The Nice-Kid Problem

The power of identifying a big-picture goal for parenting is immense.  To have a child who is Respectful, Responsible and Fun-to-be-around has the power to declutter my parenting life.  Where is my child lacking?  Is he fun to be around, but utterly disrespectful?  Or, is he respectful and responsible?  You know, a nice kid...but man is he a drag?!  By simply having those three goals I am able to identify and target my priorities as a parent.  We all know that “bad” kids are supposed to be disciplined.  I even get an emotional motivator to deliver consequences to those kind of kids.  But what about the kids who are sweet, pleasant, all around nice kids?  Great!  Except for one glaring flaw: they’re no fun!  Sometimes its the sweetest kids whose parent have the hardest time finding the strength to set boundaries and follow through.  “Hey bud.  You’re a fantastic kid.  But one thing I’m supposed to do is not just raise a kid who is Respectful and Responsible.  I also want a kid who is fun to be around.  So…because I think you need practice having fun, I’d like you to go find a friend to play with for the next 3 hours.  Don’t come back into the house until dinner.”  For the shy, nice and paralyzingly shy kid, this is gonna be the developmental equivalent of weight training: tiring, intimidating, and sore!  But the result, if practiced with enough repetition, is a child who gets stronger in his "fun-to-be-around muscle."  There may be crying, pleading, anger or meltdowns when given an expectation like this.  Often shy nice kids have the hardest time being made to go be social.  And a wise parent knows that I can’t force my child to have fun.  So a wise parent focuses on what can be enforced: get out of the house for three hours.  Often, that kid finds motivation somewhere between sitting on the porch waiting for the three hours to be up, and joining the neighbor kid who is riding his bike down the sidewalk.