It’s a Hard Knock Life

Lately, it seems as if my job has become more social worker, psychologist and Peanuts-style-Lucy-advice-giver than investigator. I’m okay with that because it means maybe I can help a family before law enforcement actually has to step-in and take action that is more permanent in nature. I’m not trained in any specific field, but I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve had two kids of my own who are doing okay. Combine that with the fact I was a bit of a hellion as a teenager (and from time to time today),  I can see the world in a perspective that is sometimes unique.

I had a conversation the other day with a parent who has done everything for their child, has battled all of their battles for them and now is having problems with him. I had to ask them, “Why did you do this?”

I know it’s hard as a parent to see your child suffer, but there are natural consequences to one’s actions and I believe it’s not to early to start teaching your children that. If you touch a hot stove, you will get burned. Depending on the age of the child, you might pull their hand away and spank it. For older kids, they might actually touch the stove and realize, “When I touch it, it IS hot.” If you don’t follow the logical progression of teaching a younger child natural consequences, then when that child becomes a teenager, problems ensue.

This parent called me because he couldn’t get his son up for school. He’s gone so far as to set his own alarm an hour and a half early so he can start the process of nagging, scolding, yelling, yanking the covers off the bed, turning the radio up loud, using water as a wake up device, pulling his son out of the bed and dragging him to the closet…. well, you get the idea. I asked him why he was doing that. He said if he didn’t do that his son wouldn’t get up and would miss the bus then he would have to take him and be late to work himself.

Excuse me?
Can you say enabling?

I understand the school district’s policy on tardies and absences and a parent’s responsibility to take one’s child to school. However, this kid is almost 17 years old. At what point do you say enough already? And that’s exactly what I asked him.

He was stunned by my question so I asked him again and was met by silence.

I explained. In another year, this kid will graduate and then probably go to college. He’ll get a job. I asked him, “Are you going to be getting him up for college or awake in time for work everyday? Are you going to call his boss and explain to him that he’s late or write him a note or take him to his job because he just couldn’t get it together to get up on time? At what point do you say, ‘Enough?'”

I also asked him what time this kid goes to bed. He said that it’s anywhere between 10pm and 2am. I have teenagers, one of which carries a heck of a course load, but there is NO need for a regular 2am bedtime when you have to get up early for school. Teenagers need a recommended NINE hours of sleep a night. (Resource: National sleep foundation) Obviously that’s not going to happen and things are going to suffer. No wonder that kid can’t get out of bed. He’s working against a biological drive to sleep.

He said I made a very valid point he hadn’t thought about and thanked me for my time.

A few days later, he called me back. He told me that night when his son came home he basically threw down the gauntlet and told him to set his alarm and to be in bed no later than 10pm on school nights; he was no longer waking him up for school and if he missed his bus, he could walk. Apparently his son didn’t buy it. His son woke up about 11am and called his father at work to take him. Dad stood firm and told him, “You have two legs. Use them.”  The day after that, he didn’t wake him up again and the son again missed the bus. He called his father and apparently begged him to pick him up and take him to school. Dad told him, “Son, I can’t do that because you need to learn to do some things on your own. This is one of them. Do it.” On the third day, his son was up and ready to meet the bus.

I’d like to say that all is going to be perfect, but we all know that bad habits are hard to break. I’m glad that this father is working toward instilling new, healthy ones in his son before it’s way too late.

The School of Hard Knocks isn’t an easy one. However, I believe that as our children become older, we have to give them more responsibility to do some things on their own and make their own mistakes. After all, if we don’t do that, we haven’t properly prepared them for the adult world that is to follow and that’s not the School of Hard Knocks. It’s the World of Hard Knocks.


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