Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kids Gone Wild

Let’s start with a little back story. As a child I routinely spent part of my summer with either my mom’s dad or my dad’s mom. Not only were these visits a chance for me to spend quality time with my grandparents but they were a wonderful opportunity to learn from an older generation. At the time I didn’t even realize the lessons learned but as I’ve grown older I find myself drawing on those experiences more and more.

One such experience came as I went to church with Grandma Millie. From what I could tell my grandmother was well liked by the congregation and had many friends where she attended church. That’s what made what happened next so shocking. As we sat in the pews listening to the speaker this particular Sunday I noticed a small child wandering down the aisle unsupervised. My grandma turned around and looked at the child’s progenitors. When she saw that they weren’t moving, without hesitation, she got up and laid hold on the child and delivered him to his parents. She returned to our seat looking more than mildly annoyed.

I was mortified by her actions. Over the years I witnessed that scene play out a half dozen times. Finally I questioned her as to why she did that. She explained that children cannot be allowed to run the show and parents ought to be setting boundaries. My grandma had no problem showing us kids who was boss and I had the bruises on my backside to prove it.

Being a parent is extremely difficult. It is no mystery where the source of the difficulty lies. As the legendary comedian put it, children have brain damage. “My parents never smiled... because I had brain damage. My wife and I don't smile because our children are LOADED with it.” -Bill Cosby

Before I had children of my own I used to tell people that I was prejudice against children and I believed it. Since becoming a parent I realized that my beef was not with that brain damaged miniature person but with his or her parents.

You see parenting is a war. The first rule of war is know thyself and know thy enemy. Parents you are in charge. A child is looking for boundaries, constantly testing their limits. Yes, it is an exhausting and seemingly never ending battle but you cannot concede. “In any moment of decision [or parenting], the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Kids don’t act right. Sure it’s embarrassing when it happens but any reasonable person won’t fault a parent when a kid throws a fit. However, when a child doesn’t act right and a parent doesn’t act at all then we’ve got a problem.

Parents get up off of your rears and parent your children. Please I beg you stop these little bedlamites from running amuck at church, in restaurants, at the movies, in the store or really anywhere that I may be.

I understand that reasoning with your little brain damaged offspring is a fruitless endeavor and I’m certainly not condoning anyone abusing a child but there’s got to be some effort to restrain or subdue these tiny psychopaths. The great General Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

All I ask is the establishment and enforcement of rules and boundaries. Provide real and immediate consequences and you’ll be surprised how quickly behavior changes. Does this mean that the battle is over and the war is won? Hardly, but that’s the game you sign up for when you take the title of “mom” or “dad”. Oh and one more thing, “No” is not a bad word. Use it, liberally if necessary, because a child who is unaccustomed to hearing it becomes a nightmare for future adult authority figures whom they will inevitably encounter.

My fear is that those who will take this the hardest are those that are genuinely trying and fighting that good fight. For those I echo the words of Jeffrey R. Holland “…if you are trying to do the best you can…in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a houseful of little bedlamites—then give yourself high marks.”

As for the rest of you, you’re on notice. I will no longer sit idly by and watch your tiny terrorists wreaking havoc upon the masses and setting a poor example for my own diminutive derelicts. Like my grandmother before me I am going to intervene for the good of the child and humanity. You have been warned.

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