I have evaluated numerous children whose only problems are that they live with loving and dedicated parents who are wimps. There is no psychological test yet to diagnose this disorder, but here is how you can assess yourself and perhaps avoid a visit to a therapist’s office.
1. Are you more concerned about your children’s feelings than their behaviors? Wimpy parents care excessively about making their children feel comfortable. While feelings are important, the real world judges us all on actions. Wimpy parents are reluctant to require their youngsters to do anything that may feel uncomfortable. One parent told me that she thought her overweight 7-year-old would benefit from playing recreational sports but the mom didn’t want to push her child into this activity because her child may not be able to keep up with the other youngsters.
2. Do you praise your children excessively? Wimpy parents make too big a deal of their children’s minor accomplishments. They often tell their kids how special they are, and inadvertently make their children addicted to praise and recognition. These kids have a hard time functioning without constant reassurance and become overly dependent upon the approval of others.
3. Do you give in on your discipline? Wimpy parents have good intentions but lack the self-confidence to follow through after disciplining their children. The kids recognize and take advantage of this weakness. “I never argue back after my mom grounds me,” one 10-year-old told me. “I just wait a few hours, whine a lot and she’ll eventually let me do what I want.”
4. Do you feel guilty after disciplining your child? Strong parents see discipline as a way to teach their youngsters good behavior, and know that they are helping their kids. Wimpy parents feel guilty that they are hurting their children by depriving them of some privilege.
5. Are you inconsistent in your application of discipline? Because they care excessively about their kids’ feelings, wimpy parents avoid making tough decisions. These parents develop intricate pseudo-explanations to justify their inconsistencies. “I can tell when my child had a bad day at school and I probably let her talk back to me too much on those occasions” admitted one wimpy parent.
6. Do you talk endlessly to convince your children that your discipline is fair? Strong parents have no need for children to agree with family rules and consequences. They are confident and comfortable with their decisions and enforce them in a calm and reasonable manner. They acknowledge their children’s feelings, but don’t engage in debate or discussion over what is right.
7. Do you typically place your children’s needs above those of you and your spouse? Wimpy parents feel insecure in their relationships with their children. In this “kids first” type of family, personal and marital needs are of lower priority. The kids rule and infer an unrealistic sense of importance and power from the way they are treated.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org.
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