4 things parents should never ignore

I spend lots of time talking with parents about how to get their kids to clean their rooms, complete their homework, and do routine household chores. I understand why these things matter to parents. They are important in some ways.

One of the many challenges of being a parent is figuring out what to ignore, and what to discipline. We don't want to become enforcers, constantly criticizing and punishing. However, it's often difficult to distinguish between serious and normal childhood behaviors.

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Many parents overlook significant misbehaviors that are more important than a clean room or emptying the trash every week. Here is my list of “never ignores.”

1. Dishonesty. Helping our kids learn to develop meaningful and genuine relationships is one of our highest priorities. We know that honesty is the foundation of all relationships. I'm a bit dismayed by the tolerance of parents regarding their kids' deceit and lies. This is an issue of trust, without which there is no real connection with others.

2. Sibling verbal and physical aggression. Foul language, hitting, sarcasm and verbal bullying among siblings are often easily dismissed by many parents. The mistaken view is that because a behavior is common, it must be normal.

The way kids treat their siblings becomes the basis for the way kids interact with others. This is one of the easiest problems to solve. Parents need to be clear about what behaviors are unacceptable and then strictly and consistently enforce those rules. Within a few weeks, the problem should end.

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You can try to let sibs work these things out on their own. If they can’t, then you must intervene.

3. Victim thought patterns. This is a self-defeating way of thinking that I notice in children as young as 7. When something bad happens, they either blame others or act helpless about trying to resolve the problem. This pattern seems most common among kids raised by either overprotective or overly controlling parents.

These kids take no responsibility for their actions. They misattribute problems to bad luck or other people. It’s the beginning of childhood depression, with youngsters feeling hopeless and helpless to influence their world. This victimization thinking pattern tends to persist throughout adulthood.

4. "Attitude" towards parents. Rude, offensive and scornful behavior towards parents seems to be often dismissed as "typical of the age," usually referring to young teens. It's not. Kids talk in ways that you allow. You've got to do more than meekly protest to your teen not to use a certain tone of voice. Consistent consequences should change this behavior in a few weeks.

Next Week: Psychomyths about learning.

Dr. Ramey is the Executive Director of Dayton Children’s Center for Pediatric Mental Health Resources and can be contacted at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org.

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