You can do it the Easy-Hard way, which is to roll along, give your child his way because he is young and “doesn’t know better”, keep him from crying by handing out cookies, don’t put demands on him to behave well or follow the family rules or contribute. Pick up after him. Do everything for him and expect nothing of him. Don’t teach him to use tools or cut with a knife or carry something to the table, because he might get hurt or break something. Do it yourself and save the mess. Easy. It makes for less stressful times, because a child who gets his way doesn’t pitch fits very often.
The other way is Hard-Easy. It starts out with a bang—rough-riding! It takes lots of energy to train and teach and persuade and correct, and urge and work side-by-side with and expend lots of effort on polishing your little rough-edged baby-child into a smooth diamond. You’ll have to learn to ignore tantrums. You’ll have lots of exhausting “let-me-show-you-how” and “work-with-me” instruction sessions. You’ll have to model being happy yourself and smile and take a proactive role in loving him. It takes creativity, patience and energy to teach a little one how to behave politely, to follow family rules, to pick up after himself, to pull his weight, to respect his elders, to control his emotions and more. There will be cut fingers, broken dishes and messes while he is learning. Hard.
The Easy-Hard way goes along breezily for a few years, maybe even 6 or 8 years, and Mama is serving her child devotedly and life is relatively smooth. The child isn’t developing any skills, and doesn’t have much self-confidence as a result. And the child senses that he is more a liability than an asset to the family. He just wants to have fun and indulge himself and is glad that Mom is picking up after him and doing the cooking, cleaning, toy-buying, driving him here and there, and still handing out cookies to shut him up. He wants bigger treats, more fun, and complains a lot. Mom feels worn out and wishes for school to start (or summer camp) to get the little demon out of her hair. It is getting hard!
As the child grows, the Hard-Easy method continues to be quite a job for Mom. But her child is gaining some skills gradually, and the messes are diminishing a smidgen. When Daddy comments on how good the pancakes are, and the 8-year-old beams and proudly says, “I made them all by myself”, there is some honest-to-goodness self-etsteem and confidence brewing. Mom now has a helper, and an eager learner who wants to gain his parent’s skills and knows he is a contributing family member. Self-control has increased, since the crying and tantrums didn’t do anything but wear him out. He can clean a bathroom, help with dinner, work side-by-side with Dad in painting the kitchen and scheme how to spend his carefully earned money. This child is a joy to Mom and she is proud of him. Guess what? Easy is starting to show its face.
You’re guaranteed to get both the “easy” and the “hard” part of parenting when you raise a child.
Which one do you want to tackle first?
Which direction do you want your child pointing as he moves into adolescence?
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