One of my favorite pastimes, when out in public, is people-watching. I confess to being a quite curious onlooker, always noticing the people around me and constantly aware of others’ conversations, emotions and actions. When my husband and I are out together, he can be completely oblivious of the people around us, while I rarely miss a thing that happens in our general vicinity. I am just wired that way…with a people radar that just won’t turn off. Sometimes, this is a good thing, enabling me to be sensitive to others’ needs and emotions. Other times, I wish I could turn it off, as I get discouraged watching the way people relate to each other. Lately, there seems to be a common thread in my observations about parents and their children…the grownups appear to be missing. No, I don’t mean that they’ve been abducted by aliens and the children are running around unsupervised. Instead, it appears that we parents have forgotten that we’re supposed to be in charge and have abdicated that role of authority.
During a recent trip to the grocery store, I had the misfortune of following a mother and her young daughter. The girl was about four years old, and had long figured out who was in charge…and it wasn’t her mother. She whined and manipulated her way down each aisle, begging for desired items and threatening to break into a tantrum if she was refused. As soon as the storm clouds crossed her face, her mother would begin to backpedal. “Oh, okay, honey, you can have that cereal/cookies/chips/etc.” I watched in disbelief as the girl controlled the majority of the purchases her mother was making. She spoke very disrespectfully to her mother, never receiving a reprimand. I seriously thought about changing my route in the store to avoid listening to this, as it made my heart ache. Here was a child, only four years old, who already knew how to get everything she wanted. She firmly believed that she deserved these things, and that it was her right to have them. My mind fast-forwarded to the future, picturing this girl at sixteen, demanding iPods, new cars, expensive clothes, and the freedom to do whatever she dared, with no thought for the consequences. I felt such sorrow at the likely future that awaits this little girl that I wanted desperately to stop her mother and say, “Have you ever thought about saying “No”? Who’s the grownup here?”
Later, I ended up behind this pair in the checkout line. The mother left the girl alone in line, while she went to find a forgotten item. It only took a few seconds for this girl to start working on me. “I want that magazine…it has Halloween pictures. I LOVE Halloween…I want that magazine!” I ignored her for awhile, until she began pointedly telling me, “Get me that magazine!” I looked her straight in the eyes and told her firmly that she would have to wait and ask her mother. Her lip stuck out and her brow furrowed, but I was saved the embarrassment of a tantrum by the return of her mother. The girl started in on her mother, who told her, “I already got you gum.” The girl retorted, “I didn’t choose that…you did. I want the magazine!” The mother sighed and reached for the magazine. Upon receiving it, the girl flipped through it and decided it didn’t have any pumpkin pictures in it, so she didn’t want it. I watched as she waved the magazine under her mother’s nose, telling her to put it back. Mom was busy writing a check and studiously ignoring her, so I finally offered to replace it for her. She shoved it at me rudely, turned to the candy rack and started demanding a lollipop. Her mother sighed again and replied, “I’ve already paid…I’ll find you a lollipop at home.” Again, I watched in disbelief as the mother caved in to each demand. They finally began to walk out of the store, when the girl noticed a rack of DVD’s and began demanding a certain one be purchased. The mother kept on walking and got halfway to the door before she realized the girl was not following her. She came back and took the DVD away, telling her, “We’ve already paid. We’ll buy it next time.” As they walked off, the grocery checker exchanged a look with me and just shook her head.
I wish that this were an isolated incident, but I’m afraid it is more the norm these days. Everywhere I go, I see adults catering to their child’s every whim, afraid to say the simple word, “No.” I see children with no respect for authority, believing they are entitled to whatever they want. I see parents arguing with their children, cajoling them instead of showing some authority. I’ve started to wonder, “Where have all the grownups gone?” We have become a generation of parents who are afraid to say no, afraid to discipline our children, being controlled by their every whim. I shudder to think what these children will grow up to be—adults who don’t want to work, don’t have respect for anyone, and who think they are entitled to whatever they want.
If you are a parent, please remember that God has given you the authority to raise and discipline your children. One of my favorite verses in the Bible regarding discipline says this: “Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them.” (Proverbs 23:13) Another nugget of wisdom from Proverbs says: “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (Proverbs 19:18) God takes our role as parents very seriously…He commands us multiple times to discipline our children carefully. He expects us to act like grownups…not abdicate that role to be controlled and manipulated by our children. We are certainly not doing our children a favor when we give up disciplining them. Instead, we are failing them and condemning them to a life as a perpetual child, without the wisdom and self-control that should come with adulthood. On the contrary, when we love them enough to raise them with love and discipline, God says they will bring us peace and be a delight to our souls. (Proverbs 29:17)
It’s time to step up to the plate…our children and our world are certainly in need of some grownups.
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