Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Begin As You Mean To Go On

There's this thing that happens with parents of young kids that needs to be addressed.  Parents need to remember to begin as they mean to go on.

What does that mean?  Well, here's an example.  You can't dress your children in this:

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...and not expect them to dress like this:

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...when they're teenagers.

You can't allow them to swear like sailors when they're home because it's precocious, and then suddenly expect them to watch their language when they're in school.

My mom and I were talking about this today.  She said that when I was around two I said something cheeky (she doesn't remember the exact wording) in front of her mom.  My mom laughed.  Grandma grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the next room and said, "I know it's cute now, but you can't laugh at things like this, because it's not going to be cute when she's 15.  I don't care if you have to go into another room, but you can't laugh in front of her."  I have quite a mouth, so I shudder to think how I would have ended up if Grandma Betty hadn't intervened!

If you think about it, it's really confusing for the kid if you think something is cute when they're two, and suddenly it's something they're in trouble for when they're 5.  I see it a lot with hitting.  It's easy to laugh off their tiny fury when they're two and it doesn't really hurt.  Trust me, that exact same behavior is going to be a whole different story when they're 12, and again when they're 22.

We've enacted a zero-tolerance policy in this house on hitting.  If they hit each other, the girls are grounded for 24 hours.  They've each experienced a 4 hour grounding (during the afternoon when their friends were out and their sister was out and they were stuck inside sobbing) so they know it sucks.  I'm hoping that I won't have to do it again, because it really sucks the most for me.

Also, in giving consequences, making them mind, and following through with my threats, I'm also beginning as I mean to go on - because when they're teenagers they'll already be in the habit of listening, they'll know that their dad and I mean business, and they'll know that they can't get away with anything on our watch.  I mean, seriously, if your 2 year old is already walking all over you, what do you think your life is going to look like when she's 12?

Begin as you mean to go on.  Hitting is never ok, even if you're too little for it to hurt anyone.  Mouthing off is never ok, even if it's precocious.  Dressing like you don't have any modesty or self-respect is never ok, even if you have the body to pull it off.  Deliberately breaking things is never ok, even if they're your toys that I don't really care about (I'll care when it's my car!).  Hurting other people is never ok.

So much of our behavior is the result of habits - what we eat, how we dress, the order that we complete mundane tasks in - and it's easier for everyone if we get our kids into good habits from the very beginning.

Do you ever look at your kids' behavior through the lens of the future?


Astrogirl426 said...

Oh lord. Oh LORD could I tell you a story...

I know a couple, let's call them the Joneses. They have a son who's around 12 years old. He's the rudest, most obnoxious 12-year old I've ever met. Not only does he not have basic manners (like saying "please", "thank you", and "pardon me"), he is actually actively obnoxious and rude. His mother actually told me that she's been told that other people (adults and children) think he's a little asshole, and that she agrees.

She then follows this up with "but what can I so?"

It makes me insane. HE'S YOUR KID. If YOU'RE not going to make him mind, who the hell do you think will???

We also see this in some of the young kids we know, including some young cousins on my husband's side of the family, and my own nieces. A few days ago we were at a birthday party for the cousin (she turned 6), and when we went to thank her for inviting us, she said "Oh, I didn't invite you." The holy hell??? I've also been told by my niece to "go get me a sandwich", and by a friend's kid that she already owned a game we got her for a gift.

My son is FAR from an angel, but he would NEVER say stuff like that, because he knows he'd get a punishment he wouldn't soon forget. I just don't understand what these parents are thinking - do they think it's gonna get easier? it isn't - if they don't take care of this NOW, it's gonna get much, much worse.

Amy Austin said...

Thanks for the great comment!! I agree, if it doesn't happen at home it will never happen anywhere - whether "it" is discipline, manners, or just learning how not to be a little asshole!

Sounds like someone needs some parenting classes, stat, before she ends up on Dr. Phil!

Erin said...

I agree so much!!! I wish more parents heard this advice! We were over at a friends house recently with my 3 & 5 year old kids and the 3 y.o. did something so we said "go to timeout" and pointed to a corner. Without us even moving (aside from the pointing), she got up, walked across the room, and sat down. Our friends were amazed that she did that and I just said "why wouldn't she listen? she knows the rules". and it is the truth - the rules have been enforced for as long as they can remember and they don't really change. Consistency is key!