Don’t Let Mother Strike – Fire Her Instead

By Jason Menard

The mother who’s fed up and can’t take it anymore, pitching a tent on her front lawn and declaring that she’s on strike from parenting shouldn’t be allowed to walk out – she should be fired!

Complaining that her children are unruly, disrespectful, and unwilling to help out around the house, she chooses to stage a grandstanding display for the masses deftly attempting to deflect the blame from where it should lie – herself.

Now, let me state that I know intimately how difficult it is for a single mother to make a go of it in today’s world. But I also know there are many single mothers – and fathers – out there who are making it work. They’re able to be proud of their children and these kids are often more responsible and dedicated that their colleagues from two-parent homes.

I also know unruly kids who, despite living with two parents, are veritable hellions – destructive, uncontrollable, and unpleasant to be around.

And in both cases, the majority of the blame falls to the parent or parents.

Kids need boundaries. Parents want to be their kids’ friends and not come across as the bad guy. The two don’t always mix. Sometimes parenting’s difficult, sometimes it downright sucks. And there’s nothing worse than having to see the sadness or disappointment in your child’s eyes when they’ve had a much-anticipated event or gift taken away for poor behaviour.

It breaks your heart. But it’s also part of the tempering process that will forge our children into responsible adults. Sometimes, you just have to say no – as much as you want to give your children everything and anything they desire, to do so doesn’t teach them the realities of life.

My wife and I aren’t perfect parents by any stretch of the imagination. To some we may be considered strict, in that our kids are severely restricted in their activities on school days. And if requested tasks aren’t completed, then playtime is postponed. Oh, and TV, video games, and computer time? A maximum allotment each day.

Is it easy? Of course not. It’s hard to make a 12-year-old see the value of dedicating time to homework while his friends, often from the same class, are out playing in the street in front of him. And while their parents may not see the value of putting their kids to bed early, we know that our kids need a set amount of sleep. If that means going to bed earlier than their friends do (or, more likely, say they do) then so be it. We’ll be the bad guy.

In any case – and this includes our own children – negative behaviour can be traced to parenting decisions. And once a behaviour is ingrained, whether it be coming out of bed repeatedly at night or refusing to sit at the dinner table to eat, it only gets harder to change as they get older. After all, if the children have been conditioned to accept one reality, why should it come as a surprise that they’re resistant to changes to their status quo?

Sympathetic to the plight of the single mother, her status does not allow her to abdicate her role as a parent. However, her lack of judgment is apparent in her reference to the state of her kids’ rooms (I’m sure people through whose homes Hurricane Katrina did go through would love to switch places, even today).

Sure, you can say the kids are old enough to know better. But if you’ve grown up all your life being told that blue is green, why should you be expected to believe otherwise just because of a calendar? These kids have grown up with behaviour that’s been accepted to this point, so is it their fault that they behave selfishly?

Unfortunately, empathy comes later in life. As we get older, we are able to look back and appreciate more the travails we put our parents through. But as children, adolescents, and teenagers, we live in a world that’s very small – it revolves around us and our friends. It is only through the restrictions and guides that our parents set that we develop into well-rounded adults, capable of accepting responsibility and making sound decisions. If we’re not taught that, then whose fault is it?

If this mother didn’t want her house to turn into a pig sty, then perhaps she should have made her kids clean the room. If they refused, then luxuries would be restricted. If they continued to refuse, then there would be consequences – certainly one that wouldn’t involve a foosball table. It may be hard, it may require patience and stubbornness, but eventually the delineation between parent and child, rule-maker and rule-follower would have been set. No one ever said parenting is easy – and it isn’t. But the rewards in the end far outweigh the challenges.

Instead, this striking mother has chosen to teach her children another lesson. One where when life gets too tough, or you don’t get your way, instead of working through it together in a rational manner, you simply give up and walk away from your responsibilities.

Forget a strike. This should be a lockout.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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