“Parenting Made HARD!”
By Larry John
When I was twenty years old I knew everything there was to know about being a parent. It seemed so simple. I wasn’t even married yet, but I watched other parents do their parenting and could point out everything they were doing wrong. I even told young parents the way they should be parenting. How they should discipline and teach their children “who was boss” and how to demand excellence in their children. I knew it all. It seemed as though I had a natural talent for raising kids. After all….ALL kids loved me. What I didn’t know was that I didn’t know anything. And the fact of the matter is, neither does anyone…”really.” Sure there are plenty of great books that are very informative and well thought out. But they miss one fact….there are no two children the same. Each child is 100% different from another. I should know (maybe) because my wife and I had seven children. And yes, they are ALL very different. Now that I have seven grandchildren I can honestly say I am ready to tell the world a parenting philosophy that I have proven to work through years of sorrow, tears, anger, and good old trial and mostly error. Although you probably won’t agree, you will be wrong. I am going to give you a philosophy of parenting that is 100% proven. It has never failed. The hard part is doing it. It is 100% sure to work, but you are not 100% sure to use it because it takes a lot of patience, thinking, strategic implementation, laughing, love, heartache, and painful hard work. The philosophy is simple to remember and easy to forget when it is time to implement it.
The entire parenting philosophy has as its two fundamental factors, “LAUGH and LOVE.” That’s it….just LAUGH and LOVE. You have to remember to LAUGH when you want to yell and to LOVE when you want to Punish. That’s all you have to do and what’s more, that’s all you really CAN do. Sure you think that you can give your kids RULES and they will keep them and if they don’t you can send them to their room because punishment is love. And this “old testament” way of raising children will work until they can “out run you” and they can think for themselves. This normally happens around the age of 13. This is when all children are “asleep and stupid.” And if you have parented with RULES and PUNISHMENT while they were young children, that philosophy just won’t work when they are young adults. The OLD TESTAMENT parenting paradigm will leave you sad, frustrated, crazy, with long nights of crying, and sick to your stomach. When your kids reach those teenage years no amount of RULES and PUNISHMENT will last. Your kids will eventually rebel. They have to. It is their job to “spread their wings” and fly without YOU. During these years your children’s “friends” become more important than you, their parents. And the last thing you want to be is a “friend.” You want to be much more than that. You want to be a close, trusted, understanding, honest, and true friend who just happens to be their parent. No, you don’t let them WAG you, but if there is no need for “wagging,” who the heck cares. If there is nothing to rebel against, there is no need to rebel.
This doesn’t mean you don’t take an active roll in your child’s life….you do. You just allow them to “think” they have all the control. But they really don’t. Laughing and Loving will make it impossible to rebel. Sure they may make STUPID decisions, but that comes with experimenting with life, friends, and freedom. Remember, these are the stupid years. Teenagers are asleep and stupid. You can’t get around that fact. But you can have more fun and enjoyment during those years if you Laugh and Love. You see LOVING is definitely NEW TESTAMENT thinking. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Jesus or not. You don’t need to believe in Jesus to see wisdom in some of the words attributed to him. Basically, Jesus said that he came to fulfill the teaching of the Old Testament and instead of all the rules and laws of MOSES he said that there was only one law….to LOVE. Rather than an eye for an eye, it was “turn the other check.” He said that you shouldn’t put new wine in old bottles because the old bottles will break. The law of Love and the law of Mercy were said to fulfill the law of JUDGEMENT. If you believed in Jesus, his mercy would pay the price of the Father’s judgment. So, whether or not you believe that your faith in Jesus will get you to heaven, wisdom tells you that there may be something to this thing called LOVE. My son Preston used to say that I made it nearly impossible to rebel. Because when he was about to do a “stupid” thing, he thought his actions would hurt Dad. And he didn’t want to hurt me because he knew that I loved him. I loved him regardless of all the STUPID things he did. My love was not contingent on him keeping my rules. My love for him was without “strings attached.” I just loved him. Plain and simple I just loved him….regardless. Now did my son make plenty of stupid decisions….oh yeah! That’s what young adults normally do. But he knew that he had a friend back home who loved him for no other reason than…I loved him. The same thing happened during the “stupid years” of one of my daughters. She said that she honestly considered suicide because of the stupid mistakes she had made during some terribly confusing years. She said that the one thing that kept her from thinking about it too much was the fact that she knew that it would hurt me. She said that she knew that I loved her and that nothing she could do would change that fact. She said it was my love that made her continue on in the midst of her perceived problems. I am sure glad I was “loving” and not yelling and “punishing” during that time in her life.
And then there is laughter. Learning to laugh when you want to yell or cry is a talent that must be learned because if you don’t laugh… you WILL YELL and say things that are not “so loving.” I know. I have made that mistake too many times. My wife and I did plenty of yelling, spanking, grounding, and punishing before we learned this lesson. Now this “laughing technique” takes practice and talent because you are really acting at first and many of us are bad actors. You are “acting” like the bad situation or their cutting comments are funny. But they are only funny to the “trained” ear. You child says, “I hate you” and you laugh. And then you say, “Now that’s funny… (Laughing)…how can you hate someone who loves you as much as I do? (Laughing)….You’re just upset right now….but this too will pass. You will love me again more than ever… (Laughing)….Man, you are really a great person. Man, I love you. (Laughing)…I was just like you when I was your age… (Laughing)….And I turned out all right….. (Laughing)…. Well kind of…. (Laughing) It is not easy being a teenager…. (Laughing)…He, it’s not easy being an adult. Don’t worry…. (Laughing)…this is not the end of the world…. (Laughing)…at least I hope not. I have to wash the car before the world ends…. (Laughing)….”
Now that’s hard, but it builds a relationship of trust and acceptance. To laugh and to love makes each “bad situation” not so bad. It is hard to be mad or yell at a person while you are laughing and loving. Let me tell you how I stumbled on to this principle and philosophy. When my oldest daughter was going through her “asleep and stupid” years, she and my wife were always arguing about something. Hey, that is normal. But one day when my wife had taken all she could, she came to me and said, “I don’t know what to do.” I said, “What I think is that you should just laugh. Just laugh when you feel like yelling.” And so she tried it and it worked and to this day, my daughter and my wife are the BEST of friends.
Isn’t it funny how laughing works? And the funny thing is, laughing and loving works every time, with everyone. Now be careful. It’s a good thing to “poke fun” at a situation but don’t poke fun at the person. You can call the situation “silly” but don’t’ call your kid “silly.” You can laugh about what just happened, but don’t laugh at your son or daughter. Get them to laugh WITH you about the situation. Hey, sometimes life just stinks and that is that. Sometimes we ALL do STUPID things, and that is that. Sometimes we are in bad moods and that is that. But we always LOVE our children and let them know that as often as we can. Now some parents have told me that they know that their children know that they love them, but it is hard for them to say, “I love you.” Well, get over it. Tell them you love them. Tell them! A friend of mine has told me over 20 times that his Father never said, “I love you” to him. And then he says, “But that was just the kind of man he was. It doesn’t bother me.” But it does. Why else would he have told me so many times that his Father had never said, “I love you.”
LAUGH and LOVE. That’s the easiest and hardest thing you can do to insure that you and your children will be lifetime friends. Because once they are 20 years old, most of them “wake up and get smart.” And according to them, we get smarter too. It was hard for them to see our brilliance when our children’s eyes were closed and they were asleep. But when they are 20 years old, you will once again be the genius you were when they were five years old.
If you want to raise your children with the RULES and PUNISHMENT foundation, just know that you will have HELL to pay during those ugly teenage years. You still may have HELL to pay if you teach them by LAUGHING and LOVING, but you won’t cry and yell as much. Breaking the RULES are what teenagers are all about. Remember they may not “want” your love, but they have no choice. You give it freely and without conditions. You just have to keep loving and keep laughing. It is easy to say things you will regret when you are feeling hateful and yelling and not laughing and loving. Don’t go there. LAUGH and LOVE. Life is too short to be “right” and be “wrong” at the same time. It is impossible to hate LOVE for very long. Give your children MORE LOVE than they can reject. It’s hard to fight with someone who is not fighting. LAUGH and LOVE! It works every time if you give it enough time. And you have plenty of time when it comes to your children! Think about it.