After Charles dropped his son, Newton, off at school, he went to work, as usual. Within a few minutes, Newton called Charles from school. “Dad,” he said, “I left my book bag in the car. I need you to bring it to me at school—as soon as you can.”
“Call me back in five minutes,” Charles said. And then he called me and asked for a few suggestions, which I offered.
When Newton called again—in exactly five minutes—Charles said, “I won’t bring the book bag over to the school, but we’ll talk about it tonight at home.” Without speaking, Newton hung up.
A few minutes later, Charles’s ex-wife called, telling him that she needed his car keys in order to get Newton’s book bag and take it to school. Charles said that Newton needed to learn some responsibility, so he wouldn’t enable him by cooperating in taking him the book bag.
That evening, Charles sat across from Newton at the dining room table and said, “I wanna talk to you about the book bag. Should take about three minutes.”
“I don’t wanna talk,” Newton said.
“You do have a choice,” Charles said. “You can talk for three minutes, like I suggested, or you can stay right here until we’ve talked. I’ll wait as long as it takes. We can be finished in three minutes, or three hours, or you can stay here all night. But you’ll be here until we talk. Your choice.”
Charles wasn’t irritated in the slightest, but Newton also recognized that his father wasn’t joking. Charles decided that he’d rather listen to a potentially unpleasant lesson in three minutes instead of three hours.
Most parents are afraid of their children. When kids are rebellious or otherwise difficult, parents tend to back off in order to avoid their child’s disapproval. But no matter what our children do, it remains our responsibility to teach our children, especially when they don’t want to be taught. We have to teach them with love, but we do have to teach them.
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