Refusing to Cave
I remember parenting young kids and having one whose temperament or mood threatened to mar the entire day. The natural inclination is to cave, or “give in” to keep peace. It’s harder to steer a wheel uphill than it would be to just allow it to rumble down to the bottom of the hill; but then, how would we ever get that wheel to the top of the hill?! Trouble was, if a child got his way all the live-long day, he was still miserable. He had lost the security of knowing where the boundaries were (there weren’t any!) because the parent didn’t stay strong.
I remember a co-worker who made life difficult for everyone if she didn’t get what she wanted. It didn’t matter if she needed a weekend off or if she wanted certain days for vacation, most of her co-workers caved and gave up their free days because they didn’t want to deal with the mood swings. Who wanted to go to work and have to tiptoe on egg shells for fear of her outbursts if she didn’t get her way?! Basically, she ruled her world. People stepped out of her way and just let the tire roll on down the hill because they didn’t think it was worth the price they had to pay if they didn’t allow her to get her way. However, she was still miserable, even when she got what she thought she wanted. It was partly because the co-workers and supervisors didn’t stay strong and thus lost her respect.
The End Result of Caving In
What happens when a child is allowed to monster his world? He continues to be miserable – and so does everyone else. It’s a shame that we think, “I just want him to be happy”, when he really isn’t happy anyway. It’s like trying not to step on eggshells scattered across the floor. If our goal is to just keep him happy, then we might as well quit now. The child who always gets his way or gets what he wants is not a happy child. Tell me it ain’t so! He doesn’t have a parent who stays strong.
The child also – one day – becomes an adult who continues to monster others by his mood swings where others tiptoe around his feelings because they don’t want to deal with the shell shock of explosives, whether it’s by verbal outbursts or passive hardness. He becomes an adult who continues to expect others to cave; who continues to dictate to others so he can be happy. He becomes an adult who doesn’t respect those who don’t stand their ground with him. He remains unhappy because there is insecurity in always getting one’s way or making others pay.
One day this child becomes a co-worker, a committee member, church member or a spouse who continues to rule his or her world by moods and hidden anger.
Honestly, I had days when I’d look one of my kids in the eye and wonder if it was worth the hassle; but then I’d remember that co-worker, and I’d batten down the hatches and stand my ground.
Happiness is Greatest when Respect and Boundaries Align
In parenting, I discovered that the happiest child is the one who has boundaries and has to abide by the rules even when it hardly seems worth the hassle. I’m not suggesting that grace is never given or a curfew can’t be extended for a certain event. I’m suggesting that in parenting, we need to remember the bigger picture. If the wheel belongs at the top of the hill, then there’s only one way to get it there: push it up, up, up all the way until it gets to the top, even when it’s hard. You have to stay strong.
When we remember the end goal – including eternity – our focus goes beyond the moment of the tears and unhappiness. If we want to have kids who become responsible adults who don’t expect the world to revolve around them, we need to start when they’re small. Even when it’s hard, even when we “just want her to be happy”, even when we’re tired and weary, even when we’ve failed, we must parent with the end result in view.
When parenting is hard, focus on the end result you want, then claim the victory by staying strong. Your sons- and daughters-in-law will thank you; the co-workers of your children will thank you; so will their neighbors and friends.