I am reading this parenting book right now on how to create/have a well-behaved child. It is an interesting book in that the author brings humor to the table, and what I consider real stories for me to digest. He says from the beginning that the reason children are in so much trouble is because parents are constantly listening to doctors and authors who have a fix it system. When the truth is, despite the fact that the author is one of those same doctors, society as a whole simply can’t except the fact that children are bad. We negotiate, we plead, we ask, we throw out treats and rewards like they are candy (pun intended); but we don’t have well-behaved children.
I negotiate, I plead, I randomly yell, I ask, I reward like it is no one’s business. But I have never once thought that my children are bad. I could imagine moms around the world immediately putting the book down once the author said those words, but I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to understand why a doctor, a professional would say those words.
The author explains this concept by comparing children to dogs. Dogs don’t have the intelligence or the dexterity to be bad. They do something, you reward them, and because they are so interested in pleasing you they do it again and again. Children, on the other hand, are not interested in pleasing the adults in their life, they are only interested in pleasing themselves. And even if you give them a reward that reward will only last a couple of times before the child shrugs it all away. He went on to talk about society’s “excuses” for bad behaviour in children: they want attention, they have a disease, they are young and tired. But the truth is if you look at every child in the world, in every society, in every culture and income stratus, the one thing you see above all others is that every child behaves badly sometimes. So excuses won’t work but they don’t always apply.
I can’t, as a mother, look at my child and see bad. However, I can look at my own self as a child and see bad. I didn’t have a disease, I wasn’t always tired, and my parents gave me plenty of attention. But I still acted out. I still pushed boundaries, and I still recognized structure and discipline as love. To this day I can picture my mother rattling the wooden spoon drawer and be scared to death. I cleaned up my act quickly when I heard that simple sound.
So we have to accept that children are bad. They believe they deserve everything, they want treats and candy at all times, and they sincerely have no concept of why something is bad. It’s like God put the bad gene in every child in order to test us and help us raise them to be great. Are we failing? Am I failing?
I have, like I have said before, a brilliant son. At three he was making complex arguments to me about why he should have something/do something; and the arguments were logical and correct. My genius negotiates everything, and sometimes I am so tired I give in. My son is honestly too smart to fall for bribes, but he will take them anyways. He has the ability to take any one of my most severe punishments and shrug it off, knowing that one, I would never really hurt him, and two, there is nothing I can take that he can’t live without. It is so frustrating to discipline my son, because it often requires me to explain ideas that I don’t necessarily want him to understand yet. Should he understand discrimination? Should he have to understand hatred, jealousy, and fear? No, but unfortunately that is ultimately what I am required to give him. With explanations he falls back to good behaviour, pat and routine answers he simply ignores.
As for my three-year old daughter, life is much different. My three-year old is adorable, stop in the store and point to the kid adorable. She has grown up these last three years being the absolute center of attention everywhere she goes; teachers, cashiers, coaches, parents, brother. She believes this means that we are too wary of hurting her, which honestly, because my husband and I don’t discipline her or are as strict with her as we are to her brother, means she might have a point. She honestly believes that she is right, that everyone else is wrong; and that the tiara on her head has her name on it. She is spoiled, selfish, and everything a three-year old should be. And her daddy and I are going to have to find a way to kill her attitude briskly and decisively. Otherwise, I am raising the biggest brat this side of the continental divide.
So I suppose I can honestly see that children are bad. My real problem is not falling into a pattern where I either excuse their behavior or ignore it, in favor of doing something else. I made a decision early on in my first pregnancy to be a strict but kind mother. I guess I am just going to have to finally find a backbone. In the meantime, I will keep reading the book and find out how else I can stress about the state of a child.