can Raise Responsible Kids
And Teach Teens to Become Capable Adults
It is not unusual for parents to lie to their children. They often tell those lies because they want them to believe in Santa Claus, eat their vegetables, or wear the seatbelt in the car. However, parents often lie to themselves, as well. Perhaps it is because they actually believe the lie or because they don’t want to confront a problem. Whatever the reason, parents often convince themselves of these lies, and stick with them until long past the time when they should have confronted the truth. What are some of the lies that parents tell themselves?
Lie #1: Teens Are Fine at Home by Themselves
While researching my Amazon Kindle book, Dangerous Lies We Tell to Children and Ourselves, I found that one of the many lies that parents often tell themselves is that their children will not get in trouble if they are left at home alone. Whether your high school student is just spending a few hours at home by himself every day, or you are leaving them alone for the weekend, these students are often more likely to get into trouble than students who have at least some loose supervision. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend every minute watching them. It does mean that you, or someone responsible, should drop in on your children at frequent, but irregular intervals. Keep them guessing. When I was a Realtor, one of the advantages of my job was that my children never knew for sure when I would be home, and when I might be out. Even if they came home to an empty house, they never knew how long I would be gone. This protected them from the temptation of having friends over to experiment with alcohol and drugs, or to engage in any other risky behaviors. They had just enough freedom to take responsibility for fixing their own dinner once in a while, running a load of laundry, or starting their own homework. At the same time, they did not have so much freedom that they felt safe ignoring the house rules.
Lie #2: My Teens are Too Young to Know about Sex
Many parents believe that their 14 and 15 year old children do not need to know the real facts about how babies are made. According to the Guttmacher Institute, it is true that only 13% of teens have had sex by age 15. However, by age 19 approximately 70% of teens have had intercourse. In addition, some evidence shows that although most kids become sexually active during their teen years, many only have a cursory knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, and other issues related to their activity. Their lack of knowledge can be very dangerous.
Whether or not you believe your child is ready for sex, at the very least parents need to give their children a detailed book that explains the risks associated with sexual activity, as well as the advantages of waiting until they are older. Many religious organizations can provide material that is in keeping with the family’s religious beliefs. The more knowledge your child has, the less likely they are to create unnecessary problems for themselves.
Lie #3: My Teen Will Learn to Handle Money When They Grow Up
The truth is that most adults who do a good job of managing their money took the first steps while they were still living under their parents’ roof. One reason that young adults get in financial trouble is because they never received a basic financial education. Children should have a savings account when they are in elementary school; they should also have the experience of owning their first stocks. Both bank accounts and stock accounts can be opened under the Uniform Gift to Minors Act, which allows the parent to control the account until the child turns eighteen.
When children have bank accounts and stock accounts, even if they have just a few hundred dollars in either one, they begin to take an interest in their money. They love seeing their accounts grow as a result of interest or dividends. Some corporations, such as Disney, even have special reports they will send children who own 10 or more shares of stock in their company.
By the time a child reaches their teenage years, they should have a bank account with a debit card. A reasonable amount of money can be deposited, and the parent can see exactly when the debit card is used. Teens can learn to use a portion of the money for their school lunches, and a portion for their clothing and entertainment. It may take a few years to teach them how to make their money last a full month, and have enough left to make the purchases they need. However, learning to handle their own bills and cover their own expenses are useful skills that every teen should have before they leave for college.
Lie #4: It is Normal for Teens to Drink and Use Drugs
Not all teens use drugs or drink alcohol. Parents should not simply abdicate their responsibility to teach their children the dangers of teen alcohol and drug abuse, simply because they tell themselves that it is “normal.” According to research by the Center for Disease Control, during any 30 day period 58% of high school students do not drink alcohol. Your teens do not need to be among the 42% who did. In an article in the December 15, 2011 LA Times, fewer teens are drinking and smoking cigarettes than at any time in the past 30 years. The same article reported that 75% of high school students had not used marijuana in the past year.
Alcohol and drug use by teens is not inevitable, and should not be simply accepted as natural by parents. Parents can help their children withstand peer pressure by not abusing drugs and alcohol in front of their children and not encouraging them to “drink at home,” as a few parents do. They should also make sure their children are informed of the dangerous consequences of alcohol abuse. This education could save their child’s life.
Lie #5: Those Standardized Tests Are Not Important
I work with teenagers at a high school. Every year when they take their standardized tests, there are some students who simply mark all the questions “A”, or they make interesting patterns on the Scantron answer sheet. When this happens, kids often tell us that their parents told them that the tests don’t count anyway, so they don’t want to bother putting in the effort to try.
While it is true that these standardized tests are not part of the student’s semester grades, the scores on these tests may be considered when important decisions are being made about your child. Should they be allowed to take that AP class that interests them? Are they the best candidate for the limited spots in a special academic program? Is this the student the colleges are going to prefer? When a student scores badly, counselors and college admission officers often realize that the student was not really trying. This only makes them feel convinced that the student cannot be relied upon to try his best in other situations, either. In addition, the college counselors at the high school where I work have informed me that some colleges are now using the standardized tests of high school juniors as college placement exams. In other words, your child’s college may use these tests to decide if your child should be in a regular English 1 class, or if they should be placed in a remedial class. Although your students may feel a bit stressed about taking these tests, you should still encourage them to take these tests seriously. Just tell your student to do his best, and that you understand that there will be some parts of the test that they will not know how to do. Don't tell them that the tests aren't important.
Lie #6: My Kids Will Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Many parents tell their children to be honest, tell the truth, and behave with integrity. However, children watch their parents’ behavior and are more likely to emulate what they see, rather than what they are told. Parents should not believe that their children will avoid cheating on a test, if they see their parents cheating in their relationship, or cheating on their taxes. If you want to raise children who are honest and trustworthy, they have to see you behaving in the same way.
If you want to raise children who are prepared to be mature, responsible and capable adults, it is time parents stopped lying to themselves. A change in your own beliefs and attitudes is the most effective way to raise wonderful kids who will know how to take care of themselves someday … and isn’t that what we all want?
"Dangerous Lies We Tell to Children and Ourselves" by Deborah Dian, Amazon Kindle
A Helpful Book for Parents - No Matter How Old Your Kids
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Mar 14, 2016)