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Four Small Things Good Parents Do That Hurt Their Kids in Big Ways

4. Try to use reason as a parenting tool. 

Mom cracked the bathroom door open just enough for her to see me, but not enough for me to see she was there. She’s always been sneaky like that.

I guess she could see me in the mirror, or something. Whatever -- she caught me.

Every night she says the same thing, “Go brush your teeth, it’s time for bed. I’ll be in to check on you in a minute.” But she never does. She just keeps talking to Dad, or something — except tonight. She saw my secret.

Ok, so I hate brushing my teeth. So what? No big deal. I just wait for her to say, “Go brush your teeth.” Then I climb up on the sink, get my toothbrush, turn on the water, and get it real wet. That's it.

Then you have to sit there for a little while, or she’ll think you didn’t brush them. Did you know I can make my tongue touch the bottom of my chin and the top of my nose? I can almost touch my eyeball. Someday I'll make it -- just like Johnny down the street.

That’s when mom slammed the door open. She really scared me. I almost fell off the sink. Mom said that if I don’t brush my teeth, they would all fall out one day.

Fine. Then I’ll never, ever have to brush them again.

Sufficient reasoning ability is rarely found in the under ten crowd. And yet how often do we attempt to use logic and reasoning as our primary parenting tool? This ultimately fails because a child’s rationale has two major flawed components.

First, all information gathered has one primary purpose in the mind of a child: “what's in it for me?” The information gathered is not used to weigh pros and cons, but rather to answer the question "how does this new information best serve my needs?"

Second, it is by nature severely impaired. There is no wealth of experience to draw upon. The younger a child is, the deeper these two perspectives skew their ability to properly reason. A parent that allows a child to flex his reasoning muscles by negotiating a request or rule may feel like he is using his superior intellect in order to get the child to comply in a kinder fashion. However, reasoning with a child while attempting to gain his compliance rapidly deteriorates, and then morphs into little more than manipulation.

In the end, all this misguided parent does is teach his child to be a master at manipulation — by modeling it.

We parent by example — intentionally or unintentionally.