Monday, March 18, 2013

Who's the boss?

On Saturday, I read a question on Facebook that a relative posted about her 18 month old son climbing out of his crib.

On Sunday, I read a news story about two high school football players who were convicted of rape and sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile detention facility.

How could the stories of a toddler throwing his leg over the crib rail and a rape conviction possibly be related? Are there studies proving babies who climb out of their cribs go on to lead lives of crime? Of course not! But something in the rape store reminded me of some of the responses to the query on FB about the crib-climber. And that’s that the boys in the rape story, according to Yahoo.com’s Dan Wetzel, “exploited permissive parents.”

Permissive parenting is all the rage right now. Parents want to be buddies, not, well, parents. It’s no fun to say no. Kids like hearing, “Yes.” When a mom or dad actually says, "No," it can get nasty. And who wants to deal with nasty? Going along to get along seems so much nicer, doesn’t it?

Well, sure. Until you realize you’ve said yes to your precious darling so much that he’s now running around at all hours of the night, drinking and doing who-knows-what to a drunk girl. Oh, wait: we do know what. Because they took pictures and videos of the act.

What does this have to do with a toddler climbing out of his crib? Well, some of the suggestions on how to deal with the situation involved giving in – “Just move him to a toddler bed,” was a common reply, as was using a crib tent.

Why didn’t anyone say, “Guess it’s time to teach Junior how to stay in his crib?” Because the real problem isn’t a baby learning how to climb out of the crib; the real problem is who’s in charge of when naptime is over. If mom’s in charge, she needs to teach Baby to stay there until she gets him up. If Baby’s in charge you better move him to a toddler bed because he could hurt himself falling out of the crib.

I’m not against toddler beds or crib tents; parents needs to make the best decision for their family. But I am against parents not realizing that each small abdication of authority leads to bigger ones. We are called to make hard choices and teach our children right from wrong. If we don’t start with the relatively easy tasks like who picks the end of naptime, how will we be able to stand strong when our kids, who have never heard the word, “No,” push the boundaries in their high school years? And what makes us think our kids will listen to us then?

My cousin, to her credit, wants to be a strong mom, and is not interested in her 18 month old picking the end of his naptime. She simply wasn’t ready for her baby to climb out of his crib. (I remember not being ready for that, either!) But once it happened, she realized new decisions needed to be made, and she is the one to make them.

Parents, we have to make the hard calls. Our kids may not thank us now, but we're not doing this to win their praise. We are called to raise up our children, "with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord." And that means exercising the authority the Lord has given us and actually being the boss. We're to be loving in our parenting, but loving does not mean always saying yes. Often, the most loving answer is, "No."