Inconveniencing your kid

The bumper sticker of the 20th century was, “Have you hugged your child today?” For the 21st century I propose a bumper sticker that reads, “Have you inconvenienced your kid today.”
Lots of hugging is good for children, but a little bit of inconvenience goes a long ways towards increasing their love-ability factor. Children need to know, just as adults do, that life often is just plain hard.
It was the hard work that 28 of 118 biology students at Piper High School wanted to avoid last year when they collected leaves for biology – a project worth 50 percent of their semester grade. Their teacher called the short-cut ‘plagiarizing’ and applied the penalty that students and parents had agreed to at the beginning of the year … each was given a zero.
The kids thought that grade looked bad on their college bound transcripts. (What an inconvenience!) Via their parents, they protested all the way to the school board. The teacher was told to make the project count a lower percentage of the semester grade: 27 of the 28 who cheated passed the semester after all, 20 of the 90 who did not cheat, averaged out to a lower semester grade.
Their teacher resigned, along with another one who resigned in support. The principal resigned at the end of the year for academic reasons saying, “read between the lines.” The whole student body, instead of just the 28, was inconvenienced with the subsequent public reaction: The deans of Kansas State University sent a letter to the school reminding prospective students that they would be expected to follow the school’s academic honesty code. At interscholastic events, other school’s called anyone from Piper a “Plagiarists” … All because a few mommies and daddies and the school board buckled under when the kids whined about a well-earned zero, rather than saying, “Tough luck, kid. Next time do it right.”
The whole incident reminds me of one of my sons’ friends. As a toddler he didn’t like the inconvenience of chewing solid foods. He spat that nasty stuff out. None one told him, “If you don’t chew on this lumpy pabulum, there will be nothing else to eat.” To keep their poor darling from starving he was allowed to choose his diet. He subsisted on peanut butter, soup, sugar coated doughnuts and vitamins – until he was about 10 years old and developed a bluish tinge under his finger nails. The doctor said, “Well, son, you either come in weekly for iron shots, or you start chewing a variety of foods.” His family looked at the cost of weekly doctor visits. He looked at the pain of weekly shots. He began eating solid, chewy food.
I never understand what took them so long. The way I figured it was – He was half their size, a fourth of their age and a fraction of their weight. Why was he in charge? I respect children’s feelings and opinions, but I expect them to respect mine as well and recognize that being older, I know a lot more than they do.
I inconvenienced my children if it is necessary – as it was the day my grade school son came home with yet another report that he was not doing his homework. I had tried everything that worked for my other children. It all had failed to catch his attention. I thought about going to school and sitting beside him in class to make sure he did his assigned work. I rejected that idea: Why should I be so inconvenienced when it was his problem?
I found a way to inconvenience him: he had to get his teacher to initial a fresh index card every day with one of two choices checked: “Completed work today” or “did not complete work today.” If he brought home the card saying he had done his work, he got points towards a prize. If he didn’t, he received extra work at home. There was no acceptable excuse for not coming home with a card every day. His level of inconvenience went way up, mine went way down.
He did his assigned work.
“Have you hugged your kid today?” Great, they need it! But also remember, sometimes they need the benefits of being inconvenienced to keep them really huggable.