When I finally made the decision to come to Japan to look for work I had no idea that I’d find myself teaching kids.
But that’s what happened.
On the fifth day I went to an interview at a local English conversation school that was just starting out and I was offered the job on the spot.
While I hadn’t any experience teaching kids I figured what the heck.
I had no idea what I would learn in the first few months would be what I consider to be two of the three biggest mistakes parents make.
As our school was rather small I did my best to keep every student we got.
I tried to make the class as interesting as possible; I learned what the kids were into, I tried conversing with them every chance I got and I brought various things from my travels as a sort of show-and-tell.
In a nutshell, I did whatever I could to keep them happy.
And in an order to achieve this I tried to be as kind as I possibly could.
What a mistake that was.
I learned quickly that while kids love kindness, some see it as a sign of weakness and use it to their advantage.
They figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t get angry so they would push to see how far they could take it.
They didn’t do their homework.
They goofed around in class.
They came late.
They did what any other kid would.
Kids are known for testing their limits. The first time they try the jungle gym the realize they can only go so far but little by little they gain confidence and, sure enough, soon they will be climbing all over it.
With my son turning three I see it almost daily.
He tests me. He tests my wife. He constantly tests his own ability. Each time, seeing just how far he can jump, hit, throw, bite, swim, the list is endless.
So what’s the number 1 mistake parents make?
They are too kind.
By giving into a child’s demands constantly they take control. And once they have it, they won’t let go.
I give my son leeway, but no matter how much it saddens me, if he crosses the boundary, I let him know.
Sometimes raising my voice is enough, sometimes action is needed.
It gives me no joy to show him I’m angry but I am doing it for his own benefit. The sooner he learns what is acceptable and what isn’t, the easier things will be for all of us.
Kindness can become a weakness if you’re not careful.
What’s the second most common mistake parents make?
The exact opposite – they are too strict.
I understand that parents should discipline their child and reprimand them when necessary but let’s remember, they are children.
They don’t know what’s right and wrong, they don’t realize the dangers that exist, they lack an understanding of the outside world, they need guidance and it is a parent’s job to do that.
Strictness may keep children in line but it can stifle their adventurous spirit.
Be strict, but kind. That might sound like a contradiction but you can be both at the same time. It just takes some practice.
The third biggest mistake parents make is not setting an example for them to follow.
A good example of this was when my family and I moved to Thailand.
I clearly remember my parents saying to me, “Adrian, I think we should study Thai together.”
As I was already struggling to learn Spanish I had no interest in learning a foreign language so I replied, “Errr, I don’t think so. If you want to learn Thai, you study it.”
And that was that. None of us ever studied the language.
Looking back now I regret my decision.
But what I learned from that was had my parents taken Thai I would have felt left out not being able to join into conversations. It would have been like some secret code that they knew.
I have no doubt, that had my parents taken Thai, soon after, I would have, too.
Whatever you desire your child to be, you must be first.
Being a parent myself now I must keep aware of all three. I try to give my son space to learn, but come down hard when he crosses the line.
Each time I do, I let him know how much I love him, but that his actions are the reason I was angry.
All the while I must keep reminding myself that my son looks up to me.
He does what I do because he wants to be like me.
Being a parent is one of the greatest responsibilities you’ll ever have. And by keeping these three mistakes in the back of our minds we can sidestep some of the biggest problems parents run into.
It might not be easy, but the rewards will be great.