March 12, 2018

Permissive Parenting

Interview with LZ Granderson on taming your toddler from: (share this clip)

LZ Granderson tackles a sensitive topic in “Permissive Parents: Curb your brats“, reminding parents that consistent, ongoing discipline is critical to good parenting. And to preventing your friends from hating your kids!

We’ve all experienced it, even the most kid empathetic amongst us. You’re waiting to see the dentist, and a three year old is spreading magazines all over the waiting room floor. Or you’ve just settled into your seat for an overnight flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the ten year old in front of you starts playing video games with the volume cranked, bouncing back and forth in his chair, gradually pounding your knees to oblivion. Every day we come across absentee parenting scenarios that frustrate, annoy, even anger us. But can you parent somebody else’s kids? The verdict’s still out on that one.

“The rest of the world should not have to be subjected to your bratty kids.”

I’ll second that! And yet we do. Every day. “Kids are not the center of the universe,” Granderson reminds us, and we shouldn’t allow their whims, urges and needs to dictate our social interactions. And yet so many parents do exactly that. And in the process they allow their kids to alienate others in their social circles.

So what should parents be doing differently when it comes to raising and disciplining kids? I won’t try to armchair quarterback the question, because I don’t have kids of my own. I’ll admit up front that the best ones to answer this question are parents, and ideally parents with well behaved kids. Nevertheless, I am an uncle four times over, and I told middle school and high school students for enough years to learn a few things.

I agree with Granderson that discipline must start early and never waver. It must be real and fair and reliable. And infractions aren’t mortal sins; they’re learning opportunities. But discipline’s an easy out. As Granderson acknowledges in this interview, discipline means different things for different families. And I don’t think that there’s much merit in arguing what universal yardstick could be applied to all families and all situations. It’s probably also worth admitting that I’m not a fan of physical punishment.

I submit to you that even more important than discipline is ongoing instruction. Teach your children what is appropriate again and again, and most will eventually grok the big picture. Create consistent, inalienable expectations and parameters. Kids need boundaries. They need to test them and even need to break them sometimes, but they need boundaries. I’ve literally had students tell me this. I’m not kidding! Exceptions are confusing to kids, and your “nice” exception today blurs expectations tomorrow. I also believe that parents often neglect to teach their kids that different domains/situations demand different behaviors. So many youngsters operate in only one mode. No good. Help your kid understand the difference between interacting with children and adults, informal situations like play dates and formal situations like school or church, home and school, etc. Vocabulary, voice, gesture, physical interaction differ in all of these contexts. Help your kid recognize and understand these often subtle differences, and the world (and my day) will be better. Thanks!