While reviewing the bulk of posts on this blog, I realized that it sounds like I hold adults (teachers, parents, and family friends) responsible for kids’ happiness. Today, I would like to take a step back and look at how we can support kids to discover their own fulfillment and satisfaction. This support involves—dare I utter—discipline (a yup, that ten letter word).
Yes, kids need to feel the unconditional love, respect, and emotional bonding that surrounds them, as mentioned in a recent post about respect. In today’s world of non-stop busyness, however, it is often easier to give in to a child's demands instead of spending the time to discuss a particular issue. We often compensate for our lack of attention or time they want from us by offering them instead the object of their desire. A child figures out which “buttons” to push from a very early age because he/she has deciphered which strategy generally works for each person in his/her life. This makes kids sound so calculating and devious. In contrast, they are actually learning, growing, intuitive little beings soaking up knowledge like thirsty little sponges.
Even the best parents with the most delightful, polite children occasionally fall into these traps. Most of us have been grocery shopping with a toddler only to have them melt down at the check-out line because they want that shiny, glossy, colorful gizmo hanging directly at their eye level. And before the screaming becomes fever-pitched and you melt through the floor in mortification, you give the almost imperceptible nod with a corresponding “okay, but stop crying, please,” in surrender. Yup, most of us have been there.
Consistently bowing out and relinquishing your fundamental morals and ethics, to stop the inevitable fit, however, will not serve to empower them in the long run. They will only learn that manipulating a situation to get their way is what works. They will continue to rely on those maladaptive skills to maneuver through society as teen-agers and adults.
Every once in a while, when discussion and reasoning don't work, it is okay to let them scream bloody murder and profess to the world that you are a rotten, no good, really bad parent. Offer them a hug or just let them stew in their own misery for a while, because it won't hurt them to express their anger and realize as the Rolling Stones so eloquently pointed out, “you can't always get what you want-but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.” Ultimately, they will know that your love and discipline provide them with exactly what they need to become the awesome individuals they are meant to be.