Family members often tell me how well behaved my children are. Typically, I roll my eyes and say something along the lines of: “Except when they are pushing each other and whining about something or other…”
A scene from the hit television show Sex and the City pops into my head, where Miranda runs into an old friend on the street and they each make jokes about the circumstances of their lives; Miranda is single and her friend has no kids. They do this to compensate for how they think people are viewing them. But the truth is… it isn’t until I am around other people’s children, for long amounts of time, that I realize how well behaved my children actually are.
On a recent trip to visit family I spent a good portion of the weekend biting my tongue. I was shocked by the lack of discipline and how the children spoke to their parents with no respect. As we sat and played a game one child openly mocked and made fun of her dad’s “chubby cheeks.” My youngest son tried the same sassy banter on for size and I quickly jumped in and said, “Z, that sounds like teasing. Do you like it when people tease you?”
He bowed his head and gave a little headshake “no.”
”So you shouldn’t take part in this.”
He instantly got it, but soon enough he was trying their attitudes on again. I had asked him a question and he responded in such a way that it literally took the wind out of me. I countered his sassy response with a furrowed brow. “Excuse me, do you want to try responding to me again?”
He saw the look in my eye and quickly changed his tone of voice. It’s not that I want my children to fear me, but I do want them to respect me. I didn’t grow up in a “Yes ma’am. No sir,” house, but my parents did teach me to show respect. I want my children to not only respect adults but to treat every person with respect. There is no need to be unkind and that is exactly how these children sounded to me.
Is it entirely their fault?
Probably not. Their parents are not doing them any favors by not disciplining their children now. Don’t get me wrong—my children are not angels. But there are consequences for their actions. At one point, we used the “naughty spot,” also known as timeout. But now that my boys are older I use the things they love the most as leverage: movies, computer time, Nintendo DS, etc. It works for us right now. I am sure when they are teenagers I’ll be taking something else away that they hold dear in order to teach them these life lessons so that they know what to expect when they go out into the world.
How do you disciple your children? When you find yourself in a similar experience of being with family members who don’t discipline their children, what do you do?