Saturday, August 27, 2011
Relax. It's just parenting.
I used to be a helicopter. I mean a full on hovering war craft looming over my kids and prepped for battle in the event that something were to happen or if they even started to make a bad decision. I was going to swoop in guns a blazing and stop it from happening! To some extent I still hang on to some of those helicopter mentalities. But for the most part I now realize that being this type of parent doesn't benefit your kids. It actually does more harm than good. The change in me came with a series of classes I took at church. It was "Parenting with Love & Logic". I highly recommend the DVD, Books, or classes if you have the chance! It changed who I was as a parent and the relationship I was on the verge of ruining with my (at the time) pre-teen.
The class taught me that my kids weren't the first kids ever. Funny right? But isn't that how we treat them? Like kids have never been invented. Like they've never survived without our constant watch for 18 years. And one of the points that the instructor brought up was that we trust our dogs to learn our commands and use them more than we trust our kids. Think about that one. Mind. Blown. It also pointed out that I needed to get over myself because I was not the first parent ever. I wasn't the one who discovered parenting and I will never be the best at it! That's not an insult people. It's a truth.
Parenting also is not a dictatorship. It's a partnership with your children. Specifically in the teen years. If we hover over them and don't allow them to learn decision making they become failures in the real world. It's best to allow them to make decisions and take responsibility for bad ones while they are still under our "direction" than when they are adults and there is no one (other than their parole officer) to guide them. The class touched on lessons like not running lunch or homework to your child's class when they forget it. In the real world if you forget, you deal with it until the next day, you learn from it and you don't do it again. It taught bigger lessons like letting your child sit in a jail cell when they are teens and they get caught doing things like shop lifting or drinking. The lessons have to hurt. Sure it's hard for us too. But better a hard lesson now than a permanent scar on their record later.
These classes changed who I was as a parent. Which is good but also challenging. It's good because my relationship with my teen is a good one. He knows we will be there to talk his bad decisions out not hover over him yelling without giving him the chance to speak. Think about it. In the real world if you make a big mistake at work, do they bring you into a room, surround you by your bosses, scream at you, take away your computer, and tell you you're a bad person? Hopefully not! It's more likely that they'll bring you in a room, discuss the transgression, and either hold you accountable (via termination, write up, etc.,) or create a game plan to avoid the error in the future. So which style of parenting prepares your teen for real world scenarios? We have chosen discussion, action plans, & apologies. Teaching our teen to talk things out and express their reasoning prepares them for the real world when they may have to do the same with a professor, employer, or cop. This has reduced the amount of fights in our house but raised some eyebrows with people near us. We get it. People still like to scream at their kids. They like to feel like they are in charge. Great. If that works for you, do it. But this is our family and this is how we've chosen to do it.
For our younger children, many of the lessons are the same but the delivery and the scale is different. Some of the examples in the class for younger kids include picking your battles. Like if it's freezing out and your child is insistent on not wearing a coat (classic power struggle right?!) then simply say "Okay" and take it along in case they change their minds. What are the chances that they will die of hypothermia that day? Slim to none. But what are the chances that they will learn that a jacket is an excellent choice on a cold day and decide to wear one moving forward? Sharing the decision making on small things reduces the amount of stress in your life and allows your child to learn how to care for themselves and make the right choices. This is what our job is right?
Our house a co-op. We all make choices and share decisions. This has greatly reduced our need to fight. We like it this way and we feel it's beneficial to our children. We have the understanding that our kids are going to make bad decisions some times. Our kids are going to say naughty things sometimes. Our kids are going to get curious about boobs in their teen years. Our kids may get caught cheating in class. Our kids may be brought home by the police at some point in their adolescent life. Our kids may bite another kid. Our kids may break things. Our kids may not always like us. They aren't the first kids ever. Kids have done this (and worse) for millions of years. Does it still hurt us as parents when they make the wrong choice? You bet! There's no escaping that! But we have to understand that it's a part of their process. We did the same things or different things when we were kids. And so it continues.
This is what we signed up for parents. There isn't a single parent in the world who hasn't had to face bad behavior. This is literally the job folks. And we need to be respectful about the job and humbled by the work. Don't judge your fellow parents because they choose to lead their families differently. Don't side eye that lady at Walmart (raises hand) giving her kids what for in the parking lot. As long as we are guiding our children into the right decisions and holding them accountable for their actions that's what counts. And if you haven't been there yet, hold your tongue. Karma's a bitch. Don't judge the struggles of teen parents if you haven't had a teen yet. And don't tell a toddler mom she's doing it wrong when your baby is still in diapers. You are not exempt. It WILL happen to you! Have respect for the work other parents are doing for their families.
Am we perfect parents? HA! Not close! I'm the lady losing her cool some days in the Walmart parking lot. I'm the lady letting my kids stay up past bed time simply because I missed them a little extra at work that day. I'm the lady who has been known to drop an F bomb or two in front of the kids in traffic. But I'm also the lady God chose to turn these boys into men. Good men who make good choices. my husband is the man that God chose to guide them and lead by his character. God did this. God knew what he was doing. So even when it's hard, even when it's ugly, even when you're overwhelmed by this job, just remember: Relax. It's just parenting.