My friend does not believe in disciplining her 2-year-old daughter. Yes, you read that right. My friend, let’s call her Lisa, once let her daughter, let’s call her Megan, flush the toilet 30 times. Just because she wanted to. When both of them were at my home for dinner, I watched her daughter deliberately pour a glass of water right over my table. I had to say, “No, Megan!” while my friend just smiled.
My friend confesses that at a recent play date, her daughter smeared a gooey snack all over the host mom’s bedspread. She apologized to the mom but didn’t tell her kid she’d done anything wrong. I’ve stopped speaking to my friend on the phone while Megan is awake, because she screams endlessly while we talk, blasting a hole in my ear. My friend never once says, “Sweetie, I’m on the phone.” Why does she allow all of this? “I guess it’s just easier this way,” my friend admits. “The truth is, I hate to make my daughter cry.”
I asked my friend if she worries that Megan will grow up to be one of those people who believes she can do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with no repercussions. “Mmmm … yeahhhh,” she reluctantly admits. “But I keep hoping one day I’ll start to discipline her. Right now, she’s so young. I figure she’s like a dog. She’s not going to understand what I say anyway.” Umm, okay.
I ask my friend if this could just be making life easier for herself, and she admits it does: “If I tell her not to do something, she pitches a fit. I’d rather just clean up whatever mess she makes than argue with her.” She also admits she leaves the role of “bad cop” to her husband, who is more of a discipline type. She also reveals that this is the way she herself grew up – her parents let her do whatever she liked. And, hey, she didn’t turn out psycho.
Lisa says this laissez faire attitude doesn’t apply if her kid wants to do something dangerous like, say, run into traffic. But sometimes she prefers to let her kid “learn the hard way.” For instance, Megan tried to touch a burning candle and, rather than warn her about it, my friend said, “Go ahead.” Megan got her fingers close enough to realize that a candle was nothing to play around with, didn’t get burned, and now says, “Hot hot” when she sees a candle. Says Lisa, “She’ll learn her lesson that way faster than if I tell her no. If I say no, she just wants to do it more.”
My friend admits to feeling guilty in allowing this parenting style to run rampant in public places. She’ll take her daughter out of a restaurant or other public place if she’s acting up, but there’s no lecture afterwards telling her that she didn’t behave.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Megan (an only child) and her mom, and I’ve sometimes found myself in the role of disciplinarian at their house. Once when Megan was screaming at the dog for “stealing my food” (the dog was nowhere near her food), I told her in a firm voice to “knock it off.” Lisa just grinned. At least my friend doesn’t seem to mind if someone else takes over disciplining, but sometimes feels like a burden I don’t really want. (I draw the line at letting a kid be a brat with pets!) Interestingly, Megan is very attached to me despite my drawing boundaries. She even seems to welcome them.
Luckily, Megan is naturally a pretty good kid -- she throws tantrums and is clearly spoiled, but she’s also good-hearted, loves people and animals (even the dog she screams at), and in general doesn’t act like too much of a lunatic. But I do wonder how she’ll fare in the real world one day. And I do feel sorry for her future teachers!
Does it make you crazy when moms let their kids run the house?
Image via feli*/Flickr