When the hosting parents discovered what had happened, they were outraged! Their children were given much more freedom and believed the visiting children should have the same acceptance. Feelings were shared between the couples and they parted ways. Later they reversed visiting locales and again the children were playing together and again, my friend and her husband felt the need to speak to their children. Again, displeasure was voiced at the way my friend was raising their children.
What made this worse was when my friend received a detailed note from her friend saying since they were causing their children to be fearful with such strict rules, they would no longer be sharing the company of each other’s families. My friend, of course was very hurt, but she and her husband stood their ground because they believed it was necessary to teach their children right from wrong. They also believed “fear” of Mom and Dad was warranted when it came to expected if they misbehaved.
It has nothing to do with abuse, but it has everything to do with creating boundaries. If children know no boundaries from their parents, they become rude, cruel, obnoxious, disrespectful of any authority figure, and have problems with self-control for their rest of their lives.1 Our culture has taught our children they have the right to stand up to their parents when they disagree with them. This puts the child, who no longer believes the parent knows best, in charge instead of the parents.
I can tell you, I would never have yelled at my parents, called them names, and deliberately disobeyed them! When they spoke, my siblings and I listened! We didn’t always agree, especially as I became a teenager. But that didn’t give me the right to demand my rights or throw a screaming fit! Had I misbehaved in any of these fashions, I would have found myself suffering the consequences!
My children were no different! They were raised the same as I. They knew their boundaries and for the most part respected them. Again, as parents and teenagers, we had some disagreements and had to work through them. It did mean listening –when neither side was angry – when both sides spoke. It meant being honest and admitting when as a parent, you’ve made a mistake. And it meant disciplining when necessary!
Discipline is not meant to create a fear in the sense most people think “fear.” But if a child knows without question bad behavior will demand and guarantee some kind of consequence, the child will often at least think twice before following through with the misbehaving act.
I look back on my children’s lives and my parenting skills, and there certainly were mistakes. But we’re not born “parents!” It’s a learned skill, that gets better (hopefully) with each child. I had five and had lots of practice--- and I still didn’t get right all the time. But I still expected respect from each of my children….and still do! So I challenge you to reflect on your parenting practices. How are they like your parent’s practices and how are they different?