Children, Discipline, Parenting

Too Late

By: Mia L. Hazlett

Say you do decide to be friends with your kids.  Can you ever change your mind?  When you’ve allowed behaviors to exist for an extended period of time, at what point can you claim your mistake and start over again? I haven’t found anyone that has been 100% successful with this approach.  I’m talking about the Friends-Now Parent-Later Approach.  They spend years thinking their kid is funny and cute when they hit and throw their food around if they don’t want to eat it. The child becomes a comedy act when they swear or tell the parent shut-up.  I’m not sure when all of that became funny, but to all those who think it’s cute, IT’S NOT!

Even a newborn baby is impressionable and understands cause and effect.  If they cry and you pick them up every time, they come to expect being picked up every time they cry.  Same goes for the kid that swears.  If you laugh every time they swear, eventually they are going to swear just to make you laugh.  Hey, if that’s the way you want to parent, by all means, be my guest.  What you don’t seem to understand, you’re laying the foundation of what they perceive as good and bad behavior.  And the problem comes about when you don’t lay down the rules for their behavior, “I know we swear and hit in the house, but you can’t do that at school or you will get in trouble.”  Give your child some sort or heads-up, so they understand the difference between House Rules, School Rules, and Life Rules.

For example, you have two kids that go to school together.  One is being pushed around at lunch and the sibling comes over and punches the kid in the face.  Now in my house, my daughters will get positive feedback from me.  They won’t get a day off from school and special presents, but they will receive a pat on the back for sticking up for their sibling.  But what my kids will know is that the school’s consequences are different from mine and they will have to take whatever penalty the school has for fighting.  That to me is preparing my kid for the real world. I bring this up because I used to work at a school. My office was in the elementary school and so many bad ass kids would be shuffled my way.  It was very difficult for me at times to bite my tongue and not tell a kid what I thought about their mother when they would say, “well my mom let’s me” or “I do it at home.”   I would kindly bite my tongue and say, “I’m not your mom and this isn’t your house.”

But it hurt to see their lack of comprehension.  I had one student who spit on another student.  There was no connect in this student’s head as to how vulgar his act was.  I think the worst part of the situation is when I told the parent what he did.  All of a sudden my student’s buddy wanted to “play” parent.  I could tell because the child was in complete shock at the parent’s reaction.  The scolding and promised punishment were actually laughed at.  This woman wasn’t understanding she couldn’t toggle between friend and parent.  The sad part was she had her fourth grader laughing at her.  I just can’t fathom me being called to my kid’s school and them laughing at me.

I had another friend, who played a very small role in the raising of his daughter.  It was one of the few occasions they were together and she got flip with him.  He reacted as any normal parent I know would to her rude disrespectful comment, but failed to realize he did not have the right to do so (in my eyes anyways.)  He had never wanted to carry the role of parent or disciplinarian.  He was always “fun dad” in other words, friend.  So now he stood face to face with his 16 year-old daughter who didn’t understand who he thought he was.  How dare he want to take on the parent role now.  After 16 years of buddy, he’s now pulling the parent card.  It didn’t go over well and there was a family rift for a couple of months.  Still my friend didn’t get why he was wrong.  I tried to explain to him respect is something that is earned through one’s actions, not something given because of one’s title.  Children need to be raised with consistency. I told him his every other month pop-ups in her life had created inconsistency.  He had created no foundation in her life that would ever make her believe she was the child and he was the parent.  But somehow that became none of my business so I left it alone.

I personally believe a foundation for how your children need to behave in your eyes, needs to be laid within the first four years.  And whatever you do within those first four years, whether I or society deem it correct, needs to be followed through with consistently.  Because you only have that snapshot opportunity, after that, it’s very difficult to erase bad habits that have been accepted as proper etiquette by their most trusted  “friend.”

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