Category Archives: parenting

Gentle Parenting (When You Really Don’t Feel Like It)

It’s 27 days until Christmas.  Maybe you’re starting to feel the stress of the holidays.  Or maybe money’s tight.  Maybe you’re not sleeping well.  Maybe you’re dealing with health issues, or with the health issues of a loved one.  Maybe you’re just plain TIRED, and when your 3 three year old has her seventh tantrum of the day, while you may want to respond with patience and understanding, your first knee-jerk thought might well be, “Are you freaking KIDDING ME??”

Now matter how committed you may be to parenting gently, and no matter how much you love your kids, you’re still a human, dealing with your own human emotions.

Here are a few things to help get you grounded again when you’re about to lose it.

1. Breathe.  It’s said so often that it feels like its a cliche, but it’s not.  Consciously stopping to breathe is the very best first line of defense against any emotionally charged situation, bar none.  It sends oxygen to your body, calms your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces the flight or fight response.  Before you speak, before you do ANYTHING….. breathe.  And then:

2.  Slow down.  I love this one because it seems so counter intuitive.  When everything’s crazy, and you’re in a hurry, and you’re rushing around, and everything’s going wrong… slowing down seems like the least helpful thing you can do.  But it’s essential to keeping your cool. Slow down, take a step a back, and regroup.  You’ll be more productive, you’ll make less mistakes, and you’ll be much less likely to say things you’ll regret.

3.  Focus on the current moment only.  We are so, so good at stressing out about the past, and worrying about the future.  So, so good!  The problem is, it takes us out of the current moment, and makes it that much harder to respond with patience and calm.  Breathe, slow down, and focus on making THIS moment a kind one.  Just this one.

4.  Put yourself in your child’s shoes.  Empathy is one of the greatest tools we have when it comes to relating to other people, our children included.  How is she feeling right now?  What is he going through?  It is HARD to be a toddler (and a preschooler and a middle-schooler and a teenager)  It’s hard to be a human.  Life can be frustrating.  Remembering that your child is having a hard time with something goes a long way toward making it more about the person, and less about the behavior.  It’s not personal.  They’re not trying to annoy you.  Rather, they’re trying to communicate in the only way they know how at the moment. Remember a time you felt the same way, and treat your child the way you wish you’d been treated.  They need your compassion, not your anger.

5.  Keep your perspective.  AKA don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff.)  In the moment, when big feelings are rampant, and people are triggered, and the situation is escalated, it often feels like the most catastrophic issue in the world.  Except… it’s not.  It’s not even close.  In the grand scheme of things, this moment is but a little blip.   Spilled milk, Sharpie on the wall, meltdowns over getting the wrong colored cup, sandwiches shoved in the DVD player…. I promise you it won’t matter later.  It won’t.  And nothing – seriously NOTHING – is more important than that little human standing before you, waiting to see how you’re going to react.

6.  Apologize when it’s warranted.  You’re going to have your not-so-gentle moments.  That’s a given.  Sometimes, even if you do everything “right”.  Even if you breathe, and slow down, and take a step back, and empathize and keep your perspective… your frustration still comes out sideways, and you find yourself snapping or yelling, or otherwise responding in a way you regret.  The positive part?  Now you have an opportunity to model genuine remorse.  Apologizing to your children shows them 1) That you, too, are human. 2) That it’s okay to mess up sometimes, and 3) The steps to take to make it right.  And when apologies are freely and honestly given, forgiveness is a natural by-product.  I can’t even think of a time when I’ve apologized to my kids and they haven’t graciously and authentically forgiven me.

The concepts of positive parenting are simple.  Not always EASY, but simple.  I think when it comes right down to it, the answer is that your kids want what all of us want.  To be heard.  To be seen.  Forget the behavior for a second.  Forget the frustration or the anger or the annoyance, and really SEE your child for the unique and complex and multifaceted perfectly imperfect human that they are.  And then act accordingly.

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Bullying the Bully

via ABC News

bul·ly
ˈbo͝olē
noun
-a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.
synonyms: persecutor, oppressor, tyrant, tormentor, intimidator;
verb
-use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.
A few days ago, BuzzFeed ran an article about a mom’s “unique” parental move to punish her son.  He’d been unkind to kids at school, so she made him wear a t-shirt that said, “I’m a bully”, both front and back.

(Unique, by the way, is in quotes because, Buzzfeed?  This sort of public shaming is anything BUT unique.  It’s – unfortunately – one of the most popular parenting trends out there, and one I’ve written about several times.)

Mom has, as expected, been widely praised for this decision, with few people failing to recognize its sad irony.  The biggest problem with this type of parenting tactic (and make no mistake, there are plenty) is that it is teaching the child that it is okay to do the very thing you don’t want them to do!  Read the definition of bully again.  “A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.”  Or as a verb: “to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”  This mom, by very definition, is bullying her son, for….. bullying.  She is in essence telling him that it’s okay to use force, intimidation, and humiliation to make your point.  She is telling him that it’s okay to negatively use your position of power and authority over someone to make them do what you want.  She is telling him that it’s okay to throw a child’s mistakes in their face, chastise them for their bad decisions, and publicly shame them for their poor choice in judgment.

Is what the boy did wrong?  Absolutely!  But as the proverbial saying goes, two wrongs do not make a right.  Mom’s bullying of the boy does not in any way absolve either one of them of their behavior.

I can’t pretend to know why this particular boy chose to bully.  What I do know though, is that people have a tendency to act as well as they feel.  There’s a reason why the expression, “Hurt people hurt people” is so often touted to explain poor behavior.  Someone who is hurting, or feeling unloved, or unseen, or unappreciated, might lash out and hurt others.  Someone who feels badly about themselves might look for flaws in others to make themselves feel better.  Someone who feels weak might pick on someone who seems even weaker.  Someone who’s bullied may very well turn around and bully others.  People who are hurting inside hurt others.  It is a sad truth, but it’s one that can’t be ignored.

And make no mistake, bullying should never, ever be excused.  Unkindness of any sort should always be addressed, and discussed, and navigated together as parent and child.  It’s a particularly … yucky  (for lack of a better word) part of parenting, but it’s an important one nonetheless.  In fact, just a few days ago, I had to help one of my children around a bullying situation – my child was on the receiving end – and I walked away with many feelings, one of which was gratitude at how it was handled by all parents involved.

Kids are still learning.  Their brains are literally still forming.  They’re human, and sometimes they mess up.  Sometimes they mess up badly.  And yes, sometimes they might be unkind.  It’s not our job as parents to respond to unkindness with more unkindness!  Our job is to set a boundary, yes, but to also offer unconditional love (which, in its absence, may be the very thing causing the bullying in the first place.) Our job is to show them how to treat others.  Our job is to be the ultimate models of kindness to all people… starting with our own children.

And when your child IS the bully?  It comes down to compassion, and understanding, and finding out the WHY.  That “why” is so important!  Behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  People aren’t unkind for no reason.  If your child is a perpetrator, or for that matter a victim, of a bullying situation:  look for the why, and then go from there.   Responding to bullying with more bullying will only make the situation worse.  Talk to your children, but even more importantly, listen.  They’ll tell you what you need to know.  Once you have a frame of reference, you can form a plan and move forward with a solution.

No shaming t-shirts necessary.

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Reality Check

There’s a new list (read: harsh edict) floating around Facebook, and it’s being touted as a “must-read” for every teacher and parent, particularly those of teenagers.  While I’ll concede right up front that some of these are true, the entire list is steeped in negativity.  It is cold and uncaring, and sounds as though it were written in anger.  Honestly, lists like this kind of baffle me.  I assume the goal is supposed to be to change one’s behavior…. but if life is really as terrible as this describes, what exactly would be the incentive to do so?

Here is the original list, along with my response:

1. You WILL NOT be rewarded for bad behavior.

You shouldn’t do anything, good or bad, for extrinsic rewards.  Rather, I want you to do things because they align with your own sense of right or wrong, good or bad.  While you may not be rewarded for certain decisions, you are a human and you are allowed to make mistakes.  You will still be loved and accepted, unconditionally.

2. Being told “No” is a part of life.  GET OVER IT.

Being told “no” is unfortunately a lesson that life will teach us all at some point or another.  Life does this all on its own, so I will never manufacture a “no” for the sole purpose of driving the point home.   Don’t ever let life’s “no’s” define you, either.  Because you know what?  Life will tell you “yes” sometimes too.

3. You are free to make your choice, you ARE NOT free of the consequences. 

This is another one that life will in fact teach us on its own.  Consequences for our actions are one of life’s big teachers, to be sure.  Our job isn’t to be threatened by them, but to trust them, and to empower ourselves to learn from them.

4. Life IS NOT fair.

(This seems as good a time as any to point out that excessive use of caps and underlines doesn’t exactly command respect.  Instead it conveys anger and insecurity)

Yes, sometimes life really doesn’t feel fair.  And when that happens, it’s a time to be mad if you need to (you’re allowed to be mad!), regroup and move on.  And when life isn’t fair for one of your friends or loved ones?  Be their soft spot to land on, and their constant port in the ever changing world.

5. You are not the boss.

Not the boss of who?  Yourself?  Damn skippy you’re the boss!!  Personal autonomy is one of the most important gifts we have in this life.  You make your decisions.  You forge your path.  You choose what kind of person you will be.   No matter what a day may be, it begins and ends with you being your own boss.

6. The world does not revolve around you.

The world doesn’t revolve around any of us.  Or rather, the world revolves around all of us, working together…. which is never going to happen if we’re constantly shaming and demoralizing each other with angry “reality checks.”

7. Respect is EARNED, it is NOT just given.  

I actually think it’s the opposite.  I think respect should be the default.  Respect should be given freely and without condition.  People will show us if they don’t deserve it.

8. The world owes you NOTHING.  Work for it.

Hard work is wonderful.  So is being kind, to yourself and to others.  So is acting with integrity, and decency, and self-respect.  Who does or does not owe you anything is irrelevant.

9. Fits and tantrums will get you NOTHING. Stop wasting your time.

This made me chuckle a little bit in its irony.  The entire tone of this original list is that of a tantrum.  And I agree, in this particular case, that it gets you nothing.

10. You put yourself here.  YOU need to fix YOU.  

Not a one of us put ourselves here.  Let’s just start there.  To be blunt about it, we’re here because two people procreated.  It’s our choice what we do with out lives to be sure, but it’s not our choice to be here.  The onus on us is to live our best lives and be our best selves, not be so shouldered with so much guilt and unnecessary responsibility that we don’t even want to bother.

11.  Shut your mouth, open your ears.

Here’s the thing.  Even if I’d agreed with the entire list, you’d have lost me with this one.  It’s unkind and unnecessary.  We don’t influence behavior, win friends, or gain respect by telling people to “shut their mouths.”  And on the contrary, lots of forward progress has been made in this country, and in this world, precisely because people did not shut their mouths.

Life has some harsh lessons sometimes, this much is true.  But the answer is never, ever more harshness.

 

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After The Wiping Days Are Over

Too many years ago

“I’m all done!”

It came from inside one of the bathroom stalls…. a sweet, tiny, sing-song voice that made my uterus hurt just to hear it.

It wasn’t one of mine.  We’re many many years removed from requiring any bathroom help.  But as I stood there, taking my time as the warm water washed the soap off my hands, I couldn’t help but smile.  The mom of the owner of the little voice was momentarily distracted with a sibling, so after a beat the voice rang out again, this time with a little more urgency.

“I’m all dooo-ne!”

For a minute, I just hung there, suspended somewhere between my nostalgia and the truth.  Hadn’t my kids just been that tiny?  The truth is, at 21, nearly 18, 14, and 10, my kids are far beyond any descriptions of tiny.  A full half of them are no longer technically kids at all.  Two are taller than me, one’s on his way, and my “baby” just turned double-digits 4 months ago.

It’s perhaps one of the biggest parenting cliches.  “It goes so fast.  Enjoy every minute!”

Except, it’s true.  It’s really really true.  And the nostalgia that hit me in the bathroom, the unlikeliest of places, nearly took my breath away.  It really does go that fast.  

And it’s so dang filled with beauty.  And pain.  And memories of times that you sometimes wish you could freeze, and sometimes wish you could skip over.  Parenting is like life, but…. condensed.  Until the good times and beautiful times and times that bring you to your knees come rushing back to your consciousness one day in the bathroom of your daughter’s theater.

It goes so fast. 

And don’t get me wrong.  Having older kids is its own kind of wonderful.  There are a host of new things to look forward to,  and exciting things to enjoy to be sure.  But my kids…. my sweet, funny, intelligent, fierce kids just don’t need me in the same way that they used to.  And that’s really its own kind of bittersweet mourning.

So today I’m thinking of that mom.  The mom of the sweet little bathroom singer who needed help wiping.  Are you stressed?  Had you been running around crazy all morning worrying about lack of sleep and diaper bags and sippy cups and getting everyone into their car seats? Mom to mom, I get it.  I do.  It’s tiring!  Some days, it’s downright, to your very bones, exhausting.

And my humble advice, summed up to the very best of my ability:  Soak in those good days, breathe on the shitty ones, and know – really truly, deeply know – that it really does go by in the blink of an eye.

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What Do Your Kids Own?

With one of his all-time favorite possessions. Photo credit: Angela Morgan

We are currently in the middle of getting our house ready to sell.  Which means a lot of different things, but mostly means a whole heck of a lot of sorting, culling, packing, and organizing 12 years worth of accumulated… stuff.  And if you’ve ever sold a house, or moved in general, you know that this is hard work.  Not just hard, but exhausting.  Physically, mentally, deep-in-your-bones exhausting.  There is a reason that moving is so often cited as one of the top most stressful life events.

But I digress.

So we’re packing and sorting and throwing out bags upon bags upon bags full of trash. The kids have all helped out with assorted general projects around the house. but they’ve mostly been tasked with dealing with their own rooms:  decluttering, tidying up, getting rid of what they no longer want or need, and packing anything that they don’t need at the moment but still want to keep and move to the new house. Their father and I offer opinions or help when it’s asked for or relevant… but far and away, the decisions are ultimately theirs.  Because, well, because it’s their stuff.  Everything in their rooms, from clothes, to games, to books, to phones, to electronics belongs to them.  And that holds true whether it was purchased by us, gifted by someone else, or bought with their own money.

There’s a very strange dichotomy that exists amidst the conventional parenting world that goes something like this:

“My kids don’t own anything.  *I pay for the house, *I pay the bills, *I buy their things.  Therefore, it all belongs to me.”  (Which, by the same token, would also mean that myself and all my fellow stay-at-home moms also technically own nothing.)

AND, at the same time:

“This house belongs to them too.  They need to help keep it clean.  They need to show pride of ownership.  They have to take better care of their things.”

So… which one is it?  (Hold that thought. I’ll get back to that)

There is a ubiquitous need by most of society to view children as lesser humans.  If they’re treated like people at all, they’re treated as people with less rights, less of a voice, less importance.  They’re treated like they are ours to own, and ours to control.  This is evident in a myriad of ways, but for the sake of the conversation at hand:  It always makes me shake my head a little (or a lot) when I see parents posting about the contracts that they make their teens sign when they “give” them cell phones (give, by the way, is in quotes because it’s not really giving if it’s so damn conditional.  At best, it’s a loan, with a whole hell of a lot of strings attached). Our interactions with our kids should not be transactions, but beyond that…. how is a kid to learn how 1) take pride of ownership and 2) make responsible decisions with a phone that is not even theirs?  How do you learn to trust them if you do not give them the space to show you that they can be trusted?  Not because of a fear that you’re going to punish them and take their phone away if you don’t… but because of a genuine, intrinsic desire to act from a place of their own personal sense of right and wrong.  How do they learn about privacy, about healthy boundaries, and about autonomy if they’re literally not given the opportunity to do so?  Not to mention the fact that demanding passwords, reading texts, and checking history is a pretty surefire way to ensure that your kids learn to get really good at hiding things, and really unlikely to share when or if they do run into trouble.

DISCLAIMER (If you’re just skimming, please stop and read this)

A few complaints that I get a lot, particularly when it comes to things like cell phones:

Kids need guidance!  Yes.  Absolutely.  They do.  Which is why I’ve never said, in this or any other post, that they do not.  Further, different ages need different amounts of guidance.  As kids get older, they are going to need less and less interference.  JUST AS MUCH COMMUNICATION, but less interference.  There are age appropriate ways to help ANY aged child navigate the line of responsible ownership while still giving them the guidance they need.

But the internet is DANGEROUS!  Well, sure.  The internet can be dangerous.  So can the public school yard.  So can the work place.  So can a night club.  All the more reason to work WITH your children when it comes to things like technology.  Not against them.

Kids have to prove they’re responsible before they can own anything!  Tegan, who’s ten, really wanted a hedgehog.  She talked about it for a year, she researched, and she followed a whole bunch of YouTube channels and Instagram accounts to learn about their personalities, their quirks, and their care.   She saved up her money.  I helped her find a reputable breeder. Last year, around her birthday, we bought her the hedgehog (a baby girl she named Oreo), and she bought the habitat and supplies.   Because I’m just as much as an advocate for animals as I am for kids, I don’t believe that any pet should be brought into the house, no matter whose it is, unless there is an adult who is willing to be the Backup Person… the one who will take responsibility for the pet (which, make no mistake, is a new member of the family).  should there ever be a need.  I appointed myself as Oreo’s Backup Person, but she is Tegan’s.  Tegan feeds her.  She changes her cage.  She gets her out to play.  She gives her baths.  Does she need reminders on some of the above occasionally?  Yes.  Does that mean that she’s not responsible enough to own a pet? No!  It means she is young, still learning, and sometimes needs a partner to help.

The way kids learn – the way any of us learn – is by DOING.  And the only way they can learn to be responsible owners is for them to, well. own things.  It’s our job as parents to model appropriate behavior, to partner with them, to keep open lines of communication… and to help them when they’ve made a mistake.  Not punish them.  And that is true whether we are talking about a cell phone, a hedgehog or anything in between.

When kids are acting up in some way, there seems to be a common knee-jerk reaction to take things away from them.  And after all, that’s your right, because you bought them, right?   Well, there are a few problems with that strategy.  1)  It’s not particularly nice.  I don’t take my husband’s things when he behaves in a way that I don’t like.  2)  It doesn’t address the problem at hand.  Sure, it’s easy, but what does it ultimately accomplish?  Not a whole lot besides making your child (rightfully) resentful.  If you find out what the actual issue behind the behavior, you can deal with it directly, rather than applying the quick and arbitrary band-aid of taking things away.  3) It sends an incredibly mixed message, especially if you fall into the trap I mentioned above.  If I were a child, I would be incredibly frustrated, or even straight-up pissed off, if I was told through words and/or actions that I can’t possibly own anything, AND that I somehow also own a little bit of everything?

Adults need help with taking care of their things all the time.  Why should kids be any different?

As so often happens, I just (literally, just a few minutes ago) had a real-life example of the responsibility of ownership.  I recently bought these noise cancelling headphones, which – it needs to be said – are one of the greatest inventions ever.  They have a switch on them that does something to cancel the noise even more, and I always turn it on…. but then have the hardest time remembering to turn it off.  As a result, I’m burning through batteries like crazy.  I just had to put in another new battery, which I’ve had to do far more than I care to admit in the past few weeks.  Is the solution to take them away from me?  Well, no.  The solution is to realize that I’m a human who is thinking about 57 things at once, sometimes forgets things, and needs a reminder of some sort.  So today, I’m trying this:

If that doesn’t work?  I still won’t make myself get rid of them.  I’ll brainstorm, I’ll try something else, I’ll figure it out….. the same way I’d brainstorm, and try something else, and figure it out with my child should a need ever arise.

So.  To get back to the original question:  Which is it?  Do they own nothing, or do they own everything?  Well, because those are two black and white extremes, and life is shades of grey, I actually believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  They are members of the family, and as such we all work together when it comes to keeping up with the house.  They do – like all the rest of us – need to learn pride of ownership, and are encouraged to take care of their things.  But their things are just that:  THEIRS.  And the younger they are, or the more assistance they need, the more involved we are when it comes to care and responsibility.  But we do this by helping, guiding, watching, talking, listening, modeling….

Not by taking away the very thing that they need help learning to manage.

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An Open Letter to Kelly Clarkson

In a January 10th interview, Kelly Clarkson defended her decision to spank her kids, saying in part: “My parents spanked me, and I did fine in life, and I feel fine about it, and I do that as well.  That’s a tricky thing, when you’re out in public, because then people are like, they think that’s wrong or something, but I find nothing wrong with a spanking.”  The following is my response to those remarks.

You love your kids.  I don’t doubt this.  You would give your life for them.  Like the rest of us, you’re doing the best you can with the information you have, and you have the added pressure of having your every decision critiqued by the general public.  I can’t pretend to know what that’s like.

I understand what you are saying here.  I do.  You are simply doing what your parents did, and probably their parents too. Those patterns run deep, and they require a lot of effort, self-reflection, and often painful realizations to break.  Your parents loved you after all, so why would they do something that hurt you?  The fact is, they just did the best they knew how to do, with the information that they had at the time.  But we’re not our parents.  And we have more information now.

You say you’re “fine”, which is one of the most common refrains that I hear from those who spank their kids.  But – and I say this in the most gentle way I know how – you’re believing a lie.  You’re not fine if you think it’s okay to hit children.  That’s what spanking is.  It’s hitting.  And it’s hitting someone smaller and weaker than yourself.

The great thing about the passage of time is that we can learn from the generations before us.  Our parents did (and didn’t) do all kinds of the things that we now know more about, and can ideally learn from and do differently.  We didn’t wear seat belts.  Or bike helmets.  People smoked through their pregnancies. They were encouraged to wean after just a few months, or even weeks.  Just the other day I was thinking about piercings (I’m currently in the process of healing my latest one), and how the old school of thought told us to twist the jewelry every day.  Now, of course, we know that this actually impedes the healing process, and that the best thing to do is to just keep them clean and leave them alone.

When we know better, we do better.

There is a big movement right now admonishing moms to stop judging each other, and instead just recognize that people do things differently.  To a large extent, I agree!  I don’t care if you make your kids a homemade balanced breakfast, or if they eat a Pop-Tart in the car on the way to school.  I don’t care if their bedtime is at 7:00 or 11:00.  I don’t care if they spend their free time watching SpongeBob or reading Moby Dick.

The thing is though, spanking is not a parenting issue.  It’s a human rights issue. Children, like all humans, have the right to be free from violence, especially in their own home.  They have the right to autonomy, to decide who does and does not touch their bodies, and when, and how, and for what reason.  Hitting your children not only teaches them that it’s okay to solve problems by hitting, but it specifically teaches them to hit people who are smaller and weaker than themselves.  It also seriously blurs the lines of consent, and lets them believe that, well, sometimes it’s okay for people to touch private areas of their bodies, as long as the person doing the hitting is unhappy with their behavior.

Hitting a spouse – or a friend or a neighbor or a stranger in a bar – is assault, and a serious offense.  There are even animal cruelty laws to protect animals.  46 of the 50 states have enacted felony penalties for certain forms of animal abuse.  The fact that there are no such laws to protect children does not make it right.  Your right to parent as you see fit never supersedes your child’s right to be free from harm in his or her own home.  Because make no mistake.  No matter how you frame it, spanking is still hitting.  And hitting in any way, shape, or form (other than in self defense) is violence.  And it’s wrong.

The ironic part?  Parents that spank do so because they think it’ll improve their children’s behavior.  But study after study shows that spanking actually has the opposite effect.   Spanking makes a child less likely to listen, not more.  It also contributes to later aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health problems.  This is real.  This is not an opinion, nor is it just empty words. Spanking is harmful, on every level, and the best of intentions (and absolutely, I believe that most parents are well-intentioned) doesn’t change that.

Our kids need our protection. They need our support and our guidance.  They need us to be living examples of what it means to be respectful and patient and kind.

More than anything though, they need our love.

And hitting should never, ever be conflated with love.

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Why My Kids Are Not Impatient, Bored, Friendless, Or Entitled

Articles that talk about how terrible kids are these days are quite prolific.  Throw a stone anywhere on the internet, and you’ll hit one:  Kids are more entitled than ever.  More lazy.  More disrespectful.  And if this latest article is to be believed, they’re more friendless too.  They can’t possibly make friends it seems, because they’re too busy buried in their electronics, expecting life to serve them with a silver platter, and avoiding all human interaction.

Aside from tiring me (I mean really, you read one of these articles, you’ve read them all), these articles genuinely confuse me.

As a friend recently noted, “Where are all these unpleasant kids? I never meet any of them.”

And indeed, it’s true.  I know quite a lot of kids.  Besides my own four, I’ve spent a lot of time with their friends (Yes!  They do have friends); my own friends’ kids; kids we know through theater and sports and homeschooling groups; kids from the neighborhood; kids that come to our conference every year.  And by and large these kids I’ve had the pleasure of knowing are wonderful humans.  Kind.  Smart.  Creative. Compassionate. Well-spoken. Confident.  Ambitious. These are kids that blow me away with their maturity and their integrity and their grace.  These are not the kids that the above author talks about.  I don’t know where those kids exist, because it’s not in any world that I live in.

The article in question blames the  – theoretical – decline in kids’ attitudes and behaviors on five main things.  And yes, these are the same five things that are cited over and over in similar articles, and the same five things that need nothing more than a perspective shift to be disproved.

  1. KIDS GET EVERYTHING THEY WANT WHEN THEY WANT IT

None of us gets everything we want, when we want it.  Let’s just start there.  An unfortunate reality of life is that sometimes we just have to wait.   By navigating these situations together when they arise, your kids will naturally learn the art of delayed gratification…. without your having to manufacture contrived and artificial scenarios in order to teach them a lesson.  The article gives the example of a child being thirsty, and the parent offering up a vending machine.  This is bad, it tells us, because the child will never learn to wait.  But if I were thirsty, and there was a vending machine nearby, I would in fact buy myself a drink.  Wouldn’t you?  It is categorically unfair to hold kids to a different standard, especially under the pretense of teaching them a lesson.  Life (particularly time, finances, and circumstances) sometimes dictates that we must wait for what we want.  Helping your kids cope when it happens is a far more preferable, respectful, and kind alternative than making them wait just for the sake of making them wait.

  1. LIMITED SOCIAL INTERACTION

The author says,

“Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  (Emphasis is mine)

This incredibly common refrain is built on the erroneous assumption that these two things – technology use, and outdoor time – are mutually exclusive.  Just a couple of days ago, I saw a meme that said, “I’m so glad I grew up doing this,” {insert picture of kids playing in a stream}, “Instead of this.” {insert kids standing and looking at their phones}. As for me, I am incredibly thankful that we live in a day and time when kids can do both!  My kids, right down to the nine year old, love their technology.  They do.  They also love being outside, being active, hanging out with friends, playing games, cooking, being creative… well, you get the idea.  Appreciating technology does not preclude an appreciation of other forms of socialization or activity.  In fact, I will go as far as to say that technology has been a tremendous aid in both forming and nurturing relationships.   And having a friend at your fingertips whenever you need one?  Invaluable.

Just last week, I was at an appointment with the 13 year old – who spends a good amount of time online, playing cooperative games with his friends – and the doctor commented on how smart and well-spoken he was.  Am I worried about his (or any of my kids’) socialization skills?  No.  No, I’m not.

  1. ENDLESS FUN

This was a fun one because the author directly contradicted herself on this point later in the article.  (More on that later) She says we have made life too fun for our kids, and that they’re constantly being entertained.  This of course leads to their inability to deal with necessary tedious tasks, and/or with the aspects of life that may be boring or monotonous.  She tells us we need to do a better of job of making our kids do unpleasant things, so that they’ll get used to it, because:

This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.

I’m not going to mince words about this.  I find the above to be incredibly sad and even concerning.  Boredom is a necessary muscle for learning?  After watching my four kids grow and learn over the past 21 years, I’d say it’s actually the exact opposite.  Learning in any sort of meaningful way requires engagement, not boredom.  It happens when the person doing the learning is interested, and invested, and indeed an active and “plugged in” participant.  It does not happen when one is bored and disinterested.  You know what makes an ideal environment for learning, no matter your age?  An activity that you find fun.  Does she have a point though?  Are there tasks in life that are boring or monotonous?  Well, sure.  But like the rest of us, our kids will learn to handle such tasks naturally and easily as life unfolds around them.  Unless you deliberately shield them from this aspect of living (which, I’m honestly not even sure if that’s possible), they’ll learn.

  1. TECHNOLOGY

Again with the technology.

My best friend lives in another state.  I talk to her every day, every day, thanks to … technology.  My two youngest boys have a group of close friends that they love to play games with.  When circumstances permit (they don’t all live nearby), they get together in 3D life.  And when they don’t, they play the same games together online.  How cool is that?  Technology has enriched our lives, not damaged it.  The author worries that access to so much technology keeps us from staying emotionally connected to our kids.  But again, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  When a parent is paying attention and putting in the effort, it IS possible (probable even!) to have a close, connected relationship with their kids, and allow and appreciate and embrace their use of technology.

Finally, she worries that the highly stimulating world of video games makes the rest of life boring, and leaves kids “vulnerable to academic challenges.”  Which confuses me, because earlier she wanted kids to be bored?  In any case, we need to give kids way more credit than they’re being given here.  They know the difference between video games and real life, between online conversations and in-person hugs, between action movies and cars on the freeway.  And in the event that those lines are blurred, the answer is presence, connection, and assistance with navigating.  The answer is NOT throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  Technology has been such an incredible tool in our lives, both for reasons of practicality and enjoyability.  Could we live without it?  Well, technically, sure.  But I’m so thankful that we don’t have to.

  1. KIDS RULE THE WORLD

I think this is the part where entitlement comes in.  Something that a lot of people fail – or refuse – to understand, is that there is a marked difference between letting kids “rule the world”, and respecting their autonomy as individual and unique humans with their own needs, tastes, preferences, and ways of interacting with the world around them.  Too many parents fall into the trap of micromanaging.  Of treating their kids like robots instead of people:  In goes a pre-determined set of variables, and out comes a perfect, obedient product.  Except kids are people and it doesn’t really work that way.  But speaking from (a lot of) experience, if you dare question the status quo on the matter, you’re accused of, well, letting kids rule the world.  Like so much of parenting, and of life, this is not a zero-sum game.  This kind of black and white thinking presupposes that there are exactly two options: 1) Control and manage and limit every moment of your children’s day, OR 2) leave them completely alone, and indeed do not be a parent at all.  But there are other options.   From food to bedtimes to clothing choices, it is entirely possible – and preferable! – to take a team approach, to give them choices and autonomy and respect, without leaving them to essentially raise themselves.  The author argues that “if we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed.”  First, no one is advocating for “leaving it all up to them.”  Second, it is categorically untrue that a child would never go to bed.  Finally, extremes and straw man arguments never helped anyone get to a closer, more connected relationship with their child.  And isn’t a closer, connected relationship the ultimate goal?  If it isn’t, it certainly should be.  Giving kids a safe, secure, and happy home… one in which they are heard, respected, and valued members of the family… is a great place to start.

 


 

In my house, and my family, my kids are real.  They have moods and moments and hurdles just like anyone else.  They are also kind.  They’re considerate.  They’re smart and respectful and responsible.  They are the kind of people I would choose to be around even if they were not my kids.

I don’t need to “train their brains” (the author’s solution to today’s problem children) to be anything other than what they already are.

I don’t need to micromanage them.  I don’t need to manufacture unpleasant tasks or situations in order to teach them a lesson.

Side note:  Under a heading of “Don’t be afraid to set limits”, she suggests  “converting things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games.”  I’m… confused, as this is in direct opposition to what she said in point three.

I don’t need to choose between technology and emotionally connecting with my kids, because the two can and do exist simultaneously.  I don’t need to train them to delay gratification, and I don’t need to force them to do monotonous work.

What I do need to do is treat them kindly.  Gently.  With respect and courtesy and in a manner that I’d like to be treated myself.  Does that ensure that they’ll be perfect, or that there will never be bumps in the road?  Well, no.  See above about them being, like myself and their father, human.

But I’ll tell you what.  My kids, as well as the vast vast majority of other kids I have the privilege of knowing, are individuals who are lovely, engaging, and a true pleasure to be around.   Maybe it goes without saying, but I find it incredibly sad and disappointing to know that so very many people have such a low opinion of today’s young people.  These impatient, bored, friendless, entitled kids the author writes about?   Maybe they exist – if they do in fact exist at all – because no one believed in them.

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It’s Not Me, It’s You

Not a lot of things make me angry.

A lot of things make me react, for sure, but I tend more towards melancholy, hurt feelings, depression.  But anger isn’t generally one of my bigger go-to’s.  Having said that, I have spent a VERY large portion of the past 18 months being extremely angry at my therapist.

At least I thought it was anger.

What I realized somewhere along the way was that 98% of the time, it wasn’t really anger at all.  I was uncomfortable because he’d challenged my core beliefs.  I was defensive because deep down I knew he was right.  I was embarrassed because he’d brought things to light that I’d have rather kept hidden.  I was frustrated because he’d put the onus on ME to examine, to question, to choose whether or not I was willing to change something that wasn’t serving me, or wasn’t serving the people I loved.

None of those things are the same as anger.  It’s just that it’s So. Much. Easier. to blame someone else than it is to do the uncomfortable, messy, hard (soooo freaking hard) work of actually doing a little bit of self-reflection.  If I blamed HIM, then I got to completely let myself off the hook.  I didn’t have to admit, or change, a single thing.

But the thing is … it wasn’t him.  It was me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger the past few days, ever since I read the comments on my “Can We Stop Being Jerks At Christmas” post when it ran on Scary Mommy.  I stopped reading after the first couple hundred, because after awhile they all honestly sounded the same.  I’m judgmental, I’m arrogant, I’m sanctimonious, and screw you, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-with-my-kids.  Ad nauseam.  By the way, while I’m on the subject, the not-really-a-word word, “Sanctimommy,” is THE silliest, most ridiculous word to come out of the internet, and the idea that I’m supposed to be offended or feel bad to have it hurled in my direction is…. laughable, at best.

The one big theme I saw though, the one that ran through nearly all the comments, was anger.  Dear Lord, so much anger.  Anger directed at me, for…. daring to suggest we be nicer to our kids.  Does anyone else see the irony in that?  Nothing makes people angrier faster than proposing a little more respect.  A little more grace.  A little more understanding.  Nothing makes people angrier faster than challenging the status quo.  Challenging the idea of punishment, of spanking, of time-outs, of manipulation.  Nothing makes people angrier faster than bringing up the idea that YES, children can learn discipline, and self-control, and empathy, and personal responsibility without being shamed and threatened into it.  Nothing makes people angrier faster than the assertion, that yes, gentle parenting is not only possible, but is in fact preferable, for all parties.

But I don’t actually think it’s anger.

There’s always much ado about the fact that “there’s no right or wrong way to parent”, and that to suggest otherwise is arrogant and judgmental.  Well, sorry (except I’m not), but I do believe that kindness is always the right choice.  I do believe that respect is always the right choice.  I do believe that treating our kids the way we’d like to be treated, that treating our kids like HUMAN BEINGS instead of second class citizens is always the right choice.  Always.  Every time.  And it’s a hill I’d be willing to die on… any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

And I wonder, if you’re so confident in your own choice, why on earth would it make you so angry if someone else suggested something different?

It’s likely because you’re not really angry.  You’re uncomfortable, you’re defensive, you’re frustrated, you’re embarrassed.  Your toes have been stepped on.  But you’re not actually angry.  And you’re certainly not angry at me.  You don’t even know me.  But just like with me and my therapist, it’s easier to be angry at me than it is to actually think about anything I said.  To actually ponder it.  To actually wonder if I made any sort of point worth listening to.  It’s easier to make it my fault.  To call me names.  To call my kids names.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to church with any regularity, but I have some very strong memories of some sermons that really affected me.  And they were never sermons that were sunshine and rainbows, never sermons that patted me on the back for what I was already doing.  No, they were the ones that called me out, the ones that challenged me.  The ones that stepped on my toes.  The ones that made me want to hide, red-faced, under the pew because surely he was talking directly about me.

So I get it.  I actually do get it.

But I think that parents – ALL OF US as parents – should be nicer to our kids.  And no negative comment will ever change that.

So call me names.  Call me judgmental.  Call me arrogant.  I can take it.  But some day, at some point, you might want to admit the fact that it’s not actually me you’re mad at.

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Can We Stop Being Jerks At Christmas?

Why do the holidays seem to bring out the worst in people?  Don’t answer that yet.

And why, WHY, do people insist on treating their kids like they’re not even people?  Don’t answer that yet either.

Christmas depresses me.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I love making it special for my kids, love giving presents, love making cookies, love the food, love the festivities.  This year is a mellow year for us.  We just came off the nine-year-old’s play, which was taking a lot of time, especially during that final tech week.  And my semester just ended, the same week as her play.  So right now, I’m exhaling.  Exhaling and getting ready to enjoy the holidays, but not freaking out about getting anything in particular done in time.  What will be will be, and it’ll be nice.

But it still depresses me.

Mainstream parents tend to go a little crazy this time of year.  I’ve never made any secret about the fact that I disagree with mainstream parenting in general… but never do I disagree with more fervor than at Christmas time.

I don’t have the vocabulary to express how much I hate some of what goes on during Christmas.  (And by the way:  Like they say in the movie Stepmom, hate isn’t a word I use often.  I think it’s a “perfectly acceptable word, but only to be used when I truly detest something”)  I truly detest what some parents do this time of year.

I wrote about the Santa Cams a few weeks back, but the latest thing that’s been brought to my attention is the idea of “present jail.”  In a public post that is getting praised up and down on Facebook, one mom posted a picture of a cardboard box with some presents in it, and writes:

So….we started this yesterday because one little girl refuses to listen and behave. Any present still in the box at Christmas goes put up and can only be EARNED back by good behavior. If they can follow the rules and be good for an entire day, they can return a jailed present back to the tree. Sometimes having a visual helps a lot more than just telling them. And they have to put the present in there themselves. Presents are a privilege not a right, naughty children do not get gifts for misbehaving. #meanmom

The first time a friend showed it to me, I said, “I should write about that.  But how many times, and how many ways can I say, “BE NICE TO YOUR KIDS?”  I’ve said essentially the same thing dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

And I’m saying it again, I think in the hopes that someone, somewhere will read my words, and say, “Oh.  I hadn’t thought of it that way.”  One person.  That’s all.  And maybe it’s you.  Maybe you’re the one I’m talking to.

This whole idea of earning gifts is archaic and cruel and the exact antithesis of what gift giving should be.  Gift-giving should be unconditional.  That’s the whole point.  Gifts should be something that come from the heart of the giver, with no strings, and no expectations.  Buying a gift, and then taking it away as punishment?  It ceases to be a gift … even if they “earn” it back.  You took something that should have been an expression of love and turned it into an ugly and void commodity.  Congratulations.

And why just the kids?  Why do kids need to earn their presents?  If you buy your husband a new watch, and he comes home from work grumpy one day, do you hold it ransom?  Do you tell him you bought him a present, but he doesn’t get it unless he “behaves.”?  That is not a way to treat someone you love, no matter their age.  It seems kind of ludicrous to think about doing it to a spouse or a friend or another adult loved one, so why, WHY would anyone think it’s okay to do to kids?  As horrible as I think it’d be to do to an adult (and I do indeed think it’s pretty darn horrible), I think it’s a million times worse to do it to your kids.  Your kids are still learning.  Still figuring things out.  Still working out how to deal with their feelings, and how to to navigate a world that is nuanced and tricky and at times extremely complicated.  They need parents who are going to love them through it, to be by their side, to model appropriate behavior.  And at this time of year, they need parents to show them what giving really means.  Can you imagine the sad and confusing message it sends to them about generosity to be told that they have to earn their gifts?   That their gifts can be taken away at a moment’s notice if they’re “naughty?” Naughty, by the way, is a word that should never be used for a child, or anyone, especially one who is just trying to deal with something difficult the best way they know how.  They need our HELP, not our punishment and our shame.

I’ve had a few moments over the past month or so that I’m not proud of.  I’m a human, and I’m not perfect.

Guess what?  Your kids are humans and are not perfect either.

They deserve your love, your compassion, and yes, they deserve your generosity!  Whether it’s in the form of your time, of an experience, of something handmade, of something they’ve been wanting from a store.  It feels good to give to people we love.  At least it’s supposed to!  I can’t imagine it feels good to hold presents hostage, unless it honestly makes you feel good to do something unkind, which…. isn’t right.  It’s just not.  We’re not designed that way.  We’re designed to love unconditionally, to give without expectation, to show our kids (through our words, through our actions, through our time) that they matter.  That we love them.  That we are, in fact, their biggest fans.  Their biggest supporters.  Their biggest role models.  The ones they can count on when life gets squidgy, and the ones who will stand beside them when they’re scared, telling them, without a moment’s hesitation, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”

It feels good to love with that kind of love, because IT IS GOOD.

Nothing about buying and withholding gifts (and being so dang proud of it) fits into this model of true, unconditional love.  In fact, it downright perverts it.

Kids need and deserve our love and compassion all year round, but especially during the holidays.  Schedules are messed up, sleep is spotty, there’s extra excitement and stimulation and fancy foods, and it’s no wonder a child – or an adult – would be out-of-sorts.  LOVE THEM THROUGH IT.  Help them.  Don’t punish them.  Don’t turn gifts, something that should be fun and loving and happy, into a gross display of power and intimidation.  Don’t teach your kids that gifts should come with strings attached.  Don’t teach your kids that other people are theirs to control and manipulate.  Don’t teach your kids that the way to solve a problem is through shaming and scare tactics.

Please, please don’t.

This Christmas, be nice to your kids.  Please.  Treat them like people.  Treat them the way YOU would like to be treated.

And I’m pretty dang sure you wouldn’t want your new iPhone taken away because you were a little snippy one day.

Be nice to your kids.

____________________________________________________

This post was also syndicated and appeared on Scary Mommy, and was mentioned on The View!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5Qo_jcZ260&t=102s

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6 Rules I’d Never Use For My Toddlers

  1.  I have evil friends who send me links to articles that they know I’ll want to refute, especially articles that are in list form.  I can never resist them.  They just make it too easy.  And,
  2. My obligatory disclaimer: This post is about ideas, concepts, and philosophies.  It is not an attack on an individual.  I don’t know the author of the original article.  In fact on a second look, I couldn’t even find an author credited.  It was published by a Montessori School.  They gave their point of view;  I’ll give mine.  It’s kind of how the internet works.

Having said that:

The article in question is one titled, Six Unusual Rules For Disciplining Your Toddler That Are Effective.  The author and I…. disagree.  🙂

I don’t have a toddler anymore (at the time of this writing, my youngest is 9), but I remember the toddler years very, very well.  The author and I do agree on one thing:  toddlers definitely require a very specific type of parenting.  But we part company on what that specific type of parenting might entail.  Toddlers need a ton of patience, a ton of understanding, and a ton of grace.  It is HARD to be 1. 2, 3 years old.  Their list, unfortunately, takes none of this into account.

Here are their six rules, and why I’d do things differently.

Rule #1: “If you’re in the room while I’m working, you need to work also.”

What’s the goal? As you complete your chores, your children should stop bothering you or help ….  Tell her she doesn’t have to help you, but she can’t just sit there and watch you; she must go in another room. She’ll have the option to help you with your chore and be with you or be by herself.

Oof.  This genuinely makes me sad.  First, kids (and toddlers especially!) love to be with their parents as they work, whether it’s on laundry, sweeping the floor, or making dinner.  They also generally love to “help” – help is in quotations only because a 12 month old unfolding your freshly folded laundry to put it in a new pile isn’t technically helping… but she sure feels proud about doing it!  As they get older, more able to follow directions, and more dexterous, they’ll enjoy helping in more and more ways.  And if they don’t want to help?  Maybe they just want to be with their parent.  Maybe they just enjoy your company.  Maybe they want to chat.  Good grief, let them!  Don’t banish them to another room. Life is short.  Time with your kids is precious and fleeting.  For real.  In a couple of months, my oldest “baby” is turning 21.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing parts about this point is when they say that this rule works because “she’s given a choice so she’ll feel as if she’s in control of the situation even though she’s really not.”  What’s described in this sentence is manipulation…. and manipulation of someone we love is never, ever a cool thing to do.

My alternative rule:  If you’re in the room while I’m working, you’re welcome to help.  If you don’t want to help, you’re welcome to just keep me company.

Rule #2: “You get whatever you get so don’t get upset.”

What’s the goal? It ends the bargaining over such things as the color sippy cup he gets, which kids TV character is on his paper plate, which sheets are on his bed, etc.

This is just being controlling for the sole sake of being controlling.  I ask you, seriously, WHY can’t your child have the sippy cup he wants, or the paper plate that he wants, or his preferred sheets on his bed?  The answer to that question generally lies somewhere in the vicinity of, “Because they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want!” And/or “Because they need to learn that life isn’t fair!”  Yes, sure.  We can’t always get what we want.  And life isn’t always fair.  But guess what?  These are lessons that life and circumstances will, unfortunately, teach them… ideally with you as the parent at their side to help them navigate.  You don’t need to actually CREATE harsh lessons for your kids just because you can!  On the contrary, home should be the safe space, the soft spot to fall, the place where you can drink from your favorite cup.  I have a favorite cup (actually I have several of them, depending on my mood, what I’m drinking, etc) and I always make sure to use it.  Am I so inflexible that I literally can’t muster up the emotional fortitude to drink out of another one if need be?  Of course not. But you guys:  we all have likes and preferences.  A favorite cup is such a simple, simple way to honor your kids’ likes and wishes and show them through that one small gesture – which feels like a BIG gesture – that you love them.

My alternative rule:  I will always try to listen to your needs, respect your requests, and YES… you can have the purple sippy cup.

Rule #3: “We aren’t going to argue about money.”

What’s the goal? Prevent your toddler from pleading and begging for things.

Here’s the thing about money (and I have been married for nearly 25 years and we have run the full gamut when it comes to our money situation):  There are three general scenarios when it comes to requests at the store.  1) Sometimes you simply don’t have the money for something.  You just don’t have it.  In which case, it’s entirely appropriate to tell your child, “I’m sorry, we can’t buy that today, but we can put it on your wishlist/get it next payday/save up for it”, whatever.  This is both honest and fair.  Might your child still be upset or disappointed?  Sure!  I’m sometimes upset and disappointed when something’s out of my price range too.  But you honor their feelings, you help them through it, and you move on.  2) Sometimes you do have the money, and you don’t want to part with it for some reason.  Maybe you’re judging how they want to spend it.  Maybe you want to spend it on yourself.  Maybe you just feel inconvenienced by the whole thing and saying “no” seems the simplest option.  If that’s the case, I’d gently suggest doing a little work to find out why you’re saying no.  Maybe you have a perfectly valid reason.  Or maybe you’re being a hypocrite who’s telling her child, “We’re not buying extras today,” at the very moment that you’re paying for your overpriced Trenta caramel iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso.  (True story) Getting at the “why” is important, for both of you.  3) You do have the money, and you say, “yes!”  This is honestly one of my simplest pleasures as a parent.  I love being able to be in the moment, and gift my kids with something that will make them happy…. whether a pack of gum, a cake pop from Starbucks, or more slime supplies from Hobby Lobby.  There is nothing wrong with saying yes to your kids.

Learning to say yes more often to my kids was one of the simplest, single most life-changing parenting decision I’ve ever made.  We are designed to want to give to those we love (in both tangible and non-tangible ways)  It feels good to give because it IS good to give!  It is a win-win for both parties.  The author’s takeaway from this point is, “The way this works is if she asks for you to buy, say, a toy then you say “yes” or “no” and nothing more.” I think my kids, even as young kids, are always deserving of honestly, the right to ask questions, and the right to a discussion.  (P.S.  A discussion isn’t the same thing as an argument.)

My alternative rule:  If we have the means, I will try to say “yes” to your requests as often as possible.  If I say, “no”, you are absolutely welcome to ask why, and I will always give you an honest answer.

Rule #4: “There isn’t any such phrase as ‘I’m bored’.”

What’s the goal? This teaches your small fry to entertain himself.

So, first of all, I have taken some long (LONG), required history classes in college with really, really dry teachers.  BOREDOM IS REAL.  Let’s just start there.  It’s not a bad thing to be bored (some great ideas sometimes manifest themselves out of boredom), nor is it a bad thing to help your child think of something to do to alleviate said boredom, if he desires that help.  We all get bored from time to time.  As adults, we’ll often say, “Hey, I’m bored.  Want to go for a walk, go see a movie, go get some frozen yogurt?” This rule is another example of expecting your child to be a robot, rather than a human being… AND expecting more of him than you do from adults.  People get bored!  It’s okay!  Your “small fry” will learn to entertain himself all on his own, all in his own time.  It’s controlling and cruel to tell him 1) that he’s not allowed to feel something 2) that the something he reports feeling doesn’t even exist, and 3) that you refuse to help him with the problem – if he does in fact, view it as a problem.  If one of my children announces that they’re bored (which they honestly don’t do all that often, mostly because they do know how to entertain themselves, despite my not having ever implemented rule #4) I’d ask if they wanted some help thinking of suggestions.  Oh and by the way, making your kids do chores when they’re bored – a popular suggestion in mainstream parenting – is also controlling, and cruel, and completely counter intuitive to actually helping them learn to navigate boredom in a healthy way.

My alternative rule:  If you’re feeling bored, feel free to ask me to help brainstorm.

Rule #5: “I’m not working after 8 pm.”

What’s the goal? It creates established bedtimes as well as time for yourself …Tell your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 pm. But hold firm to your conviction and pretend that it’s out of your control.

From the “It should go without saying” department:  Parenting is a 24 hour job.  I hate to break it to you.  Yes, time for yourself is important, and yes, as kids get older you’ll be able to have more flexibility in this area.  But when kids are little, especially when they are toddlers, they might need you at 9:00.  Or at midnight.  Or at 2:00 in the morning.  I’m really glad that this was a rule we never implemented in my family, because some of my favorite memories of the kids were snuggled up on the couch watching TV together, sitting around the kitchen table for endless amounts of time, piling in bed to watch a movie.  Chatting. laughing, having deep conversations.  I wouldn’t give any of it up, for any amount of missed sleep.  I’M THE MOM.  I’m always the mom, and I don’t stop being the mom just because the clock strikes a certain hour.

Also, telling “your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 PM” is a flat-out-unabashed lie.  Like manipulating, lying isn’t something you should do to people you love.  It’s just not.

My alternative rule:  I’m your mom 24 hours a day.  Full-stop.

Rule #6: “When you talk that way, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

What’s the goal? It helps to stop screaming, rudeness and whining.

This is the only rule that I (kind of, sort of) agree with, only in the sense that it’s okay, and preferable, to set boundaries for yourself, and for how you’re treated.  But – and it’s a big but – just like adults, kids are allowed a full range of emotions, of feelings, and of opinions.  Sometimes strong feelings come out sideways (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we whine when we’re upset (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment that we might not otherwise say (this does not just apply to kids). And sometimes we take things out on the most convenient target, even if it’s someone we love (again… this does not just apply to kids).  We are HUMAN BEINGS, and we possess a giant array of feelings, of behavior, and ways of expressing ourselves. In a perfect world, we’d all behave politely and communicate maturely every second of every day.   But it doesn’t always work like that.  Which is where grace comes in.  Sometimes heaping amounts of grace.  Yes, setting boundaries is important, and yes, it’s absolutely okay to talk to your child – in much the same way you’d talk to an angry spouse or friend or family member – about their delivery (for lack of a better word).  But their feelings, like ALL their feelings, have validity.

Finally, the author says, “When toddlers do any of those things, they’re only looking for drama or attention.”  Maybe so.  But if they’re looking for attention in such a volatile way, perhaps it’s because they’ve failed to get it elsewhere.  Perhaps their “screaming, rudeness, and whining,” is in fact, a literal cry for help.  Behavior never exists in a vacuum.  Find out why it’s happening, and you can address your issue.   Ignoring your child, shutting him down, or insisting he stay quiet will ultimately only make the situation (and your relationship) worse.

Children are to be seen AND heard.

My alternative rule: Come to me when you’re upset, and we’ll figure it all out together.

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The article closes with this:

We’re sure there are more fantastic rules like these out there—or perhaps you can create some of your own. Yes, it’s true that some of these (or maybe all) aren’t really rules but rather an announcement of policies in your home. Either way, whatever you call them, they’re sure to make your life (and your toddler’s) go a bit smoother.

Sure, it’ll make your life go a bit smoother if your goal is to have quiet, compliant, obedient children.  But if you want to have…. REAL children?  Children who feel valued, and confident, and loved?  Children who know who they are, who own their feelings, who stand up for what’s right? Children who are capable of healthy and genuine connections with their parent/s and with the people around them?  You might consider doing the exact opposite.

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