I have a friend who raised her daughter with the philosophy of never saying no, of never having her be upset for too long, of always giving her what she wanted, no matter how crazy the request or how far the parents would have to bend over backwards to grant it. It didn’t matter if they hurt themselves while bending over—whatever she wanted, she got. “I don’t like hearing the crying and carrying on,” my friend told me. “It’s so much easier this way.” Hah, I thought to myself, easier now, but just wait ‘til later. I imagined the girl as an incorrigible, unpleasant diva as an adult.
Well, “later” is here– she’s an adult now, and as far as I can see, she’s a nice, intelligent college graduate who lives on her own; a law-abiding, church-going, tax-paying citizen with a good job and lots of friends. Maybe it’s extra tough on her when disappointments happen, small or large… I don’t know…but by all accounts, she seems well-adjusted and “raised well.”
Lately I’ve wondered if I should become “cool” like my friend, giving in to whatever my kids want—letting them text and watch TV even when homework needs to be done, buying endless amounts of junk food and running to the nearest Wendy’s or Arby’s whenever they ask, giving them an endless clothing budget, providing transportation at their every beck and call, and when they throw aggressive tantrums if something’s not to their liking, never punishing them for their behavior—soothe the savage beast instead, dry the tears. I might end up in the poorhouse while embracing this style of parenting, but oh, wouldn’t it be easier on my well-being while getting there…
-I wouldn’t have to go through gut-wrenching second-guessing for days after I’ve taken a privilege away or imposed a sanction
-I wouldn’t have to see my children sob and beg for a replacement punishment (“You can take my phone away for a year, make me take care of the dogs from now on…anything but this!!”)
-I wouldn’t have to be at odds with my husband (he believes after a parent has taken a privilege away that kids ought to be able to “buy back” the privilege with good behavior… I don’t.)
-I wouldn’t have to miss out on planned “date nights” with said husband (when you ground a kid who has threatened to leave the house anyway, I think it’s important to stick around!).
-I wouldn’t have to hear the words “I hate you, Mom!” (I’ll bet my friend never heard that from her daughter…)
-I wouldn’t have to be badgered with a zillion excuses and manipulative statements to try to get me to change my mind, such as:
I don’t do this often. Why are you being so harsh?
Mom, you’ve lost your cool before—why can’t I?
This privilege means so much to me—why didn’t you
pick something else?
Can I just be grounded for ½ the evening?
Can I have a freebie this one time?
It’s tough standing your ground with kids, especially when you love them with all your heart and hate to see them upset. It feels unnatural—you want to make everything all right. The mothering instinct is to protect. And even though that’s what I’m ultimately trying to do…why does it have to hurt so much?
Uncool parenting ought to come with a warning label—DO NOT TRY THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPOUSE OR PARTNER, ONE WHO IS UNCOOL AS WELL. AND IF YOU DON’T, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A LIVE-IN MASSEUSE. Or at least one that works close by… AND REALLY, REALLY THICK SKIN, AND AN IRON HEART…