I can’t bring myself to watch most reality shows – they make me shudder, like when I see a spider, or smell milk that has gone bad. Like that reality show where the little girls are dolled up to be pageant princesses, or the one where the parents are raising a biblical amount of children. While I understand that the lure of fame and attention can be addictive, I can’t imagine what it would be like for kids to grow up under that kind of limelight. So I change the channel, and wonder what possesses people to pick fame (or notoriety) and fortune over the well-being of their kids.

I’m creating a parenting checklist for myself: The things I want to avoid doing if and when I choose to have children. Oh I know, it’s easier said than done, but if I can, I’d like to:

  • Avoid putting my children and family life on display on a reality show.
  • Start a family board game night.
  • Refrain from dressing little boys and girls in the standard blue and pink.
  • Encourage my children to believe in magic and their ability to create it
  • Raise my children as respectful, independent, hockey fans

Here are a few other lessons I’ve learned, thanks to research we conducted on Parenting Styles. We compared two groups:

Group 1 – Parents who are satisfied with their relationship with their children, and who classify their kids as being “generally well-behaved.”

Group 2 – Parents of less well-behaved children who admit that they are not happy with the relationship that they have with their kids.

Here are some of the surprising areas where they differed

The satisfied parents encourage self-expression in their children.

Gone are the days of “children should be seen but not heard” and “do as I say, not as I do” – well, mostly. Group 1 parents encourage their children to speak their mind and share their feelings, within limits of course. When I was frustrated 3-year-old, I’d punch people; and being short, you can imagine where the majority of my punches landed. That was quickly discouraged by my parents. 

Even when it comes to questioning their parents judgment, however, the satisfied parents agreed that children should be allowed to question rules for the sake of clarity (Why do I have to follow this? Why is this rule so important?). Children who are afraid to question rules are more likely to follow them blindly when they get older – or break them out of spite.

The satisfied parents discuss punishments with their partner before administering it.

A united front not only creates a sense of stability for children, it also creates less confusion and significantly impacts how children will respond to rules and boundaries. If one parent is more lenient, for example, children will learn very quickly how to play their cards right to get what they want. They may even pit parents against each other. Particularly in cases where couples are divorced, it’s important for both parents to be on the same page in terms of how children will be raised, and how rules will be enforced.

The satisfied parents don’t believe in completely sheltering their children from negativity.

This one, I admit, took me surprise. Although the percentage of parents in Group 1 and 2 who stood by this statement wasn’t particularly high (16% vs. 20%), the unsatisfied parents were still more likely than the satisfied ones to believe that children need to be sheltered from the bad things in life.
I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read where journalists complain that Millennials are being pampered and overly protected by “helicopter parents” who are supposedly fostering self-absorbed and spoiled children.

The truth is, many Millennials are much more resilient, independent, and hardworking than we give them credit for. This is thanks to the fact that many of their parents will balance encouragement and praise with some tough love when it is required. Sheltering children from failure and from the realities of life limits their ability to deal with these challenges when they do end up facing them. Rather than creating a sheltered world around our children where nothing can possibly go wrong, let’s teach them the resilience and resourcefulness they will need to conquer any challenge that comes their way.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D