I have long maintained that the happiest kids are also well-behaved, and vice versa.
That assertion is supported by common sense as well as research into parenting outcomes that shows children raised by loving parents who are no-nonsense when it comes to discipline score the highest on measures of adjustment. Two stories, submitted by readers, underscore the point:
A mom in Minnesota writes that "As a result of reading what you've written on the need for a boundary between mother and child, I have a new rule for my 29-month-old: After he is done with his lunch, he must stay out of the kitchen. This allows me to eat lunch in peace, since his ventures into the kitchen often end in fussing, misbehaving and so on. It is a simple (not always easy, but simple), consistent way to establish and enforce a much-needed boundary between us.
"Mind you, I'm not completely unresponsive to his needs and requests, but I'm not catering to his every whim, either. And here's the thing: He seems much, much happier this way. When he's bugging me in the kitchen, neither of us is happy. When he's playing by himself (and I do mean playing, not watching TV or pushing buttons) in the next room, he is engaged and content.
"This practice extends to other situations as well, like when he doesn't want to eat what I've provided for a meal. If he wants to eat, he may come into the kitchen, take his place at the table and eat. Otherwise, he may not be in the kitchen at all (which prevents him from whining, making a mess with his food, and so on)."
I share this story in the hopes that Minnesota Mom will serve as an inspiration to a generation of moms who've been intimidated by psychobabble into feeling they don't have a right to establish boundaries between themselves and their kids. As this story shows, such boundaries are good for both mother and child.
Another mom, whereabouts unknown, shared a success story based on my brilliant, internationally celebrated "Ticket" method, which she and her husband implemented after their 4-year-old son began talking back to them and acting disrespectfully toward Grandma. She writes, "We implemented the Three Ticket (per diem) System upon which he lost a ticket for any back talk, dirty looks or sassiness to ourselves or any adult. The first two tickets of the day were 'free,' but if and when he lost his third ticket he had to spend the rest of that day in his room.
"On day two, he lost all of his tickets by lunchtime and off to his room he went. The somewhat amazing thing is that he hasn't lost all three tickets since."
That's a great report, but the best part is yet to come. Anonymous Mom then writes, "But what we notice most is that he is a much happier and much more secure little boy. I believe now he knew what he was doing and was waiting for us to step in and take control. His newfound security translates into happiness, obviously. His good behavior is very freeing for us as well. We no longer threaten, huff and puff, or give him hurt-feeling looks. Now every morning he goes to make sure he has three tickets in the magnetic clip on the fridge and re-checks his ticket status throughout the day. All this progress in only a week!"