Friday, March 12, 2010

A mother asked me recently, “How did you handle disrespect with your kids.” I smiled silently thanking God for getting me through raising kids at the same time mentally scrambling to think of a wise-sounding response. I wanted to tell her to go ask one of my kids. They’d tell her if they had dared disrespect Mom, according to Jim Brawner, it would have landed them on America’s Most Wanted.

The only thing I could think of was Zero Tolerance. The earlier it starts the better. As challenging as it seems dealing with an obstinate preschooler, I assured her, a mouthy thirteen year old was worse. When I asked how old her daughter was, she said 13. I should have asked that question first.

Our family friend, Tom, grew up with two older brothers, James and Chip. Rowdy probably doesn’t adequately describe what it was like at their house. But, their Dad made one thing quite clear; their momma, Gail, was the queen. Anyone causing the queen trouble better be afraid, very afraid.

Tom, unfortunately, found out in high school what happens when you make trouble for the queen. “I think I was a junior and pushing boundaries a little,” he began. “Mom asked me to do something and I sassed her with a surly attitude. Dad appeared out of no where like a vulture on road kill. He backed me up against the wall and in a voice that still makes my skin crawl said, ‘Don’t you ever even think of speaking to MY WIFE like that again if you enjoy living. Am I clear?’, he said with his nose almost touching mine. Then he turned around and walked away”

“A little ‘shock and awe’ cured me. The fact he referred to her as his wife and not my mother left a lasting impression. I never crossed the line again.”

Parenting can be a tricky balancing act, but drawing tight boundaries with how kids treat people, in my opinion, isn’t something that needs to be researched, studied, and debated. Once a woman told me she believed in freedom of speech with her kids because she didn’t want to squelch their creativity. In my experience mouthy, disrespectful kids are more likely to end up to be jerks instead of artistically frustrated adults.

Life has now come full circle for Tom. He has three boys of his own. He’s learning all about what his parents endured and is probably using their example as a reference. I am guessing there is a Zero Tolerance policy in his home too.


  1. Thanks for this reminder, Suz. I need to remember Zero Tolerance more often. Somedays when I actually practice this, it seems like I have crushed their spirits. I find that it's all in the tone I use with my three boys. Sometimes, though, the only tone appropriate is a LOUD tone.

    I am sure not ready for them to be grown and gone, and do not want to wish away these days, but whoo...mothering is not for the faint at heart.

  2. You may not believe this but, I'm the one who asked the question at Perryville First Baptist that day. Thank you very much for your advice. It gets even more ironic! I actually meant to say "respectable teenagers" and it came out respectful. LOL, My kids actually do pretty well in the respectful department thanks to my husbands firmness. I was actually more worried about cultural influences and compromising their morals. God know's what he's doing, people needed the answer you gave. Thank you so much. It was great.