Q: Of late, our 8-year-old daughter has not been completing chores and following directions. On the morning of a recent soccer game, she again failed to follow some simple directions. On the way to the game, I calmly told her that when we arrived, she would tell her coach she was unable to play because she had not followed her parent's directions at home. She balked, so I told her that either she obeyed or she would miss the remainder of the soccer season. She complied, and we went home where she sulked a good bit before ultimately realizing that it was better to follow directions. Was I too harsh? Some of my friends seem to think so.
A: Your friends are jealous that you are able to do what they cannot bring themselves to do: discipline their children with purpose. They envy you, but are unable to admit their envy (also known as “denial”). They wish you would not be a constant reminder to them of their weakness. I encourage you to never surrender to their pressure. Keep up the good work! Perhaps through your good example you will eventually rescue one or two of them from the belittling confines of the “Good Mommy Box.”
Concerning what you did: I have said it many times, but it bears repeating: There is no point to a consequence if it does not produce a permanent memory. Your daughter will tell this story to her grandchildren some day. More immediately, and as you have witnessed, this experience has greatly contributed to her rehabilitation.
As a result of your courage in the face of peer pressure, you are this week's winner of my "Let 'Em Know You Mean Business" award. Congratulations!
Q: My 8-year-old son is the youngest in his third grade class. Some students are more than a year older because most parents are holding back boys these days. I am concerned because he is really struggling socially. His old friends are leaving him out. He says he has only one friend who is also younger and kind of immature. Should we consider holding him back a grade to see if that helps?
A: If he is performing at grade level, then holding him back would be an example of robbing Peter to pay Paul – solving one problem, maybe, but definitely creating another. I was the youngest in my class, always (I did not turn 18 until November of my freshman year in college), and while I retrospectively recognize that “maturity issues” were a problem for me, in the final analysis they were not any more problematic than the other sorts of problems my older classmates were dealing with in their lives.
Let’s face it: problems of one sort or another are the inevitable result of being human and alive. They are unavoidable. Today’s parents, and moms in particular, think they are responsible for solving all of their children’s problems and therefore emancipating young adults who are devoid of “issues.” It can’t be done, and the attempt to do it damages both mother and child in ways that are ultimately worse than the original problems.
I would simply tell your son that everyone has problems of one sort or another. In every case, our problems can either strengthen us or weaken us, depending on whether we do or do not step up to the plate and deal with them as best we can. You can, and should, help him deal with his social problems. Find after-school social groups for him where the children are his age, for example. But you try to actually solve his problem at his peril.