I did it once when our oldest son was about 7-years-old. It was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right at home. No one was having a good day. Maybe it was something in the air, a misalignment in the stars. Maybe the barometric pressure was off that day and it put everyone in a foul mood. Who knows?
It was one of those days when all we could do was try to survive one another until daddy got home around five.
And believe me, survival is exactly how it felt. One minute to the next. I tried all day to remain calm, to be present, to not shut down and vegetate in front of the television like I’m prone to do when the stress is too much.
My then 7-year-old wasn’t having it. He did everything in his power to get a reaction out of me; whether it was good or bad, he didn’t care. He pushed my buttons until I finally gave him what he wanted: a reaction.
I set him out on the front porch. I told him that he wasn’t allowed to come back in until he was done acting the way he’d been acting, until he was ready to follow rules and listen to his mother. It was around 4:45, it wasn’t too hot or too cold outside, and I sat right by the window watching him the entire time. We were both angry, we were both at our wits-end, and it was a last-ditch effort on my part to rattle some sense into him.
Truth is, I hated doing it. Even knowing that he was perfectly safe sitting there on the porch, that I hadn’t put him in any kind of danger, I hated what I’d done as soon as I’d closed the front door on him. What was I teaching him? Sure, some parents will say that I was teaching him that I am the authority; it’s my house and my rules. If he can’t obey those rules, then he doesn’t get to be in the house.
I wasn’t teaching him tolerance.
I wasn’t teaching him obedience.
I certainly wasn’t teaching him love.
I was teaching him that he’s only wanted so long as he can follow the rules. I was teaching him that when people upset you, it’s perfectly okay to set them out on the curb like unwanted things, like you do with broken toys or appliances.
You’re taking that a little far, you may say. But kids think differently than adults. They are both far more literal and far more abstract than we are. They are not tiny adults, they are children, and children receive messages differently than we do. But you have to admit, even for our spouse to say, “you’re pissing me off so you need to go. I don’t want you anymore,” it would hurt.
I know some parents will say that I had every right, and that I did the right thing. They’d do the same thing to their children, because kids need to understand authority, they need to understand respect. They will say that children who have no respect for authority are the same ones running the streets and looting and setting things on fire as we speak. They will say that an inability on behalf of the parents to teach their children respect and obedience to authority is teaching them to be entitled, sniveling idiots.
But you know what I think these entitled, sniveling little idiots lack more than respect and obedience and self-control? Unconditional love. They lack a love that says, “we disagree, and I’m not happy with your opinion, but we can still work together, we can still be civil, we can still be friends.”
Sound like a bunch of hippy talk to you?
Do you know how many children are left to live on the streets because their parents found out they were gay? Do you know how many children have been kicked out or forced into abortions because they got pregnant young and out of wed-lock? Do you know how many children have been ostracized by their entire community because they chose a different religion, or because they chose to love outside of their race?
Nothing says entitlement quite like “this is MY house, MY rules, and if YOU don’t like it, you can get the hell out.”
Nothing says entitlement quite like treating your child like a possession that can be used and disposed of whenever they make YOU unhappy. Or telling your child that you brought them into this world and you’ll take them out of it.
Nothing says entitlement like the parents of the millennial generation.
And I’m not sorry if that pisses you off. You know why? Because if you’re offended by that then you’re probably old enough to be excluded from the Millennial generation, which means that you’re, of course, quite competent enough to handle your emotions responsibly. I.e. not sending me hate mail or telling me that I myself am an entitled know-it-all.
I get it. There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to make the decision that they’re either going to allow their past experiences, their childhood, to control who they become and what they do, or that they’re going to learn from it, grow from it, and do better. I’ve had to do it, and as hard as I try to be a good mom, I’m sure that my children will reach this point, too.
I can’t solely blame the parents for the actions and choices of the child; my mom raised my siblings and I with the same rules and philosophies and we still have that one sibling who went off into left field and got mixed up with some bad people and bad habits. It happens despite our best efforts, trust me, I know.
My point is, unconditional love starts at home. Acceptance starts at home. Responsibility, obedience, and respect begin at home. And it begins with not treating each other like property. It begins with teaching our children that we can still be courteous and amicable in our disagreements with others, even when others call us names and act uncivil. It begins with showing our children that we will love them no matter their grades, their lifestyle choices, the music they listen to, the friends they hang out with, whatever.
If you’re Christian, it begins with understanding that Christ didn’t send Judas away, even knowing that he would betray Him. He broke bread with him, shared in Communion with him. He loved him until the end. He didn’t say, “love your enemies and pray for them, except for that back-stabbing bastard, Judas, over there!”
If Jesus didn’t do it to Judas, and we’re not expected to do it to Jesus when things aren’t going our way, then on what plane of existence would it be okay for us to do this to our own children? The most vulnerable and malleable of all.
Don’t teach your children through your own actions towards them that they’re allowed to treat other people like shit when those people don’t do what they want, don’t give them what they want, don’t fit themselves to their beliefs and ideologies.
We can teach our next generation to speak out against injustice and to speak their minds without being destructive and outright violent. It begins at home.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about situations with adult children that compromise the safety of the household, and/or of themselves. My own family has been in this situation with addictions and stealing. It’s not an easy thing for a family/parent to do, to draw the line between being supportive and being an enabler, and my prayers go out to any families dealing with this type of situation.