Parenting: Time For This Pendulum To Swing Back

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The Parenting Problem

Exasperated, a young mom at the hair salon exclaimed, “My 4-year-old is driving me nuts! When he goes to Target with me, he screams and whines every single time till I buy him something!”

My wife, Karen, the slow-to-give-unsolicited-advice experienced mom and grandma, was nearby. She politely said … nothing.

Then the Millennial Mom’s frustration poured out: “I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to stop it!”

Karen, humble to the core but also co-author of a parenting book, decided to speak up. With a smile, she spoke directly and simply: “Just. Stop.”

Sometimes, we need to JUST STOP doing whatever we’re doing that makes no sense—and allowing our child to be the boss of us makes no sense.

The Power of Pendulums

If you watch “House Hunters,” you’ve witnessed buyer after buyer state, “We want an open floor plan” and “We must be able to see the children from the kitchen!” In the end, they buy a box with no walls.

Last night, though, we were stunned when a young couple told the real estate agent, “We want walls. We want rooms. We’d like less noise and more privacy.”

Karen and I looked at each other, both thinking …

Huh, buyers are pushing back. They don’t all want wall-less, rectangular shells for home. The pendulum swings!

Here’s a truth about pendulums: They always swing.

The Parenting Pendulum

My dad, born in 1921 and raised by people born in the 1890s, believed mightily in this 19th-century value: Children should be seen and not heard.

Karen and I, as late-born Boomers, never fully embraced that tenet. There’s a story in Raising Accountable Kids about Michael, when he was 10, interrupting me as I told a story to his grandpa.

Mike interjected, “Dad, no, it was a Saturday morning when … .” As I started to say, “You’re right, Mike, it was over the weekend. Thanks for … ” the man born when Warren G. Harding was POTUS stepped in and admonished my boy.

Can you say “awkward moment”?

So Karen and I didn’t quite accept the “seen and not heard” principle my dad was taught by his parents. We were more lenient. The pendulum was swinging.

Now, though, many parents have gone so far with the “leniency” pendulum that their child is in charge.

Some young parents have translated words like “correcting,” “disciplining,” and “shaping” into “harsh” and “mean.”

Karen and I think it’s time to pull the parenting pendulum back.

A Parenting Metaphor

To all young moms and dads, we pose this question:

Have you ever planted a young tree, a sapling? If so, did you sink stakes firmly into the ground and attach guide wires to the baby tree’s little trunk so it would grow straight and true?

That’s what strong, accountable parenting is all about. It’s our job to grow our kids “straight and true.”

Let’s be the leaders in their lives who are willing to do the tough stuff. If you’ve allowed your child to become your boss and he/she now “runs the show”—today is the day to … just stop.

Comments welcome!

If you want to grow as a parent, grab a copy of Raising Accountable Kids today!

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14 Responses

  1. Very Interesting and I think I will buy this and read it them give it to my son & daughter in law. Not that their kids are the boss but they surely is some good pointers that anyone can use, even gramma. thanks

  2. Thank you, yes.
    It is certainly easier said than done, but the end of that trial is the start of discipline, and the lifelong benefit is peace and contentment.
    We jokingly reference the Bob Newhart “Stop It” video whenever we recognize these rabbit holes, and we seem to dig them a lot, with and without the kids’ inputs!
    Bottom line – good advice.

  3. John, As a parent of four children 13 years apart, I can appreciate the pendulum swing in parenting approaches with everything from discipline to from how you to put your child to bed;
    In a crib or in your own bed?… on their stomachs so they don’t choke on spit-up in their sleep? – the philosophy when my oldest was born, OR, on their back so they don’t suffocate themselves with SIDs? – the current philosophy. Things are always changing.

    As experienced parents of over a decade or more with multiple children, my husband and I have learned what works and what doesn’t. I LOVE your wife’s advice. “Just. Stop.” Sometimes we need a reality check because we have let things go too far. That is the time to take action.

    As parents we have a responsibility to do the “tough stuff” and be parents, not your child’s best bud.

    Nothing brings me greater joy than seeing my four daughter’s grow into responsible, independent, caring, citizens.

    If you have not read the poem, Good Timber (Douglas Malloch), it exemplifies the sentiment you have expressed of “straight and true.” I encourage you to read it: http://holyjoe.org/poetry/malloch.htm

  4. John,
    My wife and I, being late-born Boomers ourselves, found ourselves being especially lenient, giving and making excuses/justifying our only daughter’s behavior.

    One day at the age of sixteen, our daughter Courtney decided she didn’t like an answer she was given and decided to throw a temper tantrum. After going into a verbal tirade, she stomped off to her bedroom and with a mighty swing, slammed the bedroom door. I was infuriated, not by her verbal tirade but with her slamming the door. This wasn’t the first time she had performed her little act of defiance. Afterward, her mother and I sat and discussed what we should do in order to get our message across (understanding our daughter was sixteen) that this behavior was unacceptable (which she knew) and that it would no longer be tolerated.

    We finally decided to take away the one thing a sixteen year old girl cherished the most…her PRIVACY! I went into the garage, gathered my tools, then proceeded to removed her bedroom door from the hinges. She disbelief, she watched as I walked away with her prized door. We told her she lost the privilege of having her privacy for two weeks.

    Once the realization of her new reality set in, she began the drudgery of carrying her clothes to and from the bath room in order to change. Her mom and I would stop by her room to visit unexpectedly and soon things began to change. Her tone had changed and became more conciliatory. After just one week, she came to her mother and I and respectfully asked if she could have her door put back on. Understanding that if we give in we might send the wrong message, we gently replied, that the duration was for two weeks and though she had shown improvement in her behavior, we felt it important to continue for the entire period. She accepted the fact and we heard nothing more about it. After the end of the two week period, her door was replaced and I can happily say that she never slammed it again.

    That one event had made a lasting impression on her as this was seventeen years ago and she still speaks of that event today but as a fond memory. So discipline doesn’t have to mean corporal punishment, it means inducing a positive change in behavior. So yes I agree, all parents should take back their rights and let the pendulum swing into their favor once again.

  5. Yes, I agree. It is easier to give in when all eyes are watching in public. But simply leaving the
    Store and buying nothing would work. Parenting is hard work not a popularity contest.

  6. John, I know this doesn’t quite fit with your theme on doing the tough stuff and not allowing children to be our bosses; but I felt compelled to tell you about my personal pendulum swing.

    One of my most powerful parenting moments was in observing another parent. My two young children and I had just checked into a hotel and they wanted go swimming at the pool. A mom was lounging poolside while her daughter was playing in the pool. At one point, the daughter climbed out of the pool and started running over to her. She calmly looked up and said, “Marie, you know I like it when you don’t run on the cement.”

    This was a pendulum swing for me. Rather than telling my children what they were doing wrong, I began telling them what I liked instead. I like it when you study more to get better grades. I appreciate it when you make your bed each morning. I “really” like it when you tell me the truth. If only that exasperated mom at the beauty salon had known to simply say, “Johnny, you know I like it when you don’t scream and whine whenever you want something.”

    In the end, kids want and need to know their parents like and appreciate them, so why not tell them “how” that can be accomplished.

  7. John, I appreciated your book and can personally vouch for the methods and instructions it contains. My oldest has left home and is now THRIVING in college. His younger sister, our middle child will join him this fall, which will leave just one at home. Amongst all the advice, council, and great instruction we ever read on parenting, a simple thought guided our parenting. We are raising adults, not children. While we let the kids be kids, we knew our goal was for them to be adults who made the world a better place. My favorite scripture on the subject is Prov. 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. “Old” of course is relative, but a promise worth believing in.

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