Expert Commentary: Enough is Enough

(If you like Judy's column, check out the rest of our Insight and Entertainment section. Just click the "Entertainment" button of the left side of the page.)

A review of a new book by Jane Strauss entitled Enough is Enough : Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life caught my eye. Book reviews, science breakthroughs, new children's products and education studies mark my email inbox every day. Some of it is a treasure.

I even received an invitation to interview a guy from Siberia who could tell me all about drilling for oil and the balance of earth science in Siberia. Needless to say, I passed that up on the grounds it probably didn’t have a lot to do directly with early childhood education. “Great science class,” said one of my teachers, “Maybe we could do a field trip.”

But the title Enough is Enough : Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life made me sit up and take notice. "She's right," I said out loud. "A lot of us are caught up in that sense that we simply can't stop, we can't move forward, we can't take hold of our investment, and we can't enjoy what should be an extraordinary life. Too many parents are just enduring."

"When we are enduring," writes Ms. Strauss, "We try to convince ourselves that surviving is the same as thriving. We tell ourselves that it should be enough that we made it through another day, earned our daily bread, performed our duties, and possibly helped others. But when we are merely surviving, we feel resigned, not inspired, exhausted, but not accomplished. We know that something is missing, but we don't know exactly what or how to go about finding it."

I see this so often with families who have badly behaved children. In our little school we have four children whose behavior is a product of  parents who are resigned but not inspired to act. “I work twelve hours a day. I’m hardly raising my child as it is. Don’t expect more from me.”

But we do expect more. We expect parents, as the primary educators of their child, to teach a child his first lesson – to love one another. If a child has not learned how to connect with others, has not learned to care for himself or another child, then the twelve hours a parent is clinging to as a badge of respect is really only a sunk cost. His time and energy has been spent and to no avail. The problem still exists.

A parent arrives at school to face a bad report about his child. "Oh well, maybe in time he will grow out of it." He won't if parents are resigned to think that what he is allowed to do is simply part of the turning of the wheel. It's another sunk cost. If you want to know what a teenager will be like, look at a preschooler and make him six feet tall.

"If you have continued to invest in a relationship, a career, or even a lifestyle just because you have already spent so much on it, remember that whatever you spent is gone anyway. Don't waste one more minute or one more ounce of emotional energy on something that keeps you enduring. Become a volunteer, not a victim, by participating in your life consciously, sanely, and humanely."

This is good advice. When a child's behavior takes a toll on parents, the old fight, the old reprimands, the continuous battle for one ups-man-ship has failed. Enough is enough. But rather than complain or blame it on work, time, or something that doesn't have to take a beating, perhaps instead it's time to stop living an extraordinary negative life, and live a positive one, and if the child won't comply, than he should miss out.

Part of that extraordinary life is doing, experiencing life apart from the demands of an ungrateful child, a boring job, a dehumanizing routine. Start getting away from the mundane, the work weekends, the drudgery and live. There is nothing more rewarding than a real day off, but it's not worth a week's struggle.


This week, plan and execute a weekend day trip. Go someplace local everyone loves with a full advertisement of the family adventure. "We're going to Holiday World this weekend."

Then during the week, don’t warn –“If you don’t….”   Don’t bargain, “If you’re good three days....”  Don’t threaten, “You better get a grip or you’re not….”  Don’t bribe, “If you can just be good for a day you can….”

Understanding behavior is a part of being in the world. Poorly behaved children behave poorly because they can. There are generally no repercussions that offend a child enough for him to stop putting himself first. The parent resigns quickly to a life of endurance. Enough is enough.

If child has behaved poorly all week, go anyway. Have a sitter on standby and at the last minute leave Mr. or Miss Rotten at home. Choose a sitter who won't give in to poor behaviors, whose only focus is watching sports on TV; someone who won't share his chips or his chatter or his time.

Say good-by quickly and without excuses, bribes or promises. “I’m sorry, but your behavior doesn’t deserve to be included in our trip.”  Then spend the whole day out renewing yourself and enjoying a positively extraordinary day.