A ten-year old boy is told that it is time to go to bed at 9:00 pm on a Sunday night. He wants to finish watching a Disney Channel movie, but his mother knows that he has standardized testing in the next morning. She insists that he keep to his bedtime. The boy begins to yell at her, telling her how mean she is, and begins throwing anything he can get his hands on.
A fourteen-year old girl argues with her father about her report card. Her father tries to explain why an A in PE does not balance out the D in Biology. She insists that an A is an A and that he should be happy that she only has one D on her report card. When he tells her that she is grounded, she rolls her eyes and mumbles under her breath, “That’s what you think.” When her father send her to her room, she refuses to get up from her chair. When he attempts to lift her from the chair, she screams, “Do not touch me!”
A sixteen-year old girl steals money from her mother’s purse to buy more airtime for her phone. Her parents decide that the punishment should fit the crime, so they take away her cell phone for one week. The girl is frantic and grabs two large knives from the butcher’s block on the kitchen counter. She chases them to their bedroom, where they lock themselves inside, and she pounds on the door with the knives. They are forced to call the police. It takes the police 15 minutes to talk the girl into giving them the knives.
To some of you, these incidents may sound mild. Some of you are dealing with disrespect from your children that are far worse than these incidents. To some of you, these incidents may sound shocking. You might wonder how a parent could allow their children to get to this point.
The truth is, our permissive society – to which parents contribute – has created little monsters from our children that demand to have what they want, when they want it, at any cost.
I remember an episode of The Andy Griffith show where a young boy has been so spoiled by his parents that he believes he does not have to follow the Mayberry law about not riding a bike on the sidewalk. When his bike is impounded and Andy gives the father a choice of impounding the bike for a week or the father spending three days in jail, the boy would rather his father go to jail to “teach him [Andy] a lesson” than do without his bike. The shock of how spoiled his son really is gives the father a reality check and when Andy suggest that there is a woodshed out back the father might want to use to “talk to the boy”, the father takes him up on the offer.
While I have no problem with spanking (NOT beating. Spanking is a few swats to the behind with an open hand), I realize that many do not abide by corporal punishment. There are many other options available for discipline. I do believe that the punishment should fit the crime. If the cell phone is part of the problem, limited or no cell phone use is the answer. If television is the source of trouble, then limited or no television is the answer.
Parenting is a difficult job that requires diligence and strength. Parents must set limits, provide guidance, dole out discipline, and protect – even when children do not like the end results. There are plenty of 9-year old, 12-year old, 14- year old boys and girls out there whose job it is to be the “best friend.” Ours is to parent.
Certainly the younger we start demanding respect from our children (I am not talking about toddlers!), the easier it is to achieve the desired results. However, even if we have allowed the situation to get out of hand, we can restore respect with hard work and dedicated effort. The truth is, your child craves structure and discipline and will be a happier child when they know what is expected.
What we create at home goes out into the world with our children. To school. To church. To social groups. We must teach our children to respect themselves and to respect others if we hope for them to be successful in life.