From Liz: We just hit Route 50 in Chillicothe, Ohio. Route 50 is touted as the “Backbone of America,” running coast-to-coast through the center of the country. It made me reflect on the backbone of this nation, or for that matter any nation: solid families. Solid families need solid marriages and solid parenting, including solid child discipline. Most of us would agree with that, but in real life we often struggle to live it out. I believe part of the problem comes from growing up in a culture of indulgence and instant gratification. For Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and generations following, we have lived with much, and thought we had a right to much. Often with little effort on our part to achieve it. Along the way, we have lost the fortitude and resilience to hang in there through the “tough stuff.” How does that relate to solid families? We get married and three months later the honeymoon is over. Now we argue, then have to do the hard work of communicating through conflict. The four-year-old is throwing a tantrum in the store and now we have to choose between giving in to what he wants, or leave and discipline the child. Or, for instance, a teen is drinking and we have the difficult decision to make about establishing household boundaries, knowing the youth, in the short term, might make it extremely uncomfortable… Just north of Route 50 at a YMCA in Circleville, Ohio, the other day, we were hussled into an interior room of a YMCA when tornado warnings were issued for the area. (When it comes to excuses not to exercise, this is a pretty good one.) Anyway, as we settled in for the wait, a 10-year-old boy — on his way to manhood — started screaming and crying. He had apparently traded an item with another boy, and now wanted the item back. The other boy didn’t want to trade back, and thus the tantrum. The boy wasn’t getting what he wanted, and he apparently thought his behavior would force someone’s hand. A staff member, who appeared to be a veteran parent, showed up and firmly told the boy he couldn’t behave in that manner. However, if he remained quiet, they could talk further. This was affective, and the ensuing converstaion allowed the boy to express himself. The staff member, in turn, established her boundary paramaters again as well, including explaining to the boy there would be no trade back. She also advised him in the future not to bring his own toys to the YMCA. Both her firmness, and respect for the boy, struck me as good solid parenting techniques. Sadly, this firmness and respect are things that are predominately lacking in our current society. This staff person impressed me so much, that I complimented her on my way out… I am challenged every day to practice backbone in my marriage and with my children. Maybe we can support each other to build stronger families — and thus a stronger nation.