Doris Wrote: “Beth, you mentioned that you have raised a number of children, and it sounds like they turned out good. Can you help me with my daughter? She has a 4 year old daughter who is running the house. I feel helpless. My granddaughter goes to bed whenever she wants and talks back to my daughter. She refuses to eat and demands to be fed whenever she wants to eat.
I’ve tried to discipline my granddaughter, but my daughter just gets angry. I didn’t raise her that way, and I don’t know why she is trying to be her 4 year old’s best friend. It’s driving me crazy!”
Hi Doris – I would prefer to have this conversation with your daughter, since things can get lost in translation. So I will write this as if I’m writing to her. You can direct her to this blog and perhaps she will respond to me and I can help her find her way.
Dear Doris’s Daughter: Rather than lecture you on what you are or aren’t doing… let’s take a trip into the future. Tell me what you think your daughter will be like in 10 years? 20 years? Are you giving your child, who has only walked on the planet for 48 months, the kinds of tools she will need to survive in a complicated and difficult world? Or are you setting her up for failure? Do you really believe a four year old child has enough information to make good decisions for herself? Is she able to choose wisely on matters that will affect her for the next 50 years? IMHO you are letting her down if you don’t pony up and be the grownup in this situation.
One of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is self-discipline along with self-respect. Neither of those come from a parent who wants to be their best friend. Indeed, the author John Rosemond (who is my favorite parenting author) says the fewer the boundaries we set for our kids, the more anxious and insecure they become. Insecure children are vulnerable to bullies, and to the war on innocence: sex, drugs and violence. He also says, “Parenting is not a popularity contest!”
If you insist on being your daughter’s friend and shirk your duty as a grownup, your daughter won’t know how to make friends on her own. She won’t learn how to manage and control her emotions. She will grow up thinking the world revolves around her and that’s a recipe for very tumultuous teenage years. As I told my stepdaughters, “I love you too much to let you be spoiled. Spoiled people don’t get hired, they don’t have friends, they get fired from jobs they do get, and they grow up to be mean, sad and angry people. So, no, I won’t spoil you. Now go do your chores.”
“If you don’t get enough time outs as a child, you WILL get them as a grownup!”
Here’s one thing I know for sure because I’ve seen it, children who have no responsibility and no accountability placed on their shoulders (appropriate to their age, of course) grow up to be a royal pain in the you-know-what. In ten years your darling baby girl will be mugged by her hormones. Her permanent face will be a pout or a snarling lip. While it’s easy to send a 50 pound child to her room, try it when she’s as tall as you and 100 pounds! Children are like puppies. They are happier when they are taught how to behave and when they know what’s expected of them. All the research on Resilient Children shows that love, discipline, clear boundaries, and clear roles between parent and child help to create strong kids with the ability to bounce back. Give her that gift.
As my stepdaughters’ father once told them, “If you don’t get enough time-outs as a child, you WILL get them as a grownup!” And nothing is more profound than that. The prisons and graveyards are full of people who didn’t get enough time-outs as children.
My question for you is this: Are you willing to do what it takes to be the grownup? That might mean taking parenting classes. It might mean listening to your mother’s years of experience. Or perhaps there’s another parent who has successfully raised kids that you can talk with. Are you willing to grow a backbone and take the lead so this child has a fighting chance in this crazy messed up world? If not, please turn your daughter over to your mother and let her raise her granddaughter. Your child deserves to be in a home where she is loved enough to be taught self discipline, self-respect and self control.
Good luck to you both!
© 2014 Beth Terry, CSP • All Rights Reserved