Parenting: Joy or Nightmare?
A wise child loves discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
A mother and father stand outside of a restaurant in the rain asking their three-year-old, Chloe, to get in the car so the family can go home. Chloe refuses. Her parents spend the next fifteen minutes begging and pleading with her to do it on her own. At one point, the father gets down on his knees in the puddles, trying to reason her into the car. She finally complies, but only after her parents agree to buy her a soda on the way home. If they have to use a soda to buy her off at three, what will they be facing when she reaches sixteen?
* * *
Jim sits in the airport awaiting a flight, watching as a mother gives at least eighty different demands to her three-year-old boy over the course of an hour without ever enforcing one of them:
"Come back here, Logan!"
"Don't go over there, Logan!"
"You better listen to me, Logan, or else!"
"I mean it, Logan!"
"Don't run, Logan!"
"Come back here so you don't get hurt, Logan!"
Logan eventually finds his way to where Jim is seated. The toddler smiles at him while ignoring his mother. The mother yells, "Logan, you get away from that man! You get over here this instant!"
Jim smiles down at Logan and asks, "Hey, Logan, what is your mom going to do if you don't get over there?"
He looks up and grins. "She not goin' to do nothin'." And then his eyes twinkle and his grin becomes wider.
It turns out he is right. She finally comes apologizing. "I'm sorry he's bothering you, but you know how three-year-olds are. They just won't listen to one thing you tell them."
* * *
On a Saturday at a local supermarket, two boys-ages five and seven-have declared war. Like guerrillas on a raiding party, they sneak from aisle to aisle, hiding behind displays and squeaking their tennies on the tile floor. Then suddenly a crash-the result of a game of "shopping cart chicken"-pierces the otherwise calming background Muzak.
The mother, having lost sight of this self-appointed commando unit, abandons her half-filled cart. As she rounds a corner, her screams turn the heads of other shoppers: "Don't get lost!" "Don't touch that!" "You-get over here!" She races for the boys, and as she's about to grab two sweaty necks, they turn to Tactic B: "the split up," a twenty-first-century version of "divide and conquer." Now she must run in two directions at once to shout at them. Wheezing with exertion, she corrals the younger one, who just blitzed the cereal section, leaving a trail of boxes. But when she returns him to her cart, the older boy is gone. She locates him in produce, rolling seedless grapes like marbles across the floor.
After scooping up Boy Number Two and carrying him back, you guessed it, she finds that Boy Number One has disappeared. Mom sprints from her cart once more. Finally, after she threatens murder and the pawning of their Nintendo game system, the boys are gathered.
But the battle's not over. Tactic C follows: the "fill the cart when Mom's not looking" game. Soon M&Ms, Oreos, vanilla wafers, and jumbo Snickers bars are piled high. Mom races back and forth reshelving the treats. Then come boyish smirks and another round of threats from Mom: "Don't do that!" "I'm going to slap your hands!" And in a cry of desperation: "You're never going to leave the house again for the rest of your lives!"
Frazzled, harried, and broken, Mom finally surrenders and buys off her precious flesh and blood with candy bars-a cease-fire that guarantees enough peace to finish her rounds.
Are We Having Fun Yet?
Ah, yes, parenting-the joys, the rewards. We become parents with optimism oozing from every pore. During late-night feedings and sickening diaper changes, we know we are laying the groundwork for a lifelong relationship that will bless us when our hair turns gray or disappears. We look forward to times of tenderness and times of love, shared joys and shared disappointments, hugs and encouragement, words of comfort, and soul-filled conversations.
But the joys of parenting were far from the minds of the parents in the previous stories. No freshly scrubbed cherubs flitted through their lives, hanging on every soft word dropping from Mommy's or Daddy's lips. Where was that gratifying, loving, personal relationship between parent and child? The sublime joys of parenting were obliterated by a more immediate concern: survival.
This was parenting, the nightmare.
Scenes like these happen to the best of us. When they do, we may want to throw our hands in the air and scream, "Kids! Are they worth the pain?" Sometimes kids can be a bigger hassle than a house with one shower. When we think of the enormous love we pump into our children's lives and then the sassy, disobedient, unappreciative behavior we receive in return, we can get pretty burned out on the whole process. Besides riddling our lives with day-to-day hassles, kids present us with perhaps the greatest challenge of our adulthood: raising our children to be responsible adults.
Through the miracle of birth, we are given a tiny, defenseless babe totally dependent on us for every physical need. We have a mere eighteen years at most to ready that suckling for a world that can be cruel and heartless. That child's success in the real world hinges in large part on the job we do as parents. Just thinking about raising responsible, well-rounded kids sends a sobering shiver of responsibility right up the old parental spine. Many of us have felt queasy after a thought such as this: If I can't handle a five-year-old in a grocery store, what am I going to do with a fifteen-year-old who seems to have an enormous understanding of sex and is counting the days until he gets a driver's license?
Putting the Fun Back into Parenting
All is not so bleak. Trust us! There's hope, shining beacon bright, at the end of the tunnel of parental frustration. Parenting doesn't have to be drudgery. Children can grow to be thinking, responsible adults. We can help them do it without living through an eighteen-year horror movie.
Parenting with Love and Logic is all about raising responsible kids. It's a win-win philosophy. Parents win because they love in a healthy way and establish control over their kids without resorting to the anger and threats that encourage rebellious teenage behavior. Kids win because they learn responsibility and the logic of life by solving their own problems. Thus, they acquire the tools for coping with the real world.
Parents and kids can establish a rewarding relationship built on love and trust in the process. What a deal! Parenting with Love and Logic puts the fun back into parenting.