Calling All Parents…

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, July 04, 2018
By Ricardo Sardina , LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

This blog goes out to all parents, single parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and guardians. We are dealing with a major crisis in our lives, and it is time we begin to take control of this situation before it becomes even worse. It concerns our children and how they act in today’s society. More and more kids have difficulties showing respect, communicating appropriately, and acting properly in social situations. Many kids today believe they are entitled to things which could easily be accomplished by working to achieve them. Kids have developed a reputation in today’s society where they are viewed as lazy, less intelligent, and having lost respect for authority figures, including the sense of looking up to their parents or guardians for guidance in their life. 

I remember when growing up how I respected both of my parents, not because they were cool or attempted to be my best friends, but because they provided me with rules and guidelines for me to follow and learn from. They disciplined me and remained firm in their punishment. They were strict, but at the end of the day, I knew they were there for me and loved me unconditionally. They both taught me the meaning of working hard, and that it was OK to fail once in a while. 

It seems that years ago there were stricter rules in the homes and families simply were closer. Families spent more time with each other, talking and doing activities together. Today, it appears families are more distant from each other and the rules in the home tend to be reinforced less, which causes there to be less order in the home. Kids are hiding behind the computer, or their cellphones, and talking back more. Families today are simply not spending enough quality time with each other. Spending time with each other is key to a successful family and our children’s healthy lifestyle.

In today’s world, spending quality time with the family has become a challenge. Both parents have jobs and find it difficult to be home when the kids finish school. Some kids tend to be extremely busy after school themselves with sports or extracurricular activities. With such a hectic schedule, it’s easy to get lost in dealing with the day-to-day challenges and lose sight of finding time to spend with each other. 

Many parents or caretakers have expressed that even when we do attempt to spend time with our kids, they either do not want to or they are hiding behind their cellphones or iPads. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and when you look around the room you see a child holding a cellphone or tablet watching a movie, playing a game, or texting. When did we allow these devices to take full control of our lives? There is a simple answer, we as caretakers are allowing our kids to behave in this manner. Many times the response I get as a therapist is that the parents are going out to dinner to enjoy their meal and eat in peace, so they allow the use of these devices. However, this could be accomplished if rules are set up where there are no electronics at the dinner table. It is surprising to see how much a child communicates and behaves if rules are set up accordingly and followed (it’s not easy, but it works). 

Last week, I went out on a date with my wife. Sitting at the table next to us was a family with two young children and there were no electronics. The kids were playful and the parents spoke to each other and interacted with the children. They appeared to be having a great time enjoying each other’s company. Most importantly, the kids calmed down when the waiter came up to their table and they were respectful when spoken to. Watching them inspired me to write this blog, and reminded me how spending time with our children is beneficial in their lives. 

This brings me up to my next point, spending time with our children does not mean you have to spend money on them. Some parents are under the impression that money brings happiness. They enjoy how their kids’ faces light up and become excited when they get the gift they want. However, if kids always get the gift they want, it becomes a norm to them and they expect to always get what they want, causing this special gift to lose its meaning. Kids are always going to beg and whine in order to get what they want, but they will learn more in life if they understand that money does not bring happiness. 

Spending quality time with our kids means to throw ourselves on the floor to play with them, sit with them before bedtime to have a good talk, or simply go to the park or for a walk with them. Listen to what they have to say, because even though it might not be important to you, it is important to them. Consequently, when they become older, they will be able to speak to you about the real important issues they might be dealing with in life. 

I encourage my clients who are parents to spend at least thirty minutes with each of their kids individually a couple of times a week, and to spend time with the family at least once a week. Spending time with our kids has its benefits:

  1. It improves family bonds.
  2. It improves child’s academic performance.
  3. It improves communication with others.
  4. More family time can result in less behavior problems.
  5. It improves respect towards others.
  6. It improves self-esteem and self-confidence. 
  7. Most importantly, it creates great memories that last a life time. 
It’s not too late to start spending time with your children. Instead of looking at the negative things your children are doing, start recognizing the positive things in them. Realize that a lot of times they are just looking for attention because what they really want is to spend time with you. With all their attitude, irritability and demeanor, at the end of the day they just want their mom and dad. And yes, this includes grandparents, foster parents, and all guardians!