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Forefront families by Sally Burgess;Hothouse Kids; www.forefrontfamilies.org

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Most folks take their parenting responsibility seriously, but how far is too far? How little is too little? Some parents believe you can never protect your kids too much. I disagree. We do need to keep them safe and children do need to feel secure. So where is the balance? When are we smothering them and when are we exposing them immaturely to the real world?

Too little parenting:

Some parents’ philosophy is to just let their kids ‘learn the hard way’ by allowing them to learn by their own mistakes? Here are the real



a)    How many mistakes will they have to experience before they get it right?

b)    How hurt will they or others become in the process?

c)    How will they ever know they did get it right if there is no example or positive role modeling?

d) Is this simply a case of neglectful parenting?


Many kids say that when parents don't state their expectations and train them to be able to meet those expectations, not only are they stumbling along ‘learning by their own mistakes’, BUT they think their parents don't love them or care about them.

What happens when these kids leave home? They may have become somewhat street smart, but without teaching them how to communicate respectfully, work with others, obey authority and successfully manage their own lives, they are likely to find it very difficult to even set, let alone meet goals or be accountable.

Parenting that smothers:

How about parenting that dictates a child’s every move or parenting expectations that are almost impossible to attain. What about boundaries that are exceptionally restrictive? What about parents who say, "Jump!" and the kids say, "How high?" These are what I term the ‘hothouse’ kids.

The real issues:

a)    High levels of control deny kids the opportunity to learn how to make their own choices.

b)    Lack of choice results in kids always waiting to be told what to do, often in fear of being chastised.

c)    Lack of confidence means they don’t trust their own ability to make decisions.

d)    Stress in trying to live up to high and near impossible expectations.

e)    Eventual rebellion against restrictions and few skills being taught to face ‘the real world’.

What happens when the children leave home? Are they going to become control freaks and do the same thing to their children? After all, it is the only kind of parenting they understand. Are they going to be easily led by just any strong personality they associate with because they have no decision-making skills of their own?

Home should be a training ground, a place to learn to become an independent, productive, caring member of adult society. Home is where parents create values and expectations that guide kids to successfully manage their own lives. Home should be a safe place to make mistakes, a soft place to land.

At first you have to guide children constantly, but as they start mixing with outside influences you teach them how to apply your values and expectations to those circumstances. You can give your kids all the instruction and role modeling you can, but sometimes they still have to learn by their own mistakes. What is not fair is to expect them to manage on their own when you have not prepared them with effective skills to make decisions without you.

If you have any comments or questions on this subject, please feel free to contact us through email at sally@forefrontfamilies.org. Also check out our website at www.forefrontfamilies.org and our blog site at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.com


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