Happily Even After
by Stacey Noem
Lately I have been wondering from time to time if we would be considered “strict parents.”
I first started wondering when I was listening to an interview with the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother on the Today Show. She is a Chinese American mother of two daughters and decided to raise them in a traditional Chinese manner. The segment was highlighting how much controversy her methods raised. But truth be told, I heard her saying that she set clear expectations for her children and held them accountable to those standards. Now some of them were a bit extreme, but at the heart of her message was that our children are extraordinary and as parents we can help them to realize their potential by instilling personal discipline in them in a loving way.
Even though I was sort of “getting it,” the host of the segment didn’t seem to agree that there was much merit to the author’s perspective at all. And that’s when I really started to ask myself: “Compared to others, are we at the strict end of the parenting spectrum?”
It has surprised me how many parents of our children’s friends let their children ignore them. For instance: Child A is at a birthday party; Parent A arrives to pick them up; Parent A says its time to go and to put on shoes and coat to which Child A either runs up the stairs to avoid having to get ready to leave, or begins verbally protesting the injustice of having to leave!
Our children don’t behave this way. It may be that we got lucky with good obedient children, but I must admit I don’t think that is the only factor. I can’t imagine allowing our children to behave that way towards us, and certainly not in public.
If they did, our response wouldn’t be to freak out and yell. We would immediately follow the child or take them aside (away from public humiliation) and explain that it is a privilege to get to go to a birthday party. That means they should show gratitude and that good behavior is how they get to go in the future. Their present bad behavior is how they let us know they should not be allowed to go in the future.
The more I think about it, I think it is the zero tolerance policy we have for this kind of behavior that makes it so effective. But I think the zero tolerance policy is what also leaves a lot of room for other parents to perceive us as strict.
It just comes down to boundaries really. We are pretty clear in a number of areas what our boundaries are for our children…where there is wiggle room for flexibility and where they need to do as they are told. I feel like our only real discipline is holding them accountable. And as Josh has written in the past, they hold us accountable sometimes as well. And to a certain extent that can be appropriate and very good.
Maybe we are strict for holding our children accountable in the various aspects of their young lives. But if we don’t help them learn personal discipline in these small things, how will they learn it in large things?
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