Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Where There's a Will There's a Wrong Way

Will Smith is a "cool" dad when it comes to disciplining his children.

"We don't do punishment..." he says.  "...You can do anything you want as long as you can explain to me why that was the right thing to do for your life."

Ummmm... what?

Mr. Smith, have you actually met any children?  I mean, I know you have a few of your own, but have you actually paid attention to them?  Because my children can justify anything as being the "right thing to do for their life."  And when I say "anything", I mean pretty much everything -- from lying to cheating to stabbing someone with a fork.

Kids need boundaries.  This doesn't mean you need to make rules about absolutely everything or go around doling out punishments 24 hours a day, but giving them a free pass on everything from spoiled princess behavior to illegal activity as long as they can spout justifications like a practiced lawyer is not just short-sighted, it's S-T-U-P-I-D.

Come on Mr. Smith, we have to live with these people when  you're done with them.

Yes, you have to figure out what works for your kids and it's not always punishment.  But sometimes it is punishment.  Because children don't come to earth as polished little angels who have complete control over their impulses.  You have to teach them how to contain themselves -- their impulses and urges -- because what they want isn't always right -- for themselves or others.

No man is an island.  And no man is the entire universe, either.  Give your kids some control over their own lives, yes, but don't hand them the launch codes when they are five-years-old and say, "As long as you can justify it."

Part of parenting is teaching, and part of teaching is correcting.  You'd be wise to remember that before you hand your kids the trigger, Mr. Smith.

Otherwise, don't be surprised when everything blows up.

1 comment:

Katie--the amazing one, not your other friend named Katie. She's amazing, too, but not the same Katie as me-- said...

We had a 7th grade girl transfer to our school. I asked her what lead to the end-of-year change. She said that her last school was full of bad influences. A lot of the kids she was choosing to hang out with were involved with questionable and unsafe actions, like experimenting with drugs. She told me her mom has told her many times in regards to her choice of associations, "I can't live your life. I've already lived my teenage years. It's your turn. If you make these choices, that's on you." Fortunately, the girl decided she'd try out a new school to hopefully improve her surroundings.

I was impressed with this teenager's choice, but it saddens me that her mom thinks the best thing she can do for her daughter is to let her be and to charge her with the responsibility to raise herself (essentially).

I'm all for encouraging autonomy and for parents/influential adults allowing decision-making that would allow children to connect their choices and outcomes/consequences. But young people are naturally inexperienced and uneducated.

Parents/influential adults, please intervene for the physical, social, emotional, and sexual health of your young people. Share with them your knowledge and experience. Set boundaries, rules, and expectations for their immediate influence and also so that they can set similar boundaries, rules, and expectations for themselves as they grow.