Parenting 2010 Style

The other day I read this blog post and ever since I’ve been thinking about the way we parent today.  More specifically, the way I parent.  Frankly I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s ridiculous.  In 2010 and probably for many years prior, we have set unrealistic expectations for parents and children alike.

Please understand, I do not intend to tell you how you should rear your child.  In this lengthy post, my goal is to make some observations about myself and my own parenting style that has evolved over the last ten years.  Do I think you deal with many of the same issues?  Absolutely.  If we are honest, we will admit that our parenting has been overly influenced by culture and media.  We are more concerned with looking good in front of other moms than we are concerned about using common sense.  Heaven forbid Johnny’s teacher think we are not the perfect mother.

Am I too far off target here?

I’ve been ruminating on several things.  First of all, I believe reason is an overused and counterproductive parenting tool.  I also think we require too little from our children and expect less.  As parents, specifically mothers, we guilt ourselves into uselessness.  Someone rightly pointed out that we mother’s are overly nice today.  Later I’ll explain what I think she meant by this observation, but I must say she is correct.

Small children do not reason.  They want their own way, because they are selfish.  A toddler really doesn’t care what is good for the family or more specifically, his little friend.  He wants what he wants and he wants it now.  We know this.  It’s part of the process of early childhood development.  Why then do we torture ourselves, insisting on giving our screaming kid in the shopping cart no less than ten reasons why he can’t have another dust filled, clutter bound stuffed animal?  Why don’t we just tell him no and mean it?  Who cares if his feelings are hurt or his expectations are left unmet.  He’s a toddler, remember?  The last time I checked no small child really knew what was best for them.


That’s why we are the parents.

Kids need clear-cut boundaries.  When they cross those boundaries, they need consequences.  When they live within the boundaries we the parents have set, they are safe, healthy, and happy.  If you want to give them further reward, help yourself, but please know, what more reward do they really need?  Safety, health, and happiness are rewards in themselves.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am guilty of reasoning with my children when what they real need is parenting.

Not only do I do I explain away simple obedience with reason, but I also expect too little of my children.  My son is ten and my daughter is eight.  It should not have taken me this long to realize that kids do not spontaneously develop a good work ethic.  They are lazy, unkept, and careless.  It is my job as their parent to teach them to work, because they will need this skill until the day they die.

Last Friday my eyes really opened to the fact that I needed to teach my children to work.  They do not understand why I get upset when they carelessly drag dirt through the house, leave trash from their snacks on the counter, or change into yet another outfit, leaving the first outfit on the floor to be walked on.  My kids have no idea how much work goes into keeping a clean and orderly home.  I decided a cleaning lesson was long overdue.

We began the day cleaning the house – sweeping, mopping, wiping baseboards, washing windows, dusting, scrubbing the stairs, and other assorted tasks.  Prior to Friday all I asked of my kids was that they clean their rooms every few days, take out the trash and dust.  That’s not nearly enough work for two school-age children.  After spending about two hours working, they suddenly understood just how much dirt the dog drags in.  In fact my daughter ran to grab a rag and clean the dog’s feet this morning after she had been digging in the dirt.  It’s amazing how aware children become when they know they will be ones cleaning up the messes.

Do you know what surprised me?  My kids actually enjoyed working.  They took pride in their accomplishments and they understood how much I actually work in our home.  Realize this understanding was minimal, but it’s a start.  I don’t often learn lessons overnight, so I can’t expect my children to get the employee of the month award for at least a few more years.  They have child labor laws now, not like when I was a kid.

I know that if I expect my children to work their way through college, and I do, then I need begin to teach them how to balance responsibilities with schoolwork and their other after-school activities.  I need to balance teaching, housework, meal-planning, child-rearing, shuttle-busing, volunteering, and all my other responsibilities.  One day, they will do the same, so I should start preparing them.

In the last ten years of parenting, I have over-reasoned, under-expected, and guilted myself into uselessness.  Perhaps mothers have operated with a guilt complex for centuries, but I doubt it.  Today advertising has not only made our children want the moon and six aisles worth of toys, but it has made parents feel like we should provide the six aisles worth of toys.

We feel guilty if we don’t have enough money for our kids to get an ice-cream from the blasted truck playing “I’m a Little Tea Pot” everyday at exactly 4:59 pm.  Their friend down the road is getting ice-cream today.  Doesn’t my begging, whining child deserve a treat too?  What about the video games, cell phones, or designer clothes the girls are wearing in third grade?  Am I also under the obligation to ensure they blend in with their peers?  Heaven forbid they be different, the unique individuals God created them to be.  They may not be accepted and that would bring intense parental guilt.

God forbid I raise my voice at them when they throw a tantrum over not getting what they want.  We shouldn’t yell at our kids.  Haven’t you heard?  I have, and I felt guilt every last time I’ve raised my voice or been short with my kids, because I know good moms don’t do that.

What the heck?

Sometime my mother yelled at me and she was wrong, but most often I deserved to be yelled at.  It was the only way I would stand up and listen!

Now I’m not saying we run around the house straining our vocal cords and slamming doors, but are we acting out of control?  Not often.  In fear of being looked down on by our peers or upsetting our children, we’ve gone in completely the opposite direction.  We are no longer respected as the authority or heaven forbid, feared.

When I was a child, I truly feared doing certain things.  I knew in my heart my mother would half-kill me.  Now she obviously never half-killed me or I wouldn’t be writing to you today, but I had a healthy amount of respect and yes, fear of my parents.  I would never think of back-talking them in a million years, but my children will think nothing of speaking to me in exactly the same manner they speak to their classmates.  We’ve lost all respect.  We do not demand respect and when we do, we feel guilty for it.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a new day for parenting in my house.  I am done reasoning with my children.  If they do not obey, they will be punished, plain and simple parenting.  I expect them to help around the house.  I require them to do more than take care of themselves, because they are not the only people in this house, neighborhood, or world.  I certainly refuse to be guilted into uselessness.  I will parent and if that includes raising my voice once in while in order to be heard, so be it.  If you don’t like it, straighten up.  It’s me or military school.

* No children were harmed in the writing of this post.

46 thoughts on “Parenting 2010 Style

  1. Pingback: I said THAT? 2010 Blog Recap | the domestic fringe

  2. You are SOOO right!!!! Bless you for getting up on the box and telling the world! Now if I could just get my grown children to listen and raise their kids to be responsible adults!!
    The problem is….they were raised just like you have explained, so now they think they should be soooo much easier on their kids, because they were actually expected to be responsible, respectful and work hard! I dunno’ what the answer is to that kind of problem…..
    I’m behind you 100% though!

  3. I had a friend who would tell her children they could respect her out of love or out of fear…their choice! Maybe a little too scary, but the gist of it is important. Children do not need us to be their friends…they have plenty of those. They need us to be their parents and all that it entails.
    Did I yell at my kids…you betcha, but never so much that it lost it’s effectiveness. Too much and they learn real quick the bark is worse than the bite. They need to learn the bite isn’t a bluff. When you say something, you mean business…no explanation…just “because I said so”.
    I’d like to add y’all are setting a wonderful example for your children. They really do learn by watching and showing them that nothing in life worth having comes easy…that it has to be earned and worked for will serve them well when they are adults. If they get everything they want on demand…why do we need birthdays or Christmas. Where’s the fun in that?
    I’m tired of the so called experts telling parents how to raise their children. There is no manual because all kids are unique. Besides the experts (our own parents if we were lucky) are a pretty good place to start if advice is needed.
    Girl, you have got to stop writing such great posts and “forcing” me to leave this mini-novel comments! Next time I’ll just write “Hear Hear”!

    • “because I said so” —my favorite saying. Since when do kids need reasons to obey parents (or any adult)? I was taught that kids obeyed the first time not on the count of 3! In my family we have the “eyebrow” and when the kids saw the “eyebrow” go up they stopped what they were doing and sat down. It worked like a charm!!!

      • When children are taught to respond to the count of 3, they are taught to obey when your will becomes their will…In other words you let them call the shots and decide when they will “obey.”

  4. FringeGirl, looks like you hit a nerve.

    What I’m wondering is this: If we are all so obviously in agreement about this insidious problem, whyyyyy are there so many brats out there? Just wondering… :-P

  5. Such a great post! Thank you for sharing!! I had a Pastor who said once that he didn’t understand why 2 year olds walk all over their parents. He said – last he checked, the parents were bigger and wiser then the 2 year old.

  6. Pingback: In The Mood For Fall | the domestic fringe

  7. As a former teacher, a mother, and a grandmother….I say KUDOS to you for writing this. Something much needed by most parents today….if you want to see why kids are like they are at school, just meet the parents.

    Well said.

  8. Pingback: Parenting 2010 Style | Buford Corn Maze a Night of Family Fun

  9. I have two sons, 10 and 8, and it has recently come to the attention of my husband and me that we reasoned with my oldest to the point that I believe he has started to think it is his dad, me AND him that are running the show around here. His place in our family has become blurred to the point I think he believes he is getting to live the best of both worlds, input on decisions and no responsibility. Well, after several discussions to determine how we plan to fix the damage we have done and put ourselves on the parenting track that we originally intended to take, we have shook up his little world but good. We have always considered our family dynamic to be more on the traditional side, but I guess we caved in to the “norm” of attempting to be perfect and serve our children the world on a silver platter. Surprisingly, the reaction has not been as stressed as I imagined it would be, I think he is happier to have been told he is not “in charge” and he doesn’t have to bear the burden of having to understand things far beyond his years.

  10. I twittered your post. You are definitely right on on this one!

    When our girls were little we used to take them to Olive Garden and other nice restaurants and I remember several times when people would come up and compliment us on how well behaved they were. Our girls were not and are not angels, but we have almost always been able to take them out anywhere and not be afraid of them throwing tantrums or whatever else.

  11. Excellent post!!!! Right on target!!! It amazes me how shocked people are when they find out that they have been sitting next Scott, Kimberly and 6 children. When Scott and Kim say “No”, it’s “No”. The children aren’t without their moments, but even Auntie was floored when Jake cried and whined for a take-out container until Scott looked at him and said, “Stop now” and Jake stopped immediately, not even a whimper, (he was 3 or 4 at the time). Behavior like that should be the norm, not the shocking. I’m posting this on my Facebook so more people can see this. Very well written and points made.

  12. I could not agree more!

    It amazes me how parents bow down to their little darlings’ every desire and let them call the shots. Kid does not = adult; it is the job of the adult to teach the kid to become the adult.

    Here’s another manifestation, although I’m not sure whether it’s a question of not saying “no” or a question of being too lazy or selfish to be the parent. Or maybe that’s the same thing?

    Have you ever been at Wally World at 10 o’clock at night and seen the number of very young children there? Often they are dressed in nothing more than a diaper, maybe with a dirty bottle or dirty pacifier hanging out of their mouth, and the kids are crying and crying and crying and CRYING! Why haven’t the parents taken it upon themselves to take these babies home and put them to bed!

    This is all easy for me; my children are all grown up. ;-)

    • I said the same thing above, before reading farther down the page! I’m glad someone else has a problem with this!!

      One time, I even looked sympathetically at a little boy (couldn’t have been more than five years old) and said, “I know, it’s past my bedtime, too.” Whoops. The parent glared at me and said, “It’s not past his bedtime. He doesn’t go to bed until 11oclock!” I bit my tongue, because I wanted to say, “And whose fault is that, exactly?”

  13. What a refreshing post you wrote today. Although I have three adult children and am done raising them, I do have a 4 yr. old grandson living with me and needed the reminder. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!!!!

  14. Hi friend. One of my favorite posts of yours by the way. Now that I’ve cleared that air let me say that I agree with you 100%. I think that this day and age of parenting stems from parenting that came out of the depression. With that you have a lot of parents who decide they want to give their child everything they didn’t have.

    How can we expect our children to not fall predator to the advertising schemes of having everything they want when the parents fall prey to it as well. (Not you btw) How many parents do we know that have to have the best of everything. The newest everything. They want a fabulous house, a new car, motorcycles, 600-inch tvs, the newest cell phones, great clothes, vacations in paradise islands.

    The days are gone of a meager living and humble family life. How many people do we know in debt trying to obtain that bigger better dream? And a year later that new car, tv, cell phone isn’t popular anymore. It never ends.

    My rambling point is children are overindulged because the parents want to be overindulged. Parents want to have their mini American McFortune. We as parents have to be the ones who LIVE that humble existence. I know Christian families LOADED who spend so much money and claim they don’t tithe.

    What is going on? Our values are askewed by the media and advertising. Our own selfish desires. There is an air of I deserve this and that and this and that. We all fall prey to it in some ways. Some of the happiest people are the amish! That’s who I’d love to take advice from.

    So having said all that all I am really saying in my run-on-sentence rant is that I agree with you. Lolzzz :)

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself! Parents need to focus more on parenting and less on being buddies.Kids want to know where they stand and what is expected of them. I think if you love unconditionally, discipline faithfully, and teach responsibility, kids will turn out just fine.

  15. Speaking of having the kids clean up after themselves, I saw a news article about a private school in Japan (I think) that has no janitor, everyday before school lets out the kids clean the school, all. of. it., classrooms, lunchroom, bathrooms, playground, etc. and they are ALL required to participate it is considered a part of their education, learning how to clean. Think of all the money our school systems could save if the last period of the day was Cleaning 101.

    • When my friend’s ds was in kindergarten, he was always wanting to help, the way little kids do. One day after the snack he wanted to wipe off the table. The ever-so-helpful aide told him, “No, no, I will do that. You go play.”

      I think we make an egregious error to discourage kids from helping willingly. This makes them into self-indulgent teenagers and good luck getting them to do anything then.

      My mom never did anything for us that we could do for ourselves. She would say, “I don’t want to hinder your development.”

    • I have a friend who taught in China and it was the same. I told my high school students about it and they thought it was cruel and unusual punishment! I told them that maybe they’d have more respect for their surroundings if they had to clean it! :-)

  16. When I go to the store, the notorious Wally World especially, frequently there are children yelling and crying, babies screaming, young’uns running around unsupervised. Are the babies tired, hungry or cold? Why are the children yelling and crying? Is it because they didn’t get what they wanted? Where are the parents of the kids that are running around, getting in other shoppers way? I realize that everyone has a bad day, but it seems like this is not a bad day, but it is normal.
    When my kids were younger (they are teens now) they wouldn’t THINK of doing that kind of thing, because they would be in trouble when they got home!
    All I can say is, “Preach it!” :-)

    • Karen – When I go to Wally World (or any store, for that matter), I am more struck by the parents who insist on taking their children there at 9 o’clock pm or later. The children are tired and cranky, and I don’t blame them!! Most of the time they are there with OTHER adults, whose time would have been better spent staying at home with the children and putting them to bed at a decent hour. But nooooooooo, these parents have to drag their brood out to the store (I’ve even seen children in pajamas). And because the children are tired and cranky, who do you think behaves worse then the children? The parents, who proceed to scream at them to be quiet and stop bugging them. I want to smack them (the adults)!

  17. Perfect. As a nanny for several years and being so much older than my siblings I not only watched my mother as a parent but also others and saw what worked and what didn’t. I had a job in college at our Child Development Resource Center and at the time they had a rule that you weren’t allowed to say NO to the child. You’ve got to be kidding me. So, the three-year-old on the playground gets, “Sand stays on the ground. This is how we play with sand…” and thinks oh, it is on the ground AND up in the air. YAY.

    NO, sometimes they need to hear the word no. Sometimes the best discipline is firm and direct. No reasoning or they think they can do that in all situations. Choices, yes. But you shouldn’t have to start an argument with each request. I think all children have to assert their independence at times and reasoning does give them an opportunity to work out a problem for themselves but only when they are older and a bit more mature.

    Discipline comes from the word disciple. We know that a disciple is a student which means that when we use discipline we are teaching the child what behaviors, etc. are expected and appropriate. This helps them to become good citizens. Working at a college I see first hand what “modern parenting” has done to these children and it’s NOT GOOD.

    Okay, I’m off my soap-box ;-)

  18. We turned out okay didn’t we! I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s unbelievable to me today how children have little respect for any adults much less their parents. I remember how a mother in a vegetable stand lineup at the cash was trying to deal with a screaming child who wanted candy NOW. She whipped him into her mini van which was right in front of the stand and got back in line. Every one in the line clapped and cheered her on for the way she handled her son. :)

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