This Thanksgiving, I watched my son as he talked over some things with his son, my grandson. My son is 40 and his son is 17. Besides the joking, food and sharing recipes, there was the usual concern about high school grades, chores and car payments. But what struck me was the way my son explained the consequences of my grandson’s choices. “If you don’t get your grades up, then you’re letting me down. And I want you to think about that when you expect me to provide that trip you want to take when you graduate.”
When I was raising my two kids, I often found myself uncertain or in disagreement with my wife about what to do. Eventually, I realized my job as a parent was to prepare my child for life as an adult. There were a few times I knew my son hated me, but if I was certain it would make him better prepared to succeed at his own dreams as an adult, I knew I had made the right choice.
Preparing a son or daughter for their life as an adult can be done lovingly or harshly. A parent behaving both those ways could explain their behavior by saying they were preparing their child to live successfully as an adult. But I want to draw your attention to the words “succeed at his own dreams.” A parent who believes life is hard and joy non-existent may be teaching their child to survive in a hard world, but are they nurturing their child’s own dreams for their life. It’s dreams that make life worthwhile.
Children seldom realize the value of a parent’s advice or rules. Usually those have to be repeated over and over before they sink in. Brutally enforcing those rules might produce quick changes in behavior, but that leads to deep resentment and sets a horrible example for the child and you can be certain the child will then dramatize that on others.
Yes, sometimes a parent must enforce discipline on a child when the child doesn’t yet understand, but that’s when it’s most important to at least attempt to get the child to understand.
My son and I had a lot of good times together and a few very rough times when we truly didn’t like each other. But seeing my son handle his son with understanding and firm rules that he explained made me feel all those years and struggles had paid off and we enjoy each other now.
Hopefully you have the same pride in your children and if not, something can always be done about it.