Cruel to be kind

November 14, 2008

in Parenting

(Children mentioned. Originally posted at Mile High Mamas.)

If my son forgets to wear a coat on a chilly October day, he experiences cold.

If my daughter forgets to bring the lunch I pack for her, she experiences hunger.

Neither experience will cause lasting damage. In fact, my hope is that such lessons will leave lasting impressions.

I want my children to pay consequences they can afford. Like the time Tessa left her brand new Thumbelina on a playground swing, and we weren’t able to find it when we went back the next day. Tuition for this lesson? About $20 and a bucket of tears.

Or when Reed didn’t have enough money to buy the Power Ranger costume he wanted (we kicked in the first $10) because he shot his piggy bank wad in a manic spree at Chuck E Cheese. Tuition for this lesson? About 20 minutes of tantrum.

Most times, it would be easy to bail them out. To bring the coat, the lunch, to school. To buy another doll or spring for the costume. Time and money are small prices to pay to avoid tears, right?

True. But wrong. I think we do our kids a disservice when we separate their actions from the natural consequence of those actions.

It takes love to allow them to feel a little pain.

If our kids learn with small consequences, they are more likely to be able to avoid the big consequences. By “big,” I mean getting a costly ticket (or worse) for speeding. I mean getting arrested for shoplifting or being involved in a drunk-driving accident or facing an unplanned pregnancy — any of these could be natural consequences of their actions. If my children grasp that there is a link between what they do (or don’t do) and the results, they will, I hope, make more logical decisions.

So I hide my heartache when Tessa wails over her lost doll. I stay strong when Reed pulls out all the stops to get me to buy him the object of his affection. My children may never know how hard it is for me to be mean* and how I struggle to keep my eyes on the prize.

Sometimes mean = love. And it’s not easy being mean.

* OK, so deeeeep down inside, I’m going, “Bwahahahahaha!” But in my defense, it’s very, very deep.)

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Harmony April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

Oh so true! It’s not easy being a parent and we aren’t to be their friends. And there are consequences to EVERYTHING! I have seen the results in lack of parenting in my 2 BIL’s. It truly is sad as one has no ambition in life (everything is handed to him) and the other is on the verge of being an abuser (he already has a record) and his parents are so Ho hum about it. Very sad.

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m April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

Really, really hoping we stick to our guns and practice the same kind of tough love with small consequences when these two pop out. Well done, Lori.@Loribeth, the prevalence of these types of parents is amazing. We have a friend who works in the admissions/housing dept of a fairly large university and his stories around interactions with folks like this are frequent and would be funny if not so pathetic. What makes it worse is that in most cases, the kids are absolutely reliant and expect the parents’ interventions. Whatever happened to teen rebellion??If I ever become a helicopter parent, just shoot me.

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My name is Andy. April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

So very very true! It brings to mind the phrase “this hurts me more then it hurts you”

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loribeth April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I think the world needs more parents like you, Lori. : ) I can’t believe some of the stories I read about “helicopter parents” — especially the ones sending their kids off to university & demanding to know who is going to see that they get to class on time, etc. (Hello, has your kid ever heard of an alarm clock??) (Of course, not having kids myself, it’s easy for me to say…)

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Harmony April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

Oh so true! It’s not easy being a parent and we aren’t to be their friends. And there are consequences to EVERYTHING! I have seen the results in lack of parenting in my 2 BIL’s. It truly is sad as one has no ambition in life (everything is handed to him) and the other is on the verge of being an abuser (he already has a record) and his parents are so Ho hum about it. Very sad.

Reply

m April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

Really, really hoping we stick to our guns and practice the same kind of tough love with small consequences when these two pop out. Well done, Lori.@Loribeth, the prevalence of these types of parents is amazing. We have a friend who works in the admissions/housing dept of a fairly large university and his stories around interactions with folks like this are frequent and would be funny if not so pathetic. What makes it worse is that in most cases, the kids are absolutely reliant and expect the parents’ interventions. Whatever happened to teen rebellion??If I ever become a helicopter parent, just shoot me.

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My name is Andy. April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

So very very true! It brings to mind the phrase “this hurts me more then it hurts you”

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loribeth April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I think the world needs more parents like you, Lori. : ) I can’t believe some of the stories I read about “helicopter parents” — especially the ones sending their kids off to university & demanding to know who is going to see that they get to class on time, etc. (Hello, has your kid ever heard of an alarm clock??) (Of course, not having kids myself, it’s easy for me to say…)

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Waiting Amy April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

The Snake has just begun to call me *mean*I wear it as a badge of honor.

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Martha April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I am giving you a big (Hug) and High Five for this great post. It’s incredibly hard not to bring their forgotten homework to school but if they don’t learn now, when?If they don’t learn with the little stuff, will it take the big stuff to teach them? This is by far one of the toughest parenting challenges so far…

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Melissa April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

YOU.ARE.MY.HERO.:o)

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MrsSpock April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I wholeheartedly agree. It is only through suffering ourselves that we can empathize with others.

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Baby Smiling In Back Seat April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

What you are describing is the exact opposite of my mother’s philosophy. She cannot tolerate any discomfort for me, even now. She actually told me to “tell your boss that your mother says you shouldn’t have to work so late.” Anything I lost as a child was immediately replaced; anything I wanted was indulged. I had to teach myself about logical consequences. Even as a kid I thought it was inappropriate for me to receive birthday presents that cost 4x what the other kids’ parents spent.You are doing Tessa and Reed a great service, even if they don’t always appreciate it right now.

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Waiting Amy April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

The Snake has just begun to call me *mean*I wear it as a badge of honor.

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Martha April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I am giving you a big (Hug) and High Five for this great post. It’s incredibly hard not to bring their forgotten homework to school but if they don’t learn now, when?If they don’t learn with the little stuff, will it take the big stuff to teach them? This is by far one of the toughest parenting challenges so far…

Reply

Melissa April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

YOU.ARE.MY.HERO.:o)

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MrsSpock April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I wholeheartedly agree. It is only through suffering ourselves that we can empathize with others.

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Baby Smiling In Back Seat April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

What you are describing is the exact opposite of my mother’s philosophy. She cannot tolerate any discomfort for me, even now. She actually told me to “tell your boss that your mother says you shouldn’t have to work so late.” Anything I lost as a child was immediately replaced; anything I wanted was indulged. I had to teach myself about logical consequences. Even as a kid I thought it was inappropriate for me to receive birthday presents that cost 4x what the other kids’ parents spent.You are doing Tessa and Reed a great service, even if they don’t always appreciate it right now.

Reply

Caro April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I really hope I can manage this too.

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Martha April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I nominated you for the “I Love Your Blog” Award and the random 6 item meme if you have time, interest, or inclination. Regardless, You Rock!

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Caro April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I really hope I can manage this too.

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Martha April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

I nominated you for the “I Love Your Blog” Award and the random 6 item meme if you have time, interest, or inclination. Regardless, You Rock!

Reply

battynurse April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

So true. I’m sure it’s not easy but I think that it’s very important.

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WiseGuy April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

How very true! I have seen parents hand-and-foot servicing their kids. And the kids are not able to understand the significance of what they have and what they need to do to be in control and feel responsible. You are totally teaching the right things! Good Luck!

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battynurse April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

So true. I’m sure it’s not easy but I think that it’s very important.

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WiseGuy April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

How very true! I have seen parents hand-and-foot servicing their kids. And the kids are not able to understand the significance of what they have and what they need to do to be in control and feel responsible. You are totally teaching the right things! Good Luck!

Reply

Kami April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

Right now I am glad LB is young enough that I can’t spoil her. I agree with you 100% that kids should be allowed to struggle and fail and to make mistakes and live with the consequences.I just suspect this will be as challenging for me as it is for them.If all goes well, I will have a PMM post up tomorrow.

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Kami April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

Right now I am glad LB is young enough that I can’t spoil her. I agree with you 100% that kids should be allowed to struggle and fail and to make mistakes and live with the consequences.I just suspect this will be as challenging for me as it is for them.If all goes well, I will have a PMM post up tomorrow.

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Furrow April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

Yeesh. I so agree with you on this, and I always intended to be that type of parent. As Zo propels herself into toddlerhood, though, it is tougher than I thought to make the transition from giving my baby whatever she needs and letting my little girl figure things out on her own (where appropriate, of course). I’m getting there, though, because I do think it’s <>extremely<> important. I work with the product of helicopter parents every day.

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Furrow April 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

Yeesh. I so agree with you on this, and I always intended to be that type of parent. As Zo propels herself into toddlerhood, though, it is tougher than I thought to make the transition from giving my baby whatever she needs and letting my little girl figure things out on her own (where appropriate, of course). I’m getting there, though, because I do think it’s <>extremely<> important. I work with the product of helicopter parents every day.

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