Raising a child is really not that hard. I know people often make it hard, but it doesn't have to be.
This week I heard a parent say something that reminded me of a woman I worked with years ago. She came to me for other problems, but since I realize that a person is a whole person and not a walking problem or two I asked about all of her life.
She had two children, a girl that was preschool age and a boy about 11 or 12 if I remember and he was her tormentor. They did nothing but fuss and argue, she thought he hated her, she wondered sometimes if she hated him (a hard confession for a mother) and the problems they had spilled over into her marriage and had almost driven her and her husband to divorce.
So what is the problem, I asked? He won't do anything I ask him to do, he makes a mess and leaves it for me to clean, he won't do his homework, he yells at me and his sister, it is terrible.
So why don't you do something about it?
She looked at me like I said, Why don't you go to Mars?
I have tried, she finally replied. I don't know what to do.
Well, that part is easy, he doesn't have a car does he?
He doesn't have a job does he?
He doesn't have an independent source of money does he?
So he depends on you for just about everything?
So why are you doing what he wants you to do if he won't do what you want him to do? I mean, what is he going to do if you stop driving him places, buying him things, washing his clothes, cooking his meals? I mean, you really have him over a barrel, don't you?
I don't think she would have looked anymore startled if a chicken had suddenly walked across the room wearing a hat and glasses.
I let it sink in, then said, "Pick three things you want him to do and let's see what we can come up with."
The three things were:
1. Clean his room.
2. Do his homework.
3. Come to the table for supper without a big fuss.
Sounded reasonable to me, I mowed the yard, set the table, did the dishes, cleaned the floor and did laundry when I was at home about his age.
Here was the plan, you wait until he wants something from you and then you say, "I will do that when you ____ and then pick one of the three things and fill in the blank."
Don't raise your voice, don't argue, don't fuss. Stay calm and just repeat I will do that when you do this. Stand by your guns and don't back down, but do it in love and be calm, but strong.
By the time we finished talking she looked a bit mischievous. I think instead of dreading talking with her son, she was looking forward to it.
I saw her a week later and she started off with her son and not the problems she had originally come to see me over.
I want you to know, I picked him up from school the day we last met and on the way home he said, I want to stay overnight at my friend's house. I want you to take me there now.
I waited and didn't say a word. I didn't get into a argument, I just waited until I had it settled in my mind what I would do and how I would do it.
He said mom did you hear me?
I just calmly said yes, let's go home and when you do your homework I will take you right over there.
I expected a fight, but he was quiet.
I don't think he knew what to say. I had never responded like that.
We went home, about an hour later he said, Mom, I finished my homework. I thought I would faint. I said great, get your things together and we can go to your friend's house.
She said, it went that way all week long. He did fuss a few times, but I didn't join him, I just calmly said, when you do this, I will do that. You decide if it is worth it.
Now you can't raise a child in one afternoon and there will be problems. I promise there will be problems, but with love, a commitment and a plan, you can raise children and still keep your hair.
And if you want them to grow up and be financially independent, then require them to have a job and work in their teenage years. That one thing appears in my experience to be the main factor in whether children grow up, have a career, a home, a productive life and be happy with some healthy self esteem. If you give them everything as you raise them, without any contribution from them, then they will grow up feeling entitled and you will have robbed them of self respect, independence and happiness.
What greater feeling this side of heaven and Jesus is there than working for something you want and then getting it?
Don't rob your children of that.
Scott Hogue CChH