I set a curfew tonight. One son came back on time; the other son didn’t. He was late… and not just a little late. I wasn’t mad; I was sad. I was sad because in order to help him learn that rules do apply, I HAD to do something about it. That “something” was going to make him unhappy. I’m a people person… I like people to be happy. I especially dislike being the cause of someone else’s unhappiness. But if I let my beloved son get away with his violation, I would be a liar. To set a rule with a kid and then not have the courage to follow through is to teach them that our word means nothing. They learn that they can get away with breaking rules. If they learn they can get away with breaking rules, then when they are making potentially life-or-death decisions about drinking, driving, drugs, buckling up, having sex and taking risks, how likely are they to make the hard, unpopular decisions that can save their lives? If we parents don’t have the courage to “cause a stir” and follow through, how can we expect our young people to have the courage to make hard decisions to say “no?” Oh my gosh, does it ever take courage to tell a teenager that you are following through! Heck, it takes courage to tell a three year old that you are following through! The parent of the teen faces surliness and anger; the parent of the toddler faces tantrums and public embarrassment. So I wasn’t a liar tonight. I imposed a penalty. I stand no chance of getting a “Popular Mom” award anytime soon. I was not permitted to bestow a goodnight kiss on the top of his head. The whole thing was painful… for both of us. But maybe… just maybe, that precious son of mine is the teeniest bit more likely to make a good decision when his life depends on it. And for that, I can tolerate just about any amount of discomfort or lack of popularity.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents
As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.