Sometimes, well-behaved kids get the short end of the stick. I saw it with my own eyes in a Walmart—a well-behaved kid getting penalized by his own parent for being good. His brother, close in age, was acting like a little terrorist, so their mom bribed him with buying his favorite candy in the checkout lane. You could see the confusion on the face of the other brother, who had actually been good but was leaving with nothing.
When a family has multiple children in the home, some naturally are going to be more compliant than others. And sometimes, it’s hard not to treat them all differently with our time, attention, and praise based upon this. However, there can be unintended consequences if we fail to get this right. Here are 3 mistakes parents make with well-behaved kids.
1. Ignoring Them
The saying is often true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. In parenting, it’s easy to give the majority of our time and attention to our kids whose bad behavior demands it. Often, this can come inadvertently at the expense of not giving enough positive attention to our children who are more well-behaved. While they may not mention it, they notice it. Just like when a newborn enters a family and takes up the majority of a parent’s time, if a parent isn’t intentional, the older children might feel ignored or neglected, even though that’s not any parent’s intent. Over time, this can result in bitterness or resentment that goes undetected for years.
2. Having Unrealistic Expectations of ThemKids who are raised with unrealistic expectations often grow up trying to live up to unrealistic standards.
The more well-behaved a child naturally is, the more we usually expect of him in social and behavioral situations. We might say something like, “I expect more out of you than that!” when he misbehaves, but we might let the same thing slide with another child in our family because such misbehavior is what we’ve come to expect. No two children will act exactly alike, nor should we expect them to. Just because certain kids choose good behavior more than others does not mean they should be at a disadvantage or have to live under the weight of unrealistic expectations.
The byproduct of such expectations is that we often fail to give our well-behaved kids the guidance they need. We fail to see that some of them aren’t as mature as we think. All along, they may simply be playing the role we expect of them without it truly having become a part of their moral character. As a result, we are often caught off guard when they still make foolish choices. Kids who are raised with unrealistic expectations often grow up trying to live up to unrealistic standards. They also set similar expectations of others, or they do the opposite by having few to no standards at all.
3. Taking Them for Granted
My grandpa used to tell us grandkids to be “good for nothing” kids, as in we shouldn’t have to be bribed to be good. It’s easy to praise or reward “bad” kids when they do good. However, when other kids are just “good for nothing,” it’s also easy to overlook their good behavior without ever giving them praise and attention for it. Because, well, “that’s just who they are.” However, sometimes “good” kids do bad things on purpose to get the same level of attention as their misbehaving siblings.
Every child desperately craves attention. No child wants to feel that his good behavior is just assumed. It’s important for parents to recognize that children may need more grace than grit in certain moments. Otherwise, they’ll feel taken for granted. A child who feels less than valued over time is more dangerous in the long haul than a child who just misbehaves in the moment, because the unseen scars go deeper.
Sound off: What is one thing you could do to make sure your well-behaved kids feel valued?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Are there any ways you think I’ve ignored you or taken you for granted?”