Experts say parents must change their ways.
Experts say parents must change their ways.

Tough love is the key

PARENTS need to stop trying to be friends with their children if they want to avoid them becoming louts and delinquents.

That’s the opinion of a local expert in the field of family relationships.

Wendy Harfield from Interrelate, the government-funded organisation which focuses on relationships through the lifespan, said the issue of anti-social and violent behaviour among youth was a complex and vexed one.

“There is no single reason why some kids get involved in unacceptable behaviour but it seems that it is becoming a major issue not just in places like Bellingen but everywhere,” Ms Harfield said.

“At the crux of the problem is the issue of self esteem.

“Sometimes parents don’t have a strong self-image or good self-esteem themselves, so it is hard for them to instil good self-esteem into their children.”

Ms Harfield said it was crucial that children learnt to develop good relationships with themselves, their family, their friends and their community at an early age. Parents need to look at themselves as personal trainers, and as we all know trainers get the best results when they start young,” she said. “It is no good waiting until a child is 12 or 13 to start training them to become a good person. By the time kids get to puberty it is often too late. You need to start when they are very young and be very consistent with them.

“Teaching and training children to be good people is an important part of being a parent but just as there are a lot of pressures on kids these days there are also a lot of pressures on parents and families.”

Ms Harfield said as well as offering a ‘Parenting Teens’ course in April, Interrelate had developed a special course for pre-teenage children which will be offered later this year.

“Its focus will be on helping children develop better relationships with everyone in their life before they hit the turbulent teens,” she said.

“But for parents the message must be, don’t try to be a friend to your children. As they go through school they will have the chance to have lots of friends but they won’t be able to have any other parents.

“You need to set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour early and stick to them.”

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