I’ve said before, I believe the core aspects of being a good parent to young children are discipline and love. If you let these two concepts guide your thinking and how you raise your kids, you’ll likely have some good kids who become good adults. Doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money or not so much. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money and we had a blast making blanket forts, playing army with sticks, running around our little rural neighborhood, making snow forts, camping, etc. My brothers and I were supported by our parents with time and who let us play sports and try out new activities like cub scouts even though we had to wear thrift store clothes most of our childhood. My parents disciplined us and we knew the basic expectations of being a kid in our house meant helping out, doing chores, and generally staying out of trouble and getting good grades. Discipline and Love. These days, you can tell right away usually if a kid has those two primary inputs in their life. More often than not, kids usually get the love part, but it’s hard and takes guts to constantly discipline those you love. Kids are smart and are constantly testing the limits of what they can get away with, sometimes intentionally, often time just being kids. “Can I have candy for dinner?”, “Can I go play with Johnny even though I have homework?” “Can you do [this] for me (even though I can do it myself)?” These types of tests are so regular that their response in our house is second nature.
We get compliments all the time about how well behaved our kids are and it’s because the inmates don’t run our asylum, the Warden (me) and Chief Officer (Holly) do. While we typically do equal disciplining to our kids, if push comes to shove, the Warden handles the hard parts. I’m comfortable in that role and the kids know when I mean business they better whip into shape. I don’t remember the last time I’ve had to spank LoudBoy or Birdsnest (it’s been a long time), but the threat of one (and the possibility of a spanking becoming a reality) goes a long way (at least for now) and even the threat is only pulled out on rare occasions. My in-laws were over on Saturday and LoudBoy was misbehaving and got a time-out. He obediently trudged to the time-out spot to take his medicine and my Father-in-Law complimented me/us on our discipline. He’s one who walks softly and carries a big stick and who I look up to, so that comment meant a lot to me. Contrast that to parents who either don’t care, don’t know or don’t want to discipline their kids properly. I certainly recognize some kids are more trouble than others so take this with a grain of salt. I’m comfortable in playing the role of disciplinarian, even if it isn’t my child, provided the actual parent isn’t doing what needs to be done. Direct discipline and stopping improper behavior is key, and is something I’ve done to other people’s kids (nieces, nephews, neighbor kids) with and without their parents present. It’s usually basic verbal discipline: laying out expectations, stopping behaviors, with a stern voice. Occasionally I’ll have to whip out the time-out, especially if we’re having a sleepover at our house. They learn to “respect my authority!” [Say with a Cartman voice] and know I mean business, even if they don’t feel that way about their own parents. Uncle Alex says what he’ll do and follows through every time. I half think I should charge for my services. Think of the opportunity: “Kids, you better listen or I’ll call Alex the Fierce to lay down the law!” The funny thing is, parents have watched me appropriately discipline their kids and have NEVER said anything to me to not do it or to stay out of their business. People want their kids to behave, but don’t want to do the hard work necessary at a young age to get that to happen.
On our little street, there are about 8 kids who play around our adjacent houses and yards together, ranging in age from 4-7 years old. They may not be fully supervised 100% of the time but usually one or more parents are generally keeping an eye on them and they stick together around our yards, very similar to the general freedom we were allowed when growing up and the opposite of helicopter parenting seen today. With that freedom, comes a Lord of the Flies type environment where some disagreements and scuffles occur in the context of play. No big deal in general, usually just some hurt feelings, some skinned knees from running around, etc. A week or two ago, Holly asks me to go out and lay down the law since they weren’t listening to her. Essentially, two brothers in that group are not well behaved, get into a fair bit of trouble and don’t lack common manners or courtesy. They were literally punching a neighbor boy, taunting him. Not sure if they were trying to beat him up, but reminded me of kid version of Fight Club. Now said neighbor boy is built like a house and outweighed the largest of the brothers by probably 10 lbs (which equated to adult terms of near 50 lbs), so needless to say, Brickhouse was not hurt. It was like two fleas picking on a dog, but the dog was annoyed. To his credit, StrongBull didn’t punch back and I asked him if he wanted the fleas to stop. The answer was a resounding yes, so I firmly grabbed the boys arms, told them it was inappropriate behavior and led them out of our yard and back home.
If you aren’t going to discipline your kids, I will and won’t bat an eye. If you, as a parent, have an issue with that, take care of your own brat so I don’t have to. I have expectations of behavior and it is pretty basic respect and decency items and will be the harbinger of discipline to continue this environment under my watch and to show my kids how a leader leads. This basic foundation needs to be instilled in more children as the lack of discipline and parents trying to be friends with their kids is more common than not these days. Captain Capitalism had an interesting post Wednesday on this same subject, raising your kids to be good adults and not just to have a good time as children.