We all want what’s best for our kids.
We want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and successful people. Judging by the number and variation of books out there on parenting, there are many ways to get them there. Which one is the right/best path? And where’s the guarantee that your child won’t go his own way no matter how great you raise them?
There’s no doubt about it – parenting is one tough job.
Fly Guy and I feel like we’re on the cusp of a new stage in our parenting. Our oldest is six and is beginning to look around him and mimic the behavior of every other six year-old nearby. Mommy and Daddy no longer rate #1 but now vie for importance with a sea of first graders.
I know there are so many of you who have “been there, done that” but for us, it’s uncharted territory. Gone are the preschool and toddler days of being “Mommy’s Helper”. He’s come into his own as a person and his little brother is coming along even faster right behind him.
And we love these changes. At least most of them. We celebrate every gap-toothed smile, every hard-fought word he’s figured out on his own, hearing his theories and world view, and seeing the elaborate vehicles he creates from his Lego’s.
Even as we enjoy this step in our little guy’s growth, we have found we’ve struggled with this new stage of discipline. Now there are sullen looks, sulking fits, self-preserving lies (“Not me!”) and lots and lots of back-talking. This is normal behavior and while we’re not really worried about it for the long-term, we want to use these opportunities to teach both of our kiddos right from wrong, acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, and above all, show them that the reason we are tough on them is because we love them so much. We want them to grow up to be those amazing people we see inside without the hang-ups that hold so many people back today.
Looking around at our society, we feel like many kids are no longer being taught self-discipline, work ethic, respect for others and themselves, compassion, and personal integrity. What you see a lot of is looking out for #1, a sense of entitlement without the hard work, and children that have no problem airing their attitudes to any adult. Many children seem to have a sense of equality with their teacher, grandfather, etc. and no longer carry any respect for the wisdom that often comes with added years. Kids naturally tend to think they know everything but when did it become okay to stop correcting them, guiding them, teaching them? I remember a choice phrase that I got sometimes as a moody pre-teen and teen.
“Get that chip off your shoulder.”
Boy, how I hated hearing it. I seethed and sulked because I, obviously, was not the one with a problem, right? But what I learned and understood was that it was NOT okay to take out my foul mood out on my family and others around me. I was REALLY not allowed to mouth off and have a nasty attitude towards my parents. When I could get over my little tantrum, I was gladly welcome to join them again in whatever fun they were having. Looking back, I feel like I learned an important lesson – I am not the center of the universe. (As much as I’d like for that to be true.) It wasn’t a fun lesson to learn but an important one nevertheless.
I feel like being a good parent calls for us to teach our children the hard lessons. We try to have plenty of fun and games and silliness too but it can’t all be fun times. You can’t always look the other way just because you don’t want to deal with it. Setting “Family Rules” has been a great way for us to set limits on what is/is not acceptable behavior with consistent consequences for failure to uphold them. If you don’t let your child deal with the consequences on his little failures when he’s young, how in the world is he going to be able to know to avoid the larger consequences that come of bad choices as an adult? Every family is unique and has their own “family rules” but here are ours if you’re looking for an example:We also want to teach our children the value of a good day’s work with the payment being pride in a job well done. Not, “What’re you gonna give me if I . . . ?” My husband recently found a great deal on a couple of cords of firewood. Unfortunately, all the logs were too long to fit into our wood-burning stove. We had a long day of cutting and stacking wood ahead of us. While he and I did the majority of the work, we realized that this was a great opportunity to have the boys do a little “hard labor”. After we cut some of the wood, we would call the boys out and they would help us haul firewood over to our wood pile to stack. At first, there were a few complaints. “This is too hard.” “It’s hot.” “There’s too much wood.” We had a little talk about this job being important to fuel all of our fires over the winter (that they love) and that this benefited our whole family. We noticed that they began to be proud of the job they were doing and about the amount of wood we were stacking up. Dinosaur Train TV breaks didn’t hurt either. Now that it’s getting chilly and we like to start and end our days with a cozy fire, the boys have been very proud that they helped to bring these toe-warming fires about. Now if only I can get them to want to do dishes . . . .
We do everything we can, put our children in God’s hands, and then hope for the best. I’m not writing this because I have any answers. I’m definitely not writing this to say that we’re perfect and to show off our parenting prowess. Oh, how I wish we were perfect parents! Some days I don’t even feel like a good parent. The chasm between the Mommy that I’d like to be and the Mommy that I am is wide and deep.
I bet that I’m not the only one that feels this way. I’m guessing that there are many other parents out there who are trying to instill these values and integrity into their children too – no matter what much of the world is doing these days. We are all searching for the answers. I’m also guessing that someday I’ll be wishing for my six and three year-old back as I’m dealing with the complex issues of teenagers.
Do you sometimes feel that raising your children with a moral compass in today’s society is like swimming against the tide?
Many times, I do . . . but I’ve never doubted that the struggle is worth it.