Last week’s change in our Oklahoma weather has me flustered. I don’t adjust very quickly or very well to changes in the weather, particularly when it goes from sunny and warm to cold and wet. I sense my mood deteriorating as I battle the wind and the rain; it’s almost as though I take the wind’s resistance and the rain’s irritating persistence personally, and the discomfort I feel with the cold and wet affects everything I do.
If I were a youngster in ancient Sparta this would not be a problem; the Spartans brought up their children to sleep outdoors on the ground, regardless of the weather, and forced them to learn to endure any and every kind of physical and emotional hardship with nary a whimper. Next to them, I’m a colossal weenie! I have to muster all of my willpower to take my dog out to relieve herself when it’s like this, especially in the middle of the night, and I must remind myself to be a big girl and have a good attitude!
While I would never suggest parents imitate the Spartans’ harshness, I believe it behooves us as parents to prepare our children to endure hardship, and to accept, with grace, situations they would not choose and do not prefer. Opportunities for this are literally everywhere, from car restraints, to mealtimes. The awareness that they are not the center of the universe, or even of their parents’ life, is one that comes as a major shock to most children; the earlier they realize it, the better for all concerned.
The first day of school should not be the first day they are told “No” or are expected to do what an adult asks of them. (Note: If you’re a parent who does not believe in telling your child “No”, then you needn’t read on.)
The following are some practical, non-Spartan-like ways to help free your child from the tyranny of his or her own preferences:
- Rarely give them treats, such as fast foods, toys, etc., and NEVER do it when they whine and beg.
- Require a routine of daily chores; even children as young as age 3 are capable of simple chores.
- Limit or eliminate regular use of TV, video games, ipod, ipad, itouch, etc. Let them play make-believe outdoors—you’ll be amazed at what they come up with!
- Make their lives very routine—pretty much the same thing every day with very few “special” things; “special” loses its meaning when it is commonplace.
These are very small things, and far from the extreme deprivation practiced by the ancient Spartans. Even so, you’ll be doing your children and the rest of the world a favor if you prepare them to accept discomfort and disappointment with grace.