At times, people have commented about how "strict" my husband and I are as parents: our kids are expected to behave both at home and in public, say "thank you" and "please," they hear the word "no" often, and get time outs when they act out, regardless of where we are at the time. You might even say that we are "meanies." However, I realized something while watching an ongoing issue at my oldest daughter's gymnastics school yesterday, a minor epiphany, if you will.
I have three daughters, ages six, two, and seven months, and while the oldest is taking her lessons, I have the other two with me in an observation area, above the gym. There is a small play area portioned off where we sit so the younger kids can entertain themselves while we wait, and often kids are dropped off in the play area while the adults go off to another separate area to either watch the older kids do gymnastics, or to sit and talk on their cell phones.
There is one boy in particular who comes over to the play area who doesn't play well. He throws toys, get into arguments with other kids, and is generally disruptive. Frequently, his playmates become upset with him, and the only time I see his mother come back is when things become so disruptive she has to intercede. I realized yesterday every time he sees her, she is angry, as, inevitably, are his friends during this period of time.
Here is where my epiphany comes in...although it's not fun enforcing the rules of expected behavior to the kids when needed, I realized I get to spend more time laughing with them than being strict. Although I don't like the way this boy behaves, it occurred to me how sad it was for him that, due to his behavior, most of his social interactions with others involve dealing with people who are angry or upset with him, rather than otherwise.
I realized then how enforcing good behaviors and habits really defines the social interactions our children have with others. I've discussed the concept before, but seeing it in action is something else entirely. If this is the price of leniency for our children, I can deal with being the "meanie."