Monday, February 8, 2010

Bad Kid, Bad Parenting

My wife and I were at the park with our 6-year-old son and saw a little boy wash his friend’s face with a mouthful of juice. Bad kid, bad parenting.

While at the mall, a little girl was screaming at her parents like she was challenging them to a death match -- and winning. Bad kid, bad parenting.

Our boy has been getting in trouble at school for giving random items flight in the classroom, mistaking listening for talking and telling white lies that he’d dragged through soot. Bad kid . . . who the heck’s teaching him all this?

We were embarrassed to hear some of the things our kid was doing. After all, we’re loving, caring, disciplining parents. What’s going on?

When I was young, I was afraid to even think about doing something that could imply anything less than stellar behavior. I feared my dad would kill me, and I never pushed my limits to see if he’d actually follow through.

My son, however, seems perfectly fine pushing his limits to see if I’ll destroy him for bad behavior as I often warn. The problem: I’m like the tough-talking, timid kid in a tussle at the bike racks after school, unable to back down because everyone’s watching but unable to strike.

“Push me one more time and I’ll kill you . . . I just dare you to do it again, cowboy . . . I’m giving you one more chance . . . Keep pushing me and see what happens . . . Now you’re really starting to make me really mad . . . You just pushed me again . . . You just don’t get it, do you?”

My wife and I can’t just kill our kid like I promised, but it’s practically the next step. We can’t take anything else away from him. He’s got nothing -- we took his toys (he’s bored with them anyway), we took away his TV privileges (not much of a punishment with most of today’s programming), we wouldn’t allow playing with others (he’s an only child, so he’s used to it), and Santa Claus wouldn’t visit this Christmas (which could actually help Mom and Dad in these tough financial times).

The kid has no problem taking a spanking. He doesn’t fight it. He just takes it.

“That shows he’s smart,” a friend told me. “He knows his punishment will eventually end and that his slate will be wiped clean. So all is well. That also shows he can take pain and suffering. That’s a leader if I ever saw one. You ever seen ‘Braveheart?’”

Others had similar responses to our kid’s bad behavior.

When I told a co-worker that my kid got reprimanded at school for tattling (kids can’t snitch unless it’s serious), the guy said my son would make a great reporter. “He broke the story first.”

When I told my step-dad that his grandson got in trouble for throwing toys, he said, “Maybe he’ll be a quarterback.”

When my wife told her friends that our son got in trouble for trying to kiss a girl in class, they said the kid was just mature.

Bossing his classmates around meant he had leadership skills. Not telling the truth meant he wasn’t a rat. Spitting and making faces meant he knew how to make an audience laugh. And stealing meant he was business savvy.

To deal with the matter, my wife and I set up a meeting with our son’s teacher. We feared the kid’s teacher wouldn’t let us off the hook like our family and friends so easily did.

And she didn’t. She told us our child’s behavior needed improvement, and she and the principal told us more tales of terror -- pure terror.

My wife and I conclude that we’re stuck with a child who has a behavior problem, who isn’t learning with the punishments we’re giving him. Bad kid, bad parenting.

“He’s only been bad for a couple months,” my mom said. “Learning doesn’t happen overnight. Give him time. He’ll be fine.”

My wife and I took comfort in that.

So maybe our kid won’t be better behaved tomorrow. We’re hoping for results by next week.

-December 2009

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