Is your kid respectful? If you answered yes, consider this: is your kid respectful when you’re not looking?
We’re softies with our kids…at least compared to how our parents handled us when we were naughty (and even when we weren’t). Remember the punishments and spankings? It was rare for us to get through childhood without at least one encounter with a kitchen utensil (or belt, or back hand). We never presumed to argue with our parents, either. If they said no, that meant no. End of story.
Pretty sharp contrast if we compare then to now. These days our kids engage in protracted arguments about the littlest things – what they’re wearing to school, when they’ll do homework – and the scariest part is, they feel completely justified. They might polish their attitude with some façade of respect, but the fact is…they could care less about your rules. Your rules are optional and open for debate.
Unfortunately, they’re entitlement is negatively affecting everyone else.
When did the paradigm shift occur? When did we give up our power and authority as parents? Why?
Maybe it started with the release of Dr. Spock’s iconic childcare guide, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care in the 1950’s. This was the first comprehensive parenting guide…the one that started it all. In interviews surrounding the book’s release, Dr. Spock contradicts himself, creating confusion for the parent seeking advice. In a 1958 article re-published on http://www.newlearningonline.com, Dr. Spock writes:
Parents who incline to an easy-going kind of management, who are satisfied with casual manners as long as the child’s attitude is friendly, or who happen not to be particularly strict—for instance, about promptness or neatness—can also raise children who are considerate and co-operative, as long as the parents are not afraid to be firm about those matters that do seem important to them.
When parents get unhappy results from too much permissiveness, it is not so much because they demand too little, though this is part of it. It is more because they are timid or guilty about what they ask or because they are unconsciously encouraging the child to rule the roost.
First, Dr. Spock writes that it’s fine if you’re permissive as long as the child is friendly (he even advocates ignoring commitments – you can be late…you can keep everyone else waiting!). He follows this endorsement with a warning: don’t take it too far, because if you do your child will ‘rule the roost’. Most parents can’t straddle that fence; they can’t self-moderate their parenting style. They lean one way (permissive) or the other (strict), but don’t stick to a consistent method. What ensues is a pattern of swinging back-and-forth between the two, as they haphazardly follow the parenting plan du jour. Unfortunately for us (and our kids), this most recent parenting movement suggests that permissive parenting is more effective than a traditional discipline-focused strategy.
As with any social movement, the shift to permissive parenting was gradual. We saw glimmers of it in our generation (remember the kid that had no curfew freshman year?), but for the most part our parents held to the same basic standards. It is this latest round of kids that concerns me most (my own kids included). Some of their most troubling characteristics:
They believe they are equals with adults;
They believe their problems and needs are more important than those of their parents and other adults;
They do not respond to or respect the word ‘no’;
They lack empathy;
They believe they are the center of attention…always;
They are disrespectful toward teachers, coaches and other adults in their lives as a result of the behavior they’re getting away with at home;
They do not accept consequences for bad behavior and are adept at evading responsibility for their actions;
They expect, rather than appreciate;
Yikes, that sounds a little narcissistic…don’t you think?
What if we’re breeding a bunch of narcissists? We all know someone with this little gem of a personality disorder. They are exceedingly tiresome and phony, not to mention having that grating habit of tooting their own horn (and their kids’ horns because their kids are not individuals, they are little walking, talking bursts of perfection!).
Parents today are afraid to upset their kids. They can’t stay tough when an intended punishment is met with a screaming match or afternoon of the silent treatment…they give in.
The most authentic way to show your love is through consistent discipline. Children need boundaries to feel safe, and although they’ll fight it (it’s human nature!) we have to stay tough with our expectations for them. Our kids can’t learn good behavior unless we teach it to them.
If your child screws up, take something away from them that is precious. One week without their coveted iPhone should do it, or perhaps they should skip the birthday party they’ve been looking forward to all month. Guard your heart against the immediate backlash (“I hate you!”) because it will be hard.
We don’t want our kids to suffer, but every day you allow them to ‘rule the roost’ is another day that you’ve demonstrated the world is pliable. They will grow up believing that others should bend to their will and ultimately they’ll hone their narcissism until it’s second nature.
The fact is? I’m being selfish with this suggestion. I hate dealing with your bratty, entitled kids. They pop up everywhere and since we no longer live in a generation that allows adults to discipline other people’s children, I have to keep my mouth shut (or deal with the fallout from their ‘outraged’ parents).
Still think your kid is ‘perfect’? Consider this: has he had any discipline problems at school? Are the comments on his report card negative (excessive talking, trouble focusing, disruptive in class)? Has a coach had to approach you about your child’s poor sportsmanship? These are signs, people. Don’t ignore them and don’t buy it when your kid says it’s someone else’s fault.
I’m begging you: Please control your kids because I’m dangerously close to saying something for the good of the community, and since my youngest is a long way from graduating, I’m stuck interacting with you for a while, which will be uncomfortable for us both.