Let me start off with a few good reasons parents should stand their ground:
- Granting children everything they want may lead them to believe that negative actions are the way to attain anything. Kids quickly learn that every time they throw a fit, mom and dad break down and oblige, so they’ll use this method more often than not to get what they want.
- Kids are incapable of running a household, and when decision-making falls predominantly on their shoulders, chaos often ensues. While offering choices provides empowerment and holds kids accountable, leaving all decision-making at kids’ hands leads to a household with little order, no respect and lack of authority. It’s like Lord of the Flies where kids are given too much power to make decisions that should be left to adults.
- When kids grow into adults, they’ll quickly learn that while their parents often bent the rules, the rest of the world doesn’t. Kids may have an easy time pulling strings with their parents, but they’ll they enter school and face classmates and teachers who will have little patience for their antics. More importantly, they’ll grow into adults who won’t understand that jobs, partners and goals don’t come so easily.
These are all great reasons to keep in mind when your kid is constantly pushing your buttons and you’re tempted to give in every single time. But perhaps the biggest reason we shouldn’t be so permissive is this:
It frightens them.
I recently picked up the book The Bright Kid Challenge by Andrew Fuller (as recommended by SSBE reader Mairi in the bookshelf page… thanks, Mairi!) and loved this quote (emphasis mine):
It is not a great thing to win every argument when you are three or four years old. Not only does that mean that your tantrums are more powerful than your parents, it also raises the frightening prospect that there is no one stronger to protect you. For parents, this means that you can’t afford to crumple every time your child raises his voice. Do not give in to his every last whim.
Of course there will be times when you’ll pick your battles—some issues are actually easier to resolve when you make exceptions to the rule (not to mention saving your sanity). But in general, kids need to know that we’ll stand up against their whims and tantrums. When kids throw tantrums, their brains aren’t even processing events logically, and the emotions that run through them can often feel like a monster taking over.
Tantrums in themselves are scary enough. Now imagine feeling like no one—not even your parents—can put a stop to them.
When we stand our ground, kids will also know that they don’t bear the responsibility or power to change the course of the world. The prospect of having so much power can seem terrifying to young kids who, at this age, would better thrive under the leadership of responsible adults than given free reign to make choices beyond their capabilities. Of course they should be encouraged to explore and assert themselves, but within the boundaries established by their parents.
I had known that being too lenient has its costs, but the fact that doing so frightens children was a new revelation to me. We also think about tantrums as the kids wanting things their way, but in reality, what they really want is for us to help them. I realized that fussiness wasn’t simply yet another challenge in this parenting journey, but an experience reminding our kids that we will protect them, even from themselves.
What are your reasons for standing your ground with your kids? Do you have a difficult time standing your ground against outbursts?