I put the gift card a friend sent me on the kitchen counter, thinking it would be a fun after-school treat one day. And every time my daughter saw it sitting there, she asked if we could go.
We finally had a brief break in our busy lives and piled into the car after dinner for a quick trip. But from the moment we buckled seat belts, the arguing started. My kids love each other, but “liking” one another seems optional some days. The bickering quickly escalated and I threatened them from the front seat. Stop or we’re turning around.
They ignored my warning and continued picking and pestering each other. I warned again and they didn’t stop long enough to listen. A mile or so later, I sighed and gave my husband a questioning look. He shook his head no and I knew we were about to have some unhappy kids.
You know that feeling you get when you’re about to knowingly make your kids mad? I hate that. But I’m compelled to do it anyway. Like that time I told my daughter we were done with Disney Channel sitcoms and all their sassy backtalk and bad attitudes. It was like the apocolypse for 30 minutes. I encouraged her to “get it all out” because I wasn’t changing my mind. She wailed and whined and then in true Disney fashion let it go. She never asked to watch them again.
I actually love seeing my children happy and I don’t set out to make them unhappy. But my husband and I are the authority in their lives. It’s our job to place rules and guidelines in our home. It’s also our job to follow thru on consequences when they are broken. One is a lot easier than the other. And so it happens nearly every day in some way–unhappiness.”Disobedience leads to discipline. It’s not a suggestion; it’s a consequence. We discipline our children because we love them,” Jason Sheppherd.
Because their temporary unhappiness as kids–learning to submit to authority and obedience –is worth it if it produces adults who love God and others.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with not only making our kids happy by giving them everything they want, but also by trying to keep them happy. It’s an impossible, exhausting task. I’ve tried it. Maybe you have to. But instead of making kids happier, it just makes them want more. And more often leads to more emptiness. Because deep down our kids long for authority and structure. They crave guidelines and rules because that’s one of the major ways they fill loved by us.
But that doesn’t make it easy. As a matter of fact, the tension of doing what’s best for our kids even when it means they are temporarily unhappy is just plain hard. I wrestle with it constantly and actually cried a bucket about it recently. The temptation to fix all their problems, ease all their anxiety and make life easier without difficulty or challenge is real. But when we do just that, we actually make life in the future a lot harder. Letting them experience small disappointments now helps them handle big ones later on. And it leaves me wondering if this question by author and therapist Lori Gottlieb could be true: “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?”
My husband turned his truck around and headed back to our house. It took a minute, but the arguing died down and it got very quiet in the backseat. Then there was a little begging, promises and a lot of regret.
But the beauty of parenting is the grace of second chances. That gift card eventually got used and it was appreciated even more the second time around.