30 September 2011

One of the Mistakes Parents Make...

Explaining the reasons for your commands.

I suspect a number of mothers may disagree with me. Women have a tendency to talk things out, and where Father will usually say, "Do as you're told," Mother will have the desire to have a 30-minute conversation explaining why the child must do as he's told.

The problem with the second approach is that it fosters in the child a sense of entitlement for justification for his obedience. It's easy to fall into the trap: Mom says, "It's time for bed," and little Joey asks, "Why can't I stay up a little?" The unwitting parent takes the bait, and actually answers the child's question--as if the she must justify her reasons for sending him to bed. And a back-and-forth ensues in which Mom grows increasingly frustrated, and perhaps in a few minutes ends up losing her temper; she may afterwards feel so bad about it that, in order to avoid similar confrontations in the future, she would rather cave in and let the child stay up the extra 15 minutes instead of demanding that he go to bed at his regular bedtime.

The problem with this (among many), as an astute Catholic counselor once observed, is that it lowers standards for our children, who are--just as much as we--called to "be perfect, as Your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt 5:48) Our Lord never lowers the standard for us, but demands that we rise--as stumblingly as we often do, and as much as we may fight against it--to the heights of perfection. It is all borne of His love for us, and that same love must motivate parents to be willing to endure the tantrums and kickback that occur when we expect prompt obedience from our children. That sort of love requires growing some spine.

If we don't correct the bad habit, little Joey eventually grows up to be big, stocky, tall Joey, with little respect for authority, and big problems with obedience, neither of which will help him make his way through life as a Catholic called to perfection. And you will have no one but yourself to blame, Mom (or Dad!).