Unbiased Parenting: It's never too late

Unbiased Parenting is my own term, and refers to the recognition and handling of natural tendencies and outside influences, as you respond to your children. At the moment that your child asks you for some privilege or promise, it is crucial that your response is more unbiased and factual than emotional.

All too often, children are provided with responses that are so inconsistent, they feel they are simply playing roulette. The lack of consistency in response means they have learned nothing and certainly do not gain any new discipline.

So what does it look like? Bobby asks to sleep over at Tony's house Saturday night. You say, "I don't think so, maybe another time". Bobby comes back with "...but Kathy had a sleep over last weekend!". Then, the back and forth continues until either Bobby wins or mom does, but Bobby has no reason not to try again next weekend.

What's happening here? The response from mom has no leg to stand on. No reason that can stick. It's just another point in time with no structure and no meaning. It relies on the emotion of the moment. This is not unbiased parenting.

Instead, as a parent, mom and dad should collaborate to make things easier and, in the end, better for their children. Unbiased parenting means establishing rules to handle typical occurrences. As a parent, you should take some time to list situations that could stump you, and formulate reasonable rules. Review selected items from the list with your children so they have an idea what to expect. And while you are at it, get rid of some childhood distractions.

With sleepovers, for example, you could set a one week-end sleep-over per month limit. And stick to it.

For staying up to watch a special event on TV. Consider homework completed, helped clean up after dinner and haven't had any similar privileges this week. Just examples but the critical thing is this satisfies not only unbiased parenting, but also what every parent hears so often. "Kids need boundaries". Absolutely, but why do so many boundaries not exist? ... Parents.

Parents need boundaries as well. Boundaries that can be easily and swiftly enforced, without bias. Having reasonable rules in place only makes your job easier. It strips away the bias that so often accompanies a parent's loose decision making process. It tells the child who is in charge and reminds the child of the rule, thereby eliminating debate.

Once you have listed some likely events to account for... perhaps related to:

Sleepovers, late-night snacks, curfew, personal hygiene, laundry, TV time, computer time, telephone time, homework, setting the table, bedroom clean-up, storing toys, lights out, dishes, play areas, cycling after dark, talking to strangers, respect, courtesy, school lunch... on and on.

Then, establish a ladder of control, similar to this one:

  1. Follow The Rule - If you don't have a rule for this, make one today.
  2. Respect your needs - Your rule can only be broken if you have a pressing need.
  3. Respect the needs of other parties - You may suspend a rule if another adult has a pressing need.
  4. Respect the rules of other parties - It's best to respect the rules of others too. Otherwise, it sends a bad message to your child.
  5. Consider the child's needs - Review a mental checklist covering recent events or infractions, homework completion, lack of sleep, questionable influences, adult supervision, use of other privileges et cetera. However, notice that the child's needs come last. Not that your child does, but your child is to learn that the needs of others, and of course the rule, must come first. Toning down selfishness in a child can also have some good balancing properties.
With these two simple structures in place, and on the tip of your tongue, you will be able to respond in a consistent, fair manner without having to resort to yelling and empty threats. You may also avoid delivering ad hoc punishments which are all geared to hurting the relationship with your child and diluting any power you may have had.

Make your job easier, and put Unbiased Parenting to work sooner rather than later.

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