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?
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.