How to Be a Good Parent by Being Cruel

growing pain
Photo Credit: nattu

Parents sometimes need to be cruel for the good of their children

One of the hardest things to come to terms with when you become a parent is the realisation that sometimes you are going to feel you are mean, or even cruel.

It is not that you are going to cause your children physical pain, but sometimes you have to allow them to try things out even if they fail in their attempts, or even miss out on things.

You are doing it for their own good because you can see the bigger picture. The interesting thing is that as parents, we feel the agony too – often feeling worse than how the child feels.

When my eldest daughter was three, she was having problems with a boy at her childcare centre. I was devastated, but I knew that she had to work through it – with my support and the teachers’ – but it wasn’t my battle.

I would drop her off, go have a wee cry, and ring at lunchtime to check if she was okay. A year later, I was still feeling rather fragile about it.

When my second child started childcare, I retold the story, expecting my eldest to remember it and say it was awful.

What amazed me was that she had no memory of it. While she learnt some important lessons about friendship that she still uses to this day, all the pain and agony in learning them was completely gone.

Growing up can be painful. We as parents want to do everything to help our children to avoid the pain. But if we do that, we may be preventing them from growing up and learning all the skills they need to succeed and thrive as adults.

Here are three ways we can help our children to grow up a little, even though it may cause them (and us) a little pain:

Don’t give everything they want

Your child will not die if he does not get a play station, an Xbox and an iPhone. He can do without them. In fact, you may find he is better off without them. If he is not playing on the Xbox all the time, he has more time to be physically active, strengthening his body or doing homework. He is also more likely to be developing verbal skills, even if he is employing them mainly to shout at you for the lack of the Xbox!

If he really wants it, he can work for it. He can save up and pay half, or the full amount.

It does not matter if you can afford it or not. Buying your child piles of things just because you can afford it is not love. It is laziness.

Children do not actually need a pile of possessions. What they do need is time with people who love them.

Have a budget and stick to it

Work out how much money you are prepared to spend on treats, new pieces of clothing and birthday gifts. Then stick to it.

If they want something more than the values set, they need to negotiate with you to find a way to get it.

This helps them discover the value of money and often means they need to practise delayed gratification such as having to wait till a birthday for a large but desired item.

Get them to do household chores

Whether you have home help or not, your children need to understand the running of your household. They need to have jobs, and they need to know how to clean up after themselves.

They may not need it while they live under your roof, but if they leave home unable to clean, tidy and cook, it’s going to make life pretty difficult for them.

It is one of the biggest acts of love you can give – the gift of making them do chores!

Rachel Goodchild is a writer and presenter who works in the areas of education and relationships. She is the author of twenty seven books, and the mother of three children. You can read more about her and her services at

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