I woke up this morning to the silent treatment and lots of slamming doors today. Parenting can be tough sometimes, even heartbreaking. Naturally, it hurts to know my children are angry and hurting. I fight the urge to take it all away by making things “right” in their world. Unfortunately making it “right” in the way they want it right is to repeat the mistakes of the past and to further reinforce “instant gratification”.
Popular media would have our children believe they are owed the best toys, cars, education, sports and activities, simply because of who they are. It doesn’t seem that children are taught to earn anything. So how did we end up where we are today?
My husband and I, like so many other parents have given unconditionally to our children. Birthdays were filled with gifts and parties, more gifts at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and just because. We’ve provided a private school education for each of them, despite having difficulty paying our bills, and regardless of the level of effort they’ve put into that education. We’ve spend thousands on sports, dance, music, etc. and dropped everything to drive to practice, competitions, recitals, and so forth.
My kids are amazing, they are respectful when at their friends homes, they are leaders in the activities they participate in, and have kind gentle and loving souls. And, we’ve begun to see gaps in character that will hold each of them back in their lives if we don’t hold the line immediately. There is very little respect in our home for the rules or for one another. As parents, we’ve realized for this to change, we must change. The biggest change for us these past few weeks is that we’ve stopped accepting our own excuses, and therefore we no longer accept excuses from those we mentor. Our first priority in mentoring is being a mentor to our children.
Just about a month ago, my husband drew a line in the sand… If our kids didn’t do their chores, respect one another, and follow through with their commitments at home, then they would lose the privilege of participating in all of the extra-curricular activities.
Here we are… a month later, and very little has changed. In fact over the past two weeks, collectively, they’ve made very little effort and their grades have all worsened as well. Until last night, we accepted the excuses. As we’ve stopped buying into our own excuses, we’ve become less tolerant of theirs. As a result, their extra-curricular activities were taken away for 30 days during our Weekly Family Meeting last night. For the younger ones, it truly doesn’t affect them as much as it does our teenage son. Our daughter misses out on a recital and ballet for the next 30 days. And our youngest son actually has the opportunity to earn an activity. Due to the expense and time constraints of all of the activities the 16 and 9 year old participate in, he’s only ever played one season of t-ball. So, it seems to actually be a motivator for him and he’s already stepping into doing chores without being asked.
For our oldest, track season just started and he’s been diving since he was 6 years old. His newest passion is his music. Time and time again, I’ve found myself giving in, buying his excuses and even making some for him. After all kids who are in sports are less likely to get into trouble, right? Do I really want to raise a kid who just stays out of trouble? Or do I want to raise a kid who, when he goes out in the world, is a leader who makes a difference, and takes responsibility for his choices. There are enough “victims” in this world. Am I teaching him character by giving in or paying for things he hasn’t earned. Is it too much as a parent to expect their child to work for the things they want?
I was at an Olympic Trial for wrestling several years back where met a mother who shared that her son, who incidentally went to the Olympics, walked door to door looking for work and donations to buy his wrestling shoes and to pay the fees for his meets and practices. Can I honestly say my teen-aged son has that kind of passion for any of his activities? A few months ago, he threw his bike in a dumpster because the pedal kept falling off and now tells us he can’t get a job because he’s applied for everything in walking distance. Yet we’ve continued to spend hundreds of dollars monthly, so he can fulfill his athletic and music dreams?
I’m beginning to see that although he’s competitive in dive and track, the effort he puts there is no greater than the effort he’s put into getting a job, doing his chores, or completing his homework. He’s taken all of it for granted. Are we teaching him to be a leader? Are we truly teaching him character? I think not. Have we completely changed the rules in the last month? Yes, I believe we have. Might that seem a bit unfair? Perhaps, but who said life was fair?
See, we’ve grown as leaders. And I believe it’s our responsibility as parents to train up our kids to be leaders. I don’t believe its ever too late. Is the lesson harder as they get older? I don’t know, maybe… What I do know is that we’ve got a lot of “bad” parenting in the past to undo. It may not feel so good to have the rules changed on him, but I’m guessing the harder the lesson,the more impact it will have on his life.
Today, we have better information than we did when he was younger. We have better information than we had six months ago, or even one month or a week ago. As long as we are committed to growing in leadership and teaching what we learn to our children, although the lessons may be tough on all of us, I think in the long run they will pay off.