If I’m speaking with a group of parents and I want to elicit a lively debate, I only need to say the following:
“Kids shouldn’t be your highest priority”.
As a youngster, I remember my dad telling me that “your mom always comes first,” but I really didn’t understand what he meant. It wasn’t until I spent many years working with kids and families that I realized that focusing your life around the needs and wants of your children was a serious mistake.
I’ve gotten some passionate feedback on this position from many parents. My favorite comment was from a mom of an infant. “I’ll tell that to my six-month-old the next time she wakes up in the middle of the night screaming for food.” One reader’s comments were more personal. “You must not have kids. Having children means sacrificing what you want for what they need.”
As a parent of three children, I understand that there are many times when taking care of our kids must come before anything else. Parenting involves lots of compromise and sacrifice.
However, always putting your children first is bad for them, bad for you, and bad for your relationship with your spouse.
It’s unhealthy for youngsters to grow up feeling that they are the most important people in the world. Of course we love them unconditionally, but others do not. They will be judged by their accomplishments.
Some parents seem addicted to pleasing their children and make endless sacrifices to cater to their whims. Raising a family is all about compromise. Kids’ needs are important but must be balanced against those of other family members.
This means there are times when you should restrict your child’s activities and say no to sports or music lessons. What may be good for your child may place unreasonable demands on other siblings or your spouse.
Child-centered families are not only bad for kids, they are bad for us as adults. We need to figure out how to meet our needs and maintain adult friendships, exercise, work, and just hang out and do nothing. Our kids would have a more realistic view of life if more parents would simply say, “Not now. I need some time for myself.”
Finally, a meaningful relationship with your spouse is a frequent casualty of child-obsessed parents. Adult relationships take time, attention, and emotional engagement. You need to be fully available to attend to your spouse without feeling guilty that you are not a good parent.
You’ll be a happier person, spouse, and even a better parent if you are not addicted to your children.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the October 5, 2014, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Why kids shouldn’t be your highest priority” Gregory Ramey, PhD]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.