I look around in the news and on my Facebook feed of kids destroying Lego displays, kids breaking museum exhibits, and talking back to parents as the public laughs and laughs. Then, yesterday, because I try to stay away from the 24 hour news, I see that an ex-Stanford swimmer rapes an unconscious girl.
I am not sure whether to cry in despair, get sick to my stomach, or to just cut my family off from society. I know we live in a sinful world, but, I am often overwhelmed at the thought of growing girls in a world that wrong is now right and right is now wrong. It is not a job for the cowardly. It is a constant job that is the most important job of all. But, that is the problem. America…we, as parents are not doing our job.
I have worn the hat of teacher, principal, and parent in the educational systems of America. I have taught in public school and private school. We continue to hold teachers at such a high accountable standard with unrealistic expectations to solve all the world’s problems, but the problem is parents. How can we solve problems that parents are responsible for? Parents….do your job!
Hold Your Kids Accountable
From the beginning, you teach your kids about the world. You teach them how to love, you teach them respect, and you teach them the rules of the world. (I speak this as a mom of 2 girls that do not have a disability, that is a completely different approach) When your toddler throws himself on the floor, hold the line. If you do not, you are teaching them that if you cry and throw yourself on the floor long enough, you get your way. If you think a toddler temper tantrum is bad, it only gets worse. And when you give in, you say, “You are in charge of the house.”
Our oldest daughter was VERY stubborn. She would throw 2 hour throw yourself down on the floor temper tantrums at 2.5 when she did not get her way. She even did it at her birthday party when she did not want ANYONE touching her swing set. The birthday ended early, she went to her room and screamed. I know psychologists might say, “Well, she was trying to tell you something.” No, she was trying to get her way. And I refuse to raise spoiled brats. This daughter is still stubborn, we have focused her determination in many ways. She is independent and determined when she sets a goal. This was a process that happened over time as we held her accountable for her actions.
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
My youngest daughter’s first sentence was “No means no.” Even though she did not listen and we thought we were going to have to create a Military Pre-School for her, we kept saying it. Even at 13, we still have to say it. “No means no. I do not care how much you whine, complain, or sulk, the answer will still be no.” We do not have to teach kids how to manipulate. We do not have to teach kids to lie. We do not have to teach kids to be selfish.
We do have to teach them how to be kind, how to be honest, and how to be giving. We do this by modeling it ourselves. We also do this by following through what we say we are going to do. I often see parents give empty threats. “If you do this, we are going to leave.” But, the parents never leave. The kids keep doing it and they learn quickly that mom and dad do not mean what they say.
Think before you threaten, but make sure you follow through. A conversation might go like this:
“I am giving you a warning right now to get yourself to stop __________ . If you can not do that, we will __________________. Do you understand?”
The next time it happened, I did exactly what I said I would do. It did not take them long to understand that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Now, at age 13 or 14, I look them in the eye and say, “Try me.” And they know. They still try me and I still follow through.
Build a Relationship With Your Kids and That Means NOT Being Their Best Friend
My daughter was five when she looked at me and said, “You know my favorite part about getting in trouble? When you take me in your arms and tell me what I did wrong, how much you love me, and what I can do to make it better.”
Discipline means teaching your kids. I say this over and over to them, “I love you too much to allow you to act like this. My job is to grow you to be the best you can be and that means that not allowing you to act like this.” Over the course of time they know that loving them means growing them. I give them the grace to grow, but when they do not improve themselves, I need to step in with boundaries.
I need to raise my kids to be able to step into this world, take their place in it, work hard and be independent. They do not get there by me making excuses for them, keeping consequences from them, and keeping them happy. Life is hard. My job is to help them deal with life by growing their self control, responsibilities, and respect. That process is draining as a parent. This is a 24/7 job that will suck the life out of you. Sometimes what you do will work and sometimes you will fail immensely. This is how I show them the process. I say to them, “You are not perfect. I am not perfect. Life is not perfect. You are growing as a kid and I am growing as a parent. We will not always get it right, but there is nothing you can do that will make me love you less and there is nothing you can do that will make me love you more.” And by then, they know I say what I mean and mean what I say.