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Making My Children Miserable

March 24, 2011

Life lesson #1: Say please.
My three year old is an expert at tantrums.

His face turns red, he produces spectacular tears, and generally has the pathetic, “I’m so abused” routine down pat.

The thing is, he doesn’t throw tantrums about big stuff. He usually throws tantrums about little stuff. Stuff like “say please” or “no, you can’t sleep with a golf club” or “no, you may not have a bowl of chocolate sauce for dinner.”

Now, I could prevent these tantrums by merely giving him whatever it is that he’s demanding. But that wouldn’t make me a very good parent, would it?

I was shocked once, at a seminar, to hear someone say that my job as a parent is not to raise a happy child.


My job is to raise an obedient child who understands that every choice has a consequence – good or bad. And also, that he is wholly loved.

The funny part is – an obedient child is much more likely to be happy. An indulged child, conversely, is much more likely to be miserable. So often we associate happines with indulgence, when it’s really quite the opposite.

Life Lesson #2: You are responsible for your own stuff.
My older son is quick to remind me, however, that the happy doesn’t happen in the short-term. He claimed just last night that I make his life miserable (’cause I asked him to put his own laundry away and to empty his own trash can. I’m such an ogre.) He moaned about the unfairness of it all. That he would NEVER finish.

I tried to gently remind him that really, sweetheart, I’m not asking that much.

You have a warm bed to sleep in. Clothes to wear. Toys to play with. Plenty of food to eat.

Your life could be worse. We talked for a bit about what “worse” really means. I’m not sure he gets it yet, but that’s ok, I’ve got plenty of time.

Life Lesson #3: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
This morning, when I did not grant one of Scrappy’s whims, his reply: “But I WANT it!”

The thing is, Lovey, life doesn’t always give you want you want.

And most certainly not when you don’t ask nicely, or at least say “please.” Learn now, learn later, but love-of-my-life-litle-sons – you WILL learn.

I can teach these lessons now, or they can learn them later. And later will always hurt more.

Life Lesson #4: Life Lessons Aren’t Any Fun
It is my job, after all – in bending these rigid wills, in shaping these selfish hearts, in forcing the inward focus outward, I’m coaxing them into better human beings. It will hurt. They won’t like it.

Neither did I when it was done for me.

But better now than later. Better now when I can cuddle and kiss them and ease the consequences of wrong choices – even granting grace as appropriate. Because adult consequences, at least those of this world, don’t come with a whole lot of grace.

In the grown-up world, there aren’t second chances, and saying “sorry” doesn’t make it all better.

So, pardon me while I go make my kids miserable. I love them too much to let them stay this way.



One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 9:29 am

    I LOVE this!!! True parenting is equipping our children for life and promoting life long habits and characteristics. Although these will not be popular with the kids, these are vital things to teach. Thanks for sharing!

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