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Going Against the Current

Sarah Chana Radcliffe

Wise to deny our kids something all their friends have?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

“M


y daughter is giving me a hard time. Her close friends all have access to some sort of technology. My husband and I agree that bringing devices into the home is very dangerous spiritually. But other parents are more lax than we are. Am I supposed to give in to her demands or should I stick to my guns?

“This particular child really cares what others think of her, and she feels her friends look down on her as being uncool. She tells me she ‘hates’ me for my ‘stupid’ rules. What if I’m pushing her over the edge and she ends up rebelling because of my policy?”

 

Standing Apart

No one said that parenting is easy.

Parents can try to raise their children any way they want. It’s their prerogative to inculcate values in their home. They can teach, model, and discipline their children but they cannot “make” a child absorb anything.

When the child is very young, it’s easier to be in control, refusing to grant permission for certain activities and possessions while endorsing others. However, as the child grows older, more independent, and more vocal, parents often feel more challenged and less certain as to how far they can push their agenda without causing some sort of backlash.

“My children used to accept all our rules. I think they took a certain pride in being different. None of them complained — until Mimi came along.

“From a very young age, Mimi insisted that we get her the headbands, toys, and pencil cases that were popular among her peers. When she became a teenager, she was impossible! She just had to have whatever everyone else had whether we could afford it or not and whether we endorsed it or not. She was the youngest, and we found ourselves giving in a lot.”

Perhaps a parent can be worn down by the intense protest of a youngest child. But when the child is the oldest, there are other considerations.

“Our son wants this device that all his friends have. His behavior is uncontrollable around the home — he terrorizes the younger kids when he’s bored. We felt that the only way we could keep everyone safe and keep him contained was to get that device and use it as a reward for appropriate behavior and as a punishment when he misbehaved. But the problem is that bringing that device into our house is going to affect the rest of the family.

“Right now we’ve been doing our best to hide it, but I’m not sure how long we can keep that up for. Also, I feel like our son can “blackmail” us into getting him more things we don’t want him to have because of his behavior. It’s a horrible feeling of losing control of the parenting process.”

 

Tricky Balance

Parents don’t like abdicating their role as leaders in their home, so why do they do it? Sometimes, like this parent, they feel they have no choice. They haven’t found an effective way to manage a child’s behavior apart from giving him what he wants and depriving him of the same when he transgresses.

Sometimes the child is emotionally fragile and cannot pass the test of being different without experiencing destructive trauma. Other times, parents are afraid of the child’s ongoing implied — or stated — threat of dropping religious observance or removing himself from the protective family circle.

Many times, parental ambivalence (“Is it really right to make my child be different from her friends?”) causes them to go against their own better judgment or their values. And they’re not wrong for being uncertain. One never knows how far one can go with a child before damage is done.

At the end of the day, every child and every family situation is unique. There isn’t a pat answer for whether or not parents should attempt to make their child somehow different from the peer group in which they placed him or her. One child’s displeased temper tantrums are nothing more than noise to be tolerated for a couple of years while another child’s protests are a harbinger of a complete and permanent break from family bonds. In situations like these, strive to “know your customer,” seek guidance, and pray.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 635)

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