Are Parents Too Soft These Days?

Whether you have kids or not, you know the horror of a screaming child having a temper tantrum in the middle of a supermarket. Or on a subway. Or in an airplane. The outburst is so exhausting for everyone around that many airlines have even implemented kid-free zones on their aircrafts. But is the parent the one to blame for this? My single friends seem to think so. “Parents these days don’t know how to discipline,” or, “They need to get control of their kids.” I seriously doubt they’d be any better at taming the wild beast that is a two year old, but I started to wonder if my generation has gotten too soft when parenting?

One of my friends who has a 3-year-old son recently told me she’d rather be her kid’s friend than parent. Like many parents today, she said she feels guilty disciplining her son and wishes she could skip ahead to being his friend (if you feel this way too, take a look at our guilt-free guide to discipline). I agree. Parenting would be much easier in a lot of ways and much more fun if parents were the buddies and not the bad guys, but discipline during the early years is crucial in helping your child grow and live a healthy life.

The way you discipline your children and what works best for your family is entirely up to you, but if you’re a softie like my friend and think you could use a little encouragement or guidance, look through these discipline tactics for every age. One particular instance from my childhood comes to mind when I think of a mistake I made and how my mom handled it without being a total bad guy.

When I was four, I got a hold of a pair of scissors (if you’re a parent of a little girl, you know exactly where I’m going with this story). All it took was one swift chop at the very root of my hair and the entire bang section was gone. I, of course, didn’t care (I was a ‘90s baby, and mullets were all the rage), and I’m sure I didn’t think my parents would mind either.

When my mom got home and saw the damage, she was as mad as a mom can be at a little girl who made a cute mistake. But she didn’t just brush it off, either. She explained to me why I shouldn’t cut my hair and reminded me that I should never play with scissors while I’m alone. As the consequence, she made me pick up every snippet of hair I left in the carpet and watch as she taped it to the refrigerator. Every time we walked into the kitchen for weeks until the hair somewhat grew back, I’d stop and point at the lock of hair and ask my mom, “That’s a no-no?” She would respond with, “That’s a no-no.” She was patient, persistent, and calm throughout the whole time. To me, she wasn’t the bad guy. She was my teacher. And guess what? I never cut my bangs again.

The moral is kids need discipline. Kids like discipline. OK, that might be a stretch, but kids like to know that their parents care. To be honest, I didn’t need my parents’ friendship growing up. I had friends at school, at dance class, in the neighborhood, etc. What I needed was someone who was going to teach me right from wrong. It’s not a friend’s job to do that. That’s a parent’s job.

As far as supermarket tantrums go, I’m not sure we can base how well a parent disciplines off of how dramatic the screaming fit is, but it never hurts to learn and try different techniques with your kids to find what works best for you, whether you’re stern or a softie at heart.

I’m finally at that stage in my life where I can be friends with my parents. It’s a relationship that both sides have to earn, and it comes with time and respect. But to this day, I still have a healthy fear of my parents. All my mom has to do is shoot me the eye, and I feel like a four year old standing in front of the fridge again.

Image: Little girl crying via Shutterstock by Shanta Giddens

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