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The Delight Of Kids Who Behave

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Julie has 14 kids. No, she isn’t crazy.  Only 9 live in her house now. She and her husband John had four of their own and then began taking in foster children. The kind who have been abused, troubled and really tough to handle. Julie and her husband have adopted every single one as their own.

One week ago, she and John took all 9 kids on a road trip from Michigan to West Virginia. I asked her what she did when the kids fought in the car. “Nothing” she said very matter-of-factly, “We don’t allow our kids to fight.” Really? It’s possible to make kids NOT fight?

Julie is lovely, soft spoken and, honestly, could easily be mistaken for a pushover. I’ve known Julie for years and have seen almost all of her kids. They are delightful. Yes, the ones who have been abused, failed foster care in other homes and even been in trouble with the law.

Contrast Julie’s kids with many others. Most are out of control. When we opened a new office 6 years ago, we put a play house in our waiting room for the kids to use.  We have gone through three play houses in 6 years because our patients destroyed them- in front of their parents.

I can tell you that Julie’s kids would never have destroyed the toys in our waiting room. She wouldn’t have let them.

So what does she do to get her kids to behave so well? It’s pretty simple. She and John make their expectations of their kid’s behavior very, very clear. If their kids get out of line, they either run laps around the house or restack wood from one wood pile to another. Same rules for every child. No yelling, screaming or fighting.

We need more Julie and Johns in the world. Children who grow up with very low expectations of their behavior, act miserably. And they make everyone around them miserable. Children who have too few rules ruin other people’s stuff and grow up to be spoiled, self-centered adults.

I understand that parents are afraid of causing kids to rebel because they have been too authoritarian, but let me remind you of a secret about all kids. They want us to say “Stop It.” Discipline never causes kids to rebel when they are older (lack of it most certainly does) but not having enough love causes them to rebel. And love balanced with firm rules produces kids who are a delight to be around.

How about it parents? What are your kids like?

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