All parents think they are loving, don't they? And yet, the craziest ideas are floating around these days. Ideas like, “Let the little kids do whatever they want – they’re only young once.” Or, “Discipline will crush my child’s personality.” Or, “If I punish my children they won’t like me anymore.” Or,”The kids are wild, it’s so cute.” Rubbish. This is not how a loving parent thinks.
But what exactly is a loving parent? It’s not just being a friend, that’s easy. It’s mainly being a guide, and that’s more difficult - someone who cares so much that they commit themselves to preparing their child for success. And that means teaching them how to behave.
Wild children make for a wild society, Entitled children make for an entitled society. Whatever happens “out there” starts “in here,” - inside the home. So parents have quite a responsibility, don’t they? What kind of world do we want to live in? Parents make it happen.
Here’s a true story to illustrate.
When I was growing up there were a lot of kids in my neighborhood. We all went to Marengo School. Next door lived my good friend Roby. We all played almost every day, usually cowboys, running up and down the alley behind our houses. Roby had the best toys – guns, hats, lanterns, canteens, everything. He was an only child, and so was I. We might have been a little spoiled.
His family came from Kentucky and they brought a southern, fun-loving formality with them. They also brought a standard that I didn’t see in other families. For example, their living room was reserved only for adult company - kids could not enter. There were limits.
In first grade Roby was a wild child. He was loud and laughed a lot and seemed much freer than all the other kids. In class he was wild, too, laughing and joking loudly and having the greatest time. Everyone looked for him to do something hilarious. A real headache for the teacher.
Then in second grade a new teacher came to Marengo. On the first day Roby started right in being Roby. The new teacher would have none of it and sent him to the principal. We were stunned. Nobody had ever been sent to the principal before, and this was the first time we had ever seen Roby get in trouble. The class quieted down without him, and we started to understand our new teacher – she was very strict, but at the same time very caring.
Roby was gone the whole day, and after school I couldn’t find him to walk home with. I knew he must be in big trouble. When I got home I looked over at his house, and it was very, very quiet. Needless to say he didn’t come out to play.
The next day Roby didn’t go to school, and then we all knew that he was really in trouble. We knew that his parents were doing something with him, but we didn’t know what. The teacher didn’t mention anything about him, but we were all nervous about what could have happened. What could parents do to you when you were very bad?
Next day Roby was back! We all rushed up hoping for an explanation, but he only answered calmly that he had been disrespectful and had been punished. His calmness was unnerving! When class started he raised his hand, stood up and apologized to the teacher in a most respectful and sincere way, and then sat down. And here was the new Roby - still Roby, all right, but he had just genuinely calmed down. Suddenly he had self-control, and the change in him was towering. From that day on he was a model student, as fun-loving as ever, but with definite limits. In other words, he was happy, like a happy kid should be.
Throughout school he was a role model, earning excellent grades, starring in athletics, joining clubs, popular with everyone, a friend to all, but most of all demonstrating the highest level of behavior. He graduated from college, joined his father in business, married and has 3 beautiful daughters.
Still, in my mind the question lingers, “What did his parents do?” What happened on that day long ago? Well, whatever it was, it was certainly a good thing. Probably some kind of force was used, but it didn’t crush him. It must have been a good force - a loving, guiding force, because it strengthened him, and all the kids could see it. We all wanted to be strong like that, too, so it turned out that his parents influenced all of us for the better. If they had done nothing, how different his life, and ours, would have been.
Roby and I call each other on our birthdays, and I’ve been tempted to bring up this subject, just to find the magic formula for parenting or to satisfy my curiosity. But as I write this, I think it’s better to just leave it alone. But you have to admit - whatever they did, how fortunate he was to have loving parents like that!