I am a disciplinarian. Big word. It means that I set and enforce boundaries with my children. I’m the guy that does the dirty work of raising kids. I have four of them. There’s plenty of dirty work to go around. I don’t do this because I enjoy the sad looks on my kids’ faces. Quite the opposite. I do this because I love them.
Much has been made over the last forty years about how we raise our kids. There are plenty of “doctors” out there that will tell you that setting expectations upon your kids and giving them responsibility and enforcing rules is all wrong. They feel that by doing this, you are not showing love to your child. Lord help you if you even suggest that you spank your kids. You’ll be locked up for abuse.
They’ve had their say. Now, it’s my turn. I’m going to tell you why I think they should all be locked up for impersonating experts. I’m going to tell you why I think you can’t have one without the other. And I’m going to tell you why I think that following their way of doing things only leads to ill-tempered children and, later in life, irresponsible adults. Let’s get started.
First of all, I love my kids. I have four of the most precious creatures that God ever allowed me to have. They are good kids. They have their moments, but they mind well, and they know who they are and what is expected of them. I would also tell you that if you were to try to harm them, I’d break every bone in your body on alphabetical order.
Now, my kids were not always so well mannered and responsible. These are not qualities that kids are born with. These are things that they have to learn. That means that parents have to teach them these traits. That is your main responsibility as a parent. Teach and train your children to become well-rounded and responsible adults. How are you going to do this? Glad you asked.
The worst thing you can do to your kids is let them be “free spirits.” To let them choose how they want to live and what they want to obey is trouble waiting to happen. Who knows more about this world, you or them? So why would you let the one without any experience in dealing with this world make all the decisions on how they are going to live? Not smart. Plus, I cannot think of anything more degrading than to look at your child and say, “I will not put any expectations on you.” What you are really saying is, “I don’t expect anything out of you.”
Here’s the plan. First, set a reasonable goal for them. You know your child and you should know their capabilities. If they are making “D’s” in school, don’t expect “A’s” in two weeks. A reasonable goal would be to see one letter grade improvement in the next grading period.
Second, show them how to get there. Don’t give them a destination and no map. That’s like telling them to go to the store and not tell them which one. Show them how to study. Show them how important it is to have a good education. Teach them how to organize their time for study. Teach them good habits when it comes to schoolwork.
Third, enforce it. This is where most people trip. They can set goals and plan for them all day. Making it a reality is another thing all together. Once you have made a plan, you have got to stick to it. If you let the plan slip, then your children will not follow through. You will have taught the wrong lesson.
Fourth, set penalties for not wrong behavior and rewards for good behavior. This is important, because most people only deal with one or the other. If all you do is set penalties for the wrong, then you produce fear. If all you do is set rewards for the good, then there is no pressure to achieve. If it happens, great. If not, oh well. That is not what you want.
A little stress and pressure is not a bad thing. Notice I said a little. They need to a little stress to push them to excel. They also need to learn how to deal with it in small doses now so, when they grow up, they will be better prepared to deal with it in larger quantities. You want to set your kids up for a nervous breakdown and someone that always falls apart at the wrong time, you give them a stress free childhood. Now, that is not to say that little Jimmy or Susie has got to be the best all the time or the wrath of God will smote them into oblivion. But there is nothing wrong with expecting them to be the best that they can be. They don’t have to be the hero every game, but did they get better and learn something from the game.
I once heard of a great story from one of the elite National Hockey League players. He came home crying from one of his games when he was about eight of nine. His Father, seeing the boy in a terrible state, asked him what was wrong. “We lost the game, Dad.” The Father asked, “What was the score?” The boy answered, “It was eight to seven.” The Father then asked, “Did you do your best?” The boy answered, “Yes Sir.” The final question the Father asked was this; “How many goals did you score?” The boy answered, “Seven.” That boy grew up to be Peter Forsberg. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest hockey players in the league today. He has three Stanley Cup Championships and many All Star appearances. But he got that way from a little stress. Stress could also be called “drive.” When it’s good stress, I call it drive. When it’s bad stress, I call it pressure. Remember, you have to know your child.
Now, you can take what I’ve said here and use it or trash it. You can thank me for providing you with the missing piece or the encouragement to keep going, or you can swear on a stack of Bibles that I am just a mean old man that punishes kids for the simple pleasure of it. I would remind you of this. I have four children, and they are great kids. But they didn’t get that way without guidance, training, enforcement, expectations, and a little pressure. Now, go to your room and think about that.
Mark A. Bradley
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