If Children Behave Badly Who’s to Blame Parents or Child – Parents

Welcome to my life!

We had summer visitors last week. Everyone who lives near or on a lake in the summertime has them. They are expected and often welcome. Our summer visitors last week came with two children, girls, eight and ten. They were very pretty girls for about ten seconds, and then they began to squabble and push and wail and moan at one another and their parents.
I want to go in the boat.
I asked first.
You said I could.
But I said it first.
Girls, said their mother.
Welcome to my life, said their father.
And so it went, until I finally said,
Girls, this is enormously unpleasant, stop screaming and yelling. I am not finding any of this enjoyable.

I have come under fire before for trying to stop the madness. Contrary to current social streams of thought in the parenting sector, parents are, in fact, the boss of their children. And their own lives would be much more pleasant if they would only exercise a small portion of the power given them. I have explained that when you threaten and plead and count to three or else, you must, like a good golf or tennis swing, follow through, or else.

The world is a scary place for children. They look up to their parents to set limits and to protect them; to show them the way. In the absence of direction and limits, a child’s survival instinct will set in and they will take charge and run the show. And it is not a nice way to live. They have no experience. They have no knowledge. They have no compassion. Their lives depend on someone bigger and smarter being boss while they develop and learn. Even though they resist your efforts to exert this authority, it gives them a secure feeling. Honestly it does, even if they say they hate you for it.

Of course they will test you. It is their job to do that. And it is your job to be consistent and unrelenting. I think good parenting is having a child ask for something they can not have 3,000 times, and you saying No’, 3,000 and one.

My sister-in-law once begged and pleaded with her daughter to sit down in the back of the van so we could all go to town. The rest of us were already seated, waiting to go. The young girl in question, normally would not even be coming along, this was time allotted to mothers and older female cousins after the men returned from the golf course. But because this young girl was now eight, she decided she was old enough to join in. She begged, her mother said yes and then, like any smart negotiator she upped her demands. She wanted the front seat.
You may not sit in the front seat. Now please go sit in the back with your cousin and aunt.
No movement.
There are airbags in the front seat and it is illegal. Now please go sit down in the back with your cousin and aunt or you cannot come with us.
The child still stands.
I have asked you to go sit in the back with your cousin and aunt and now I am going to count to three and if you are not seated you will not come. 1 2 3 oh, please sit down in the back seat like I asked you so we can go to town, everyone is waiting.

I moved from the back, gently took the child by the shoulders.
Your mother counted to 3 and you did not sit down, so goodbye.
I handed her to her father who was standing outside the van and quickly slid the van door shut.
Go, go, go I said to her mom.

Back at the cottage, the child threw the mother of all tantrums causing her father, two uncles and grandparents trying to placate her, to christen me persona non grata. Upon our return, I quietly headed to my room to read a book and stay out of the family fray. Then came the knock on the door and in peaked my little niece.
Would you read me a story?
Of course I did and the moral of this story is that children do not hold grudges forever. They will not hate you for the rest of their lives if you dish out discipline in a kind and fair manner. And even if they do, don’t you want them to get their $100 worth from their therapists in the future?

I grew up at the tail end of the “children should be seen and not heard” era. I knew kids who never ate dinner with their parents, unless it was a family holiday. That, to me, was awful. Why have children? I loved spending time with my children. We had loads of fun most always. But, there were occasions when it was adults only, and they were asked to go and entertain themselves. We did not lock them in their rooms, or banish them to a cold, dank basement or dark, stuffy attic. They had toys and movies, art supplies and a dress-up box, bicycles and scooters, dolls and Lego. They were just occasionally reminded that they were children and we were adults and there was a difference.

So last week, I shared my recipe for guilt-free parenting with our summer guests. The way I see it is this. The first 20 years of my life belonged to my parents. They told me how to dress, what to eat, where to go, what time to go to bed and who to hang out with. After 20 years, I was on my own with 60 years for me. Why would I want to give up another 20 years of personal choice to my children when they were going to get 60 years of their own? Why would I give up the front seat of the car even without air bags when I had waited patiently 20 years to get it? Why would I ever want to start making three or four different meals because of children’s finicky tastes and why would I ever give up my favourite peaceful, morning cup of coffee and relaxed newspaper read for them? The reason I wouldn’t give any of it up is that I never wanted to hate my children. I wanted to love them and have them enjoy my life with me. And I wanted to teach them that making yourself happy is the greatest responsibility you have as a human. Sure, they would have to endure this imbalance of power for 20 years but after that, they could call their own shots.

If dispensed with reason, discipline is the greatest developmental tool a child can have, even better than Baby Einstein or Baby Bumblebee. As our summer guests left, I was thanked for being a “calming influence on the children”. After they drove off, I took a moment to count my own blessings. I knew without a doubt that while our children were growing up, “Welcome to my life” was a good thing.