Today we are going to talk about children, discipline, respect, and expectations.
First let me say, my heart goes out to every victim, every loved one, and every first responder who was involved in the recent school shootings. There are no words that can truly ease the pain of what these people have gone and are still going through.
Because of these recent tragedies, there have been a rash of threats made toward grade schools, middle schools, and high schools in our area. I’m sure that these are happening everywhere, but they have literally been one after another here. These children are being arrested and taken to juvenile detention centers (as they should be) or jail (if they are of the age). That is where they need to be, but I have to question why so many think it’s alright or even funny to make these threats. The majority have done it just to get out of school. They had a threat at my daughter’s school this morning. I offered to pick her up. She said no because the police were there and the person who made the threat wasn’t. I’m sure this kid just thought it was funny or a way to get out of school without being counted absent. Obviously, you can’t chance their motive.
Still, I question what kind of home life they have and what their parents think about their children threatening to kill other children when these recent murders are so fresh on everyone’s minds.
I have come to two conclusions:
- Some of these children have a horrible life at home with no parents or parents who are too concerned with their drug habits/party life to care about what their children do.
- Some parents spoil their children absolutely to death, never make them mind, never have expectations of their children’s behavior, and never teach them about respect.
In both cases, there is an attitude of “I don’t care what they do as long as they don’t bother me” and a total lack of discipline.
Children need discipline. They need boundaries. They need expectations and consequences for their behavior. And they need you to love them enough to pay attention.
Obviously, a lot of people get upset about this discipline thing. When I say discipline, it is not at all the same thing as abuse. Discipline doesn’t even have to be physical–although I’m not against a child getting a spanking. Our children have had spankings in the past, although this didn’t last long for me when I heard my daughter tell her brothers that my spankings didn’t hurt and she was pretending to cry because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I had to get creative and that worked out better for me anyway!
My best friend always said that my kids didn’t misbehave much because they were never sure what the punishment would be. I like that element of surprise.
But please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a perfect parent. I don’t have perfect children. I’ve had my fair share of mess ups and times when I was convinced I was the worst mother ever. They’ve had their moments when I called myself a failure because their attitude or their actions were not what we taught them. We don’t give up on our kids though. We still stay involved, we still offer advice, we still have expectations…even of our adult children. (And let me tell you, adult children are hard to parent. You have to let go even when you want to jump in and tell them how to do things your way!)
Still, in this household, we believe in discipline, we believe in consequences, and we believe in respect. Someone said once that our children didn’t ask to be born. Well, I didn’t either, but I still didn’t talk ugly to my Momma just because I didn’t get my way. And if I did happen to get sassy, there was a consequence. It wasn’t that she didn’t love me; it was that she was preparing me for a world that would never love me as much as she did. Other people don’t care if you get your way or not. There will only be a select few people who worry if you’re having a bad day or if you are unhappy with your life. Everyone has their own set of problems and yours can’t always come first. Everybody can’t be number one all the time. Learn it. Teach it.
As I said before, my children aren’t perfect. Nor do I expect them to be. However, they will respect me as their mother who birthed them, nurtured them, took care of them through every illness, showed up for every school function, listened to every made-up knock-knock joke, defended them when I thought they were in the right, and encouraged them when the world knocked them down.
Respecting me was not something I ever made an option and there was a rule in our house that they could think what they wanted about me and their dad (because when kids get mad, they think all sorts of rude things), as long as it didn’t come out of their mouths. My daughter learned this the hard way when she went through a phase of calling me “Mean Mommy” every time she didn’t immediately get what she wanted. I started charging her $1 every time she said it. After losing eight dollars in a few short hours, she never said it again.
Respect also went a long way toward disciplining my boys. They are only a little over a year apart and when they got closer to middle school age, they fought constantly. I had a rule that if they fought at home, they had to sit on the couch and hug. Sometimes I made them watch a Barney video about manners while they were doing it. And if they fought at the grocery store, I made them stand on either side of me and hold onto the cart. More than one person saw them walking out of Wal-Mart holding onto their Momma’s cart like toddlers. They were teenagers.
Do you think I could have honestly enforced that rule if they didn’t respect me a little? They were teenagers. They were taller than me early on. One is super thin, the other is very muscular, but they were both pretty strong and fast. They could’ve run from me if they wanted. They could’ve bucked up and refused…even tried to intimidate with their size. But they never once did. Do you know why? Because they respected me. They believed that I had the right, as their mother, to tell them what to do. And they did it.
I’m not a qualified professional, so I can’t really tell you how to teach respect or how to command it. I can tell you that manners have always been super important to me and a person with manners is much less likely to be disrespectful. I’m also a firm believer that you get out what you put in. If you treat them like they are stupid, they will come to believe it. If you are mean to them, they will learn to be mean. If you tell them “you are absolutely able to do that,” they will! So if you want respect, be affectionate, be encouraging, tell them how wonderful they are. And when they are being total brats, tell them why that’s not acceptable and what you expect instead.
While we’re on that subject…please have expectations for your children. I don’t mean that you expect them to go to medical school or you expect them to take care of you when you are old. I’m talking about the expectations you have for their behavior. For instance, in my family, it was expected that you didn’t get arrested. Therefore, my sister and I didn’t do things that might lead to us getting arrested. My husband and I had that same expectation for our children–even before he became a police officer–and we raised them with that belief. There have been many who questioned whether getting arrested would be an easy experience for our children to get out of because their father is a police officer. In the words of my oldest child, “If I ever got arrested, I would beg them not to call my parents. If they did, I would beg them to put me under the jail, because I know what’s coming.”
Expectations. We expect our children not to go to jail. We expect our children to be polite. We expect our children to try their best. We also expect them to stand up for themselves when need be and to ask us for help when life gets tough. We have expectations, our children know what they are, and when they aren’t met there is a consequence.
Most of us learned early on that everything has a consequence, but as this country moves further and further from common sense, that idea seems to have fallen by the wayside. Even good things have consequences, but people generally view a consequence as a bad thing. I suppose that’s because so many people don’t like to be held accountable for their own actions anymore. If they accept the consequences, that might mean it was their own fault. Toddlers and small children do that a lot. That’s why when you ask “who did it,” you get a lot of “not me”! My daughter even had an imaginary friend who did a lot of not so nice things…coloring on walls, tearing paper into tiny bits and scattering it, breaking toys. She called him Chuh-Chuh and every time something bad happened, it was Chuh-Chuh’s fault. I finally had to break the news that when Chuh-Chuh did bad things, she would have to take his punishment. Amazingly, he stopped. Even as a preschooler, my daughter grasped the concept of consequences. It can, and should, be taught.
As for discipline, I’ve said before it doesn’t have to involve a spanking–although some kids (and a lot of adults) desperately need a couple. I had to get creative because my spankings weren’t effective. Consistency was key. If I promised you were going to be disciplined, you were. The “how” varied with the occasion though!
Here are a few examples of how I disciplined:
*Sometimes I assigned extra chores. Raking leaves, scrubbing something…anything that required a little exercise or labor. Nothing too drastic, but if they are tired from working they don’t have the energy to act up.
*I was probably overly fond of the hugging on the couch after fighting method, but it worked. A couple of times when they were really mad, I made them hug and stare into one another’s eyes. They would get so tickled that they would forget what they were fighting about. I’ve recently seen videos where the children had to wear a “get along” shirt–both kids were inside it. One mom even made them slow dance. My kids are super glad I didn’t think of that first!
*When they were playing outside and fought, I made them hold hands. When my boys were about junior high age, they got into an argument over who was going to retrieve a football they had kicked into the neighboring field. I made them hold hands to the ball, pick it up, and hold hands all the way back. We live by a pretty busy road and they were embarrassed. They learned how to take turns being responsible for ball retrieval.
*Take away electronics and social media access. That’s a privilege, not a right, and if they can’t use it responsibly they don’t need it. Taking it away for two days isn’t usually sufficient either. I had a sixteen-year-old who lost his phone for six months because old Mom didn’t like his behavior. I didn’t want to leave him totally without the ability to communicate with me when he was away from home, so I was nice enough to let him use my cell phone. For six months, I had a smartphone and he had a bright red flip phone. He could still text if he wanted, but it was slow going having to hit the numbers over and over to find letters.
*My daughter had a television, DVD player, and old PlayStation system in her room. She lost those privileges and I took them all from her. After a few weeks, she asked me if she could have them back for good behavior. I told her she could choose one and she chose the PlayStation. One of my sons said, “Mom she can’t play that without a television.” And I said, “She didn’t ask for her television.” She learned a very valuable lesson about all things having a consequence.
*I got grounded when I was a teenager, so I put this practice into play with my own kids. Mostly it involves them losing privileges or not being allowed to go somewhere. A lot of people don’t believe in this because it honestly punishes the parent as much as the child! It’s effective though and they appreciate being on their own more when the punishment is over.
*I made them give me passwords to email and social media accounts when they were younger. Once they turned 18, my boys were kind of on their own with social media, but I do still check to see what they are posting. I’m their mom, I’m nosey. I make no apologies. (Also, if you need information on anyone’s social media presence, teenage girls are very handy. My daughter will rat you out in a heartbeat!)
I’ve always teased my children that our household is not a democracy. As parents and the adults in the home, we made the rules and we expected them to be followed. My children know though that if they didn’t think something was fair, they were allowed to voice their opinion in a respectful way. If they could offer a reasonable explanation as to why we should change something, we considered it. If they whined about it, the answer was automatically no. Again, it’s that consequences thing.
More than anything, I always wanted my children to know that they were loved and that they were safe here. I know that not all kids have that, but that doesn’t give them leave to act out in any way they want without being held responsible for their actions. I adore my children, but there are still rules and boundaries. All children need that.
When I was growing up, if you misbehaved it wasn’t necessarily your parents who called you down. Maybe other adults didn’t punish you, but they sure let you know they were watching and they were going to report your behavior to your parents. And when your parents found out, they didn’t blame it on another person or excuse it by saying we were tired, hungry, nervous, hanging with a bad crowd, etc., so that made it okay. When they found out, they wanted to know why you did it and you took whatever punishment you got. It’s seriously past time to go back to that. If we don’t start holding people accountable instead of always trying to find them a way out, these tragic events are just going to become an everyday occurrence.
Teach your children about consequences. Expect them to be good people. Remind them to take responsibility for their own actions. Tell them no every now and then. And love them. Always love them.