Parenting It all started when little Jake was one month old.
He quickly learned that boisterous wails would cause his grandmother, Betsy, to rush to his crib. He was well on his way to becoming a little dictator. Betsy, being a kind-hearted and compassionate woman, felt sorry for the boy because he had no father or mother to speak of. Betsy would perform on command every time the child uttered a whimper. Her doctor suggested that she let the boy cry.He further explained that, in time, the child would get the hint that no one would be coming at his every whim.
Jake’s rein of terror would have ended if his grandmother had taken her doctor’s advice, but she ignored the suggestion. The effect was predictable: soon, Betsy was suffering from exhaustion. Is it any surprise that, by the time Jake reached his first birthday, his first word was no? Jake, please don’t throw your toys, his grandmother would plead sweetly. No! was Jake’s reply as he hurled a hard plastic ball at Granny.Eat your cereal, his Granny would say.
With a sweep of his little hand, Jake knocked the cereal bowl to the floor while he bellowed another No!. All right, Jake, Granny replied, If you don’t like the cereal, I’ll fix you something else. Filled with hope, she mistakenly thought the boy would outgrow this behavior.
By the time he was five years old, Jake did not hesitate to throw very public tantrums.He once sprawled out on the department store floor, kicking and screaming because he had been denied a toy he wanted. Embarrassed by his behavior, Betsy quickly placed the toy in the shopping cart and proceeded through the checkout line. When they arrived at home, Betsy informed Jake that his behavior had been inappropriate. We don’t act like that in public, she explained. I am certain that the boy was thinking, Why not? It works.When Jake was ten, Granny warned him that if he did not do his homework he would not be allowed to go camping with his friends the following month.
Jake promised to do his homework, but a phone call from the school confirmed that he had not turned in a single homework assignment during the entire semester. After a mild scolding, the lad made a half-hearted attempt to finish his assignments. He complained that the work was too hard, and that he didn’t understand the material. Grateful for the meager crumbs that Jake offered, Granny began to help him with his homework, often doing most of it herself.
Soon the time came for the camping trip. Wearing a halo and a pasted-on smile, Jake asked in his most angelic voice whether he could go. Granny consented.
She was afraid that the boy would revert back to zero homework performance if she disallowed this outing. At twelve, Jake had completed the last three years of his schooling by attending summer school. Every morning, Granny begged him to get up for school, but Jake lingered until he missed the school bus.
Granny then dutifully drove him to school so that he would not be late.Of course, the cafeteria food was not good enough for him, so Jake was handed a ten dollar bill each morning to purchase two hoagies and a large soft drink at the local convenience store. By the time Jake turned fourteen, he was roaming the streets with his friends every night past curfew. Demanding to wear the latest and most expensive fashion, he got what he wanted.
Jake was denied nothing by his grandmother. Smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and mouthing off to Granny in the most foul language had become a way of life for Jake.Finally acknowledging that Jake was well on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent, Betsy decided to take him to a psychologist. Despite paying thousands of dollars towards the cause, she could discern no positive changes. The psychologist diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, which now gave Jake a handy excuse for his inappropriate behavior. Soon, Betsy was on the phone with her oldest son, Dennis. She complained that Jake would not listen to her.
She cried, wondering where she had gone wrong. After two years of phone calls and letters to her son and daughter-in-law, Betsy decided that it would be in the child’s best interest if he went to live with his Uncle Dennis and Aunt Virginia. Confident that he possessed an arsenal of finely honed psychological skills, Jake agreed without an argument. Welcome to boot camp! Uncle Dennis, a retired Marine, and Aunt Virginia, who was dubbed Drill Instructor by her own boys, now had charge of Jake.
Having heard of all his misdeeds over a two-year period, the uncle-and-aunt team were mentally, psychologically, and physically ready for this wayward child.The first order of business was to set down the rules of the house. The first rule was simple.
If you miss the school bus, do not wake us up to haul your butt to school. Instead, you will move a pile of firewood from one end of the farm to the other. When you are through moving and stacking the firewood, you will then move it back to its original spot. You will continue to do this until the school day is over.
The threat worked: Jake never missed the school bus. The next rule was also made clear. You will not wear those baggy, ragged jeans to school. You will wear the new clothes we purchased for you. This rule was almost immediately challenged. After Jake got off the school bus wearing the tattered jeans, Aunt Virginia immediately stormed to his bedroom with a fluorescent pink permanent marker in hand. She proceeded to write the words WORK CLOTHES down the pant legs of the offensive denims.
The next rule was easy to understand, yet hard to accept. If you are given a job to perform, don’t complain about it. This rule was challenged many times, until Jake finally realized what Uncle Dennis was doing.
One spring day, Jake was asked to mow the lawn. After one hour, he complained that the work was too hard and that he was getting tired.Okay, said Uncle Dennis. Put away the lawn mower. Jake’s feeling of pride over his victory was short-lived: he was soon assigned to dig rocks out of the stream and place them on the driveway. It took Jake six months to discover that complaining was synonymous with more hard work. Jake finally admitted that, in the psychology arena, he was carrying a one-shot pistol, while his aunt and uncle were carrying automatic weapons.
When Jake brought home his first report card, it became clear that he was circling the bowl in the grade department. It was time for the next rule: Summer school is not an option.If you fail, you will repeat the grade. Jake grumbled, How can you do this to me? His objections were met with stern serenity: We’re not doing anything to you, said his uncle. It’s up to you whether you pass or fail. Jake was beginning to learn that the cause of his misery was his own attitude. Six months ago, Jake found the courage to offer his grandmother a sincere apology and ask for her forgiveness.Today, Jake is fulfilling his duties as student body President as he prepares to graduate and attend the college of his choice.
With a 3.5 grade point average, Jake has his pick of many colleges, yet he hopes to attend a university near his aunt and uncle. He finally admits that he needed the discipline to find true pride in his accomplishments and, as a bonus, he now has peace of mind. If you are a parent who has lost control over your child, do not lose hope. With a little assertiveness, you can turn your contrary child into a productive citizen.