I got a little fed up a while ago when I wrote on my blog about my kids refusing to eat the dinner I made them. One of my commenters essentially suggested I back off and not make them eat veggies.
Well, here's the thing,
I make my kids eat veggies.
I also do lots of other things. Mean things. Things that my kids don't like or appreciate... but that, someday, will (I hope) turn them into people of character. I look at the current generation of teens and adolescents (forgive me for generalizing and doing what everybody else does and judging and dumping on you guys) and I see too much entitlement. Too much worry about society's opinion, not enough worry about the respect of parents. I see kids being snarky to their family and even viscious to their siblings. I see families that hate to be together. It makes me really sad.
I think kids need to eat their veggies. I think parents should make them. I mean, you can't force veggies down a kid's throat. But you sure can reserve the right to not serve them anything else until said veggies are finished. And yes, I have had a child go for a day, even a day and a half, refusing to eat veggies and voluntarily going hungry. But, let's face it...
a kid gets hungry enough, and they eat their veggies. And when they finally fork their way through that limp, sodden mess of salad that, 24 hours before, was crisp and at least somewhat-more-appetizing, they learn to eat them during mealtimes.
Well, wait 'till I get going. Here's my "mean mom" list:
1) I make my kids eat dinner at the dinner table. I make myself and my husband eat dinner with them. And I make them learn table manners. Sure, there are jokes and eye-rolling... but they get it. And the family time is invaluable. I plan to continue to enforce the everybody-at-the-table-for-dinner for as long as my children remain under my roof.
2) I make my kids put things away. When they are done, they put it away. Or else they get an evil eye and a brief chewing out from me (and if you know me, you know that my evil glares can be frightening!)
3) I make my kids be nice to each other. We don't say "stupid," "hate," or "wierd," we don't call each other names, and we don't speak to each other in a disprespectful tone. Teasing is allowed as long as the person being teased is still happy, but when they start to get sad, it stops.
4) Lying, stealing, and hurting on purpose are capital offenses. They put you away for a long time. Depending on age, accountability, and recent repeat offenses, my kids know could be spending several minutes to a couple of hours in their room for purposely engaging in any of these behaviors.
5) if you act like a little kid in my house (disobeying, whining, throwing a tantrum when you don't get what you want) then you take a nap like a little kid, in my house. Naptime is after lunch. It lasts 1-1.5 hours. Yes, I know you're bored... but if you don't really take a nap, you get to stay in your room longer because little kids need sleep.
6) If you want toys, you have to take care of them. That includes keeping them picked up.
7) My kids have jobs. They're not fun jobs. They have to clean the table and sweep the floor and clear the table and keep their rooms and the toy room clean. Every day. In the case of the table--that happens 2 times per day.
8) No allowance. If my kids want money, there are plenty of extra jobs that I wouldn't mind paying them to do for me. They have to be done well if they want the full payment.
9) If you've asked once, you wait for mom to answer. If you ask twice or more (unless you were thinking that mom didn't hear, and just repeated yourself to make sure you were heard) the answer changes to an automatic "no."
10) If my kids want to play with friends/neighbors, they have to have proper manners around them. No yelling, no using words our family doesn't use, and no peeking in anybody's windows or other impolite behavior... it doesn't matter if your friends are doing it or not.
11) When mom talks, kids listen.
12) If kids use an "outside voice" in the house, kids get to go outside for a while.
13) Mom should only have to ask once. If you've heard her, and she has to ask twice, that's verging on disobedience. Three times, and it's a consequence.
14) No backtalk/arguing. Kids can object once to make their feelings known, and mom will listen and either take said feelings into account or explain why things still need to happen. More argument is disobedience and gets a consequence.
K. This might sound nazi-ish to some. But honestly, I don't think it is. I think it's logical. And it's real life.
I have a friend whose husband is a professor. He teaches a very difficult course. He always brings home stories about students coming to him and demanding a higher grade "because they deserved it" for turning an assignment in, for "making an effort," etc etc etc. They argue. They're disprespectful. They threaten to go to their parents for backup.
Here's the thing... I think that, if we don't teach our kids to live in the real world, we're doing them a real disservice. Obedience and respect are very important concepts for small children to learn and understand. As they grow older, it's not so much about obedience, as it is learning correct principles and learning how to govern themselves. But habits go far in leading children the right direction.
I want polite kids.
I want respectful kids.
I want kind kids.
I want responsible kids.
I want kids who appreciate the efforts and needs of those around them.
I want kids who know how to work.
I want kids who are humble.
I want kids who, when they fail at something, instead of demanding a recount, they look back over their actions and see how they can improve their performance.
I want kids who feel close to each other, and close to me, and close to their father, and who can trust that we are teaching them the things they need to know to survive in the real world, and don't feel a need to retreat into a parent's basement at age thirty and play videogames all day in order to escape from the real world.
And honestly... this might sound harsh. No, it does sound harsh... on paper like that, harshness just exudes from that list I just reeled off. But guess what? The other half is...
love. Love love love your kids, and talk, talk talk to them, and listen, listen listen to them. Treat them like you actually like them.
And then when they have to swallow those bitter moments of frustration, when mom and their wills clash... it'll go down easier. That's what I think, at least. That's what I remember from how I was raised. And I turned out pretty good, I think. All the parenting books in the world can't argue with results.