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Unhealthy Parent-Child Relationship

It's impossible to put in one article, the many ways a parent can develop an unhealthy relationship with their children.  Instead, we'll cover the main categories in an effort to find a balance between the extremes.  While reading, consider your own actions and decisions with your children.  You may discover you're a better parent than you thought.

Too Hard Or Too Soft:  It's fairly easy to spot the out-of-control child-beaters but, just as harmful to the child is the domineering parent who can't seem to stand it even when their child is quietly enjoying themselves.  I remember my brother bullying and intimidating his 10-year-old son in our living room even though the boy was quietly entertaining himself and had been very polite during their long visit.  It doesn't matter whether it's violence, religion, or some other strict discipline tactic, if children are afraid to be children...afraid of a parent, it's a very unhealthy relationship.  Once they figure out their parent can't be pleased, it can only end in no relationship.

Many don't realize the other side of the coin, being too soft, is just as unhealthy and damaging to the child.  Children need to have solid, dependable boundaries for their own security and to learn what life is like outside the home.  If children always get their way, can always exhaust their parents into giving in and making exceptions, the child has much more difficulty coping with the real world.  Another brother of mine tried this approach...reasoning with his 2-year-old why she shouldn't scream in a restaurant.  To be diplomatic, let me just say that her behavior hasn't changed much even though she's now 23.  Sorry Dr. Spock, at age 2, sometimes a little slap on the behind is all they need to understand and obey...they can learn why over time.  

Too Far Or Too Close:  A recent trend in parenting...even house the separate family.  Kids live in one part of the home and parents another.  They don't even eat together.  The only time the parents are seen is if it gets too loud or too quiet on the kid's side.  I knew one selfish Dad who even sent his kids to the neighbor's house at dinner time in hopes he wouldn't have to cook for them.  Younger children need to be cuddled and loved and played with...given serious attention.  Sometimes, even affectionate parents shy away from their kids when they start puberty.  Kids need reassurance and affirmation when they're going through the emotional pre-teen/early teen years.  Boys need to know you see them as getting strong...girls, getting pretty.  Both...getting smart!  Touch, time and verbal affirmation all play a role in a healthy relationship.  Being distant, absent or unaffectionate will create unhealthy parent-child relationship and unstable children.

The other side of this coin are the parents who are too close to their children.  This isn't an article on sexual abuse, but some parents who would never think of molestation are sending sexual signals to their children unintentionally.  Teenage boys and girls want to know they are attractive to the opposite sex.  The safe place they try this first is at home, with their parents.  Look, parents, no more full-body hugs or juicy kisses after they're 10 or so.  Don't let them wrap their legs around you or contact you anywhere near sexual areas.  This is common sense but some of you need to hear it.  If you let these things happen, it creates a very unhealthy relationship between you and your child.  You can use shoulder hugs or "A-frame" hugs to make physical contact.  By age 10, they don't need help bathing unless they ask, and then, hopefully, someone of the same gender can assist.

There are ways to be too close that don't include sex.  Some parents feel they have to be "best friends" with their children and this works well until about age 7.  After that, hopefully even before, it's good to help your child choose appropriate friends and back off a little bit on trying to be everything for them.  Don't protect them from everything...just crippling and fatal things.  Kids need to fail and be hurt to learn about life.  Overprotection creates stunted growth.  Being too chummy as they enter puberty creates disrespect and resentment.

Too Biased Or Too Objective:  This may be the most difficult area for a parent to gauge where to stand because every situation is different.  Let's just start with some common sense...your child isn't perfect!  Children lie, abuse each other, steal, and they also make mistakes.  I know one family that was dominated by their 11-year-old son, who, according to his father, could do no wrong.  He would even call his father at work to tattle on...his step-Mom, whenever she made a decision he didn't like.  The father sided with the son.  This is an extreme example of a parent who is too biased.  Of course, it's possible to be too biased against your child, too, with equally damaging results.  Just because a kid does some bad things doesn't make the kid bad.  Being too biased for or against your child can be a very unhealthy parent-child relationship.

The other side is the parent who is so objective and interested in the interests of every party involved, so afraid to come down one side or the other, that nothing gets resolved.  The kids are left to grow up in a mushy world where nothing is absolute except the bully who is smart enough to see there is no punishment for bad behavior.  The kids lose respect for their parents because they know their parents are afraid to offend anyone.  They also lose respect for themselves because they never get a clear idea of decisiveness or a clear right and wrong...only a World full of grey areas.

Unhealthy parent-child relationships can result equally from parents being too hard or too soft, too far or too close, too biased or too objective.  Just as with work, finances and diet, balance is the key to a healthy parent-child relationship.  After all, if you don't set the example of balance, where are your kids going to learn it?

What's your opinion/comment?

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