Saturday, July 16, 2011

I'm Not Really a Harda** But It May Seem That Way

Sometimes I wonder if based on my blog posts, those who don't know me or my kids personally think I'm nasty to my kids. I'm not. Honestly.

Now that my kids are the age they are (11 and just shy of 14) I am more firm with them in what I think is a good way. I feel like explaining myself so here is some of my parenting philosophy.

After having lenient parents so permissive that it felt like they may not actually even care if something went wrong (and having snuck around quite a bit and having them not even notice obvious things) I felt that I'd be a bit more shall I say in tune with my kids when I was a parent. I also didn't feel I could openly discuss issues with my parents and felt lacking in parental guidance. I had what people consider a mother/daughter relationship with my maternal grandmother.

The flip side of my parent's parenting method was a "because I said so" and "I'm the parent" type of thing and "I don't care what you think I'm the parent and you do what I say". I didn't like being spoken to that way. Worse, there was a pendulum that would swing from ignoring what was happening (i.e. me bickering with my brother) then a sudden outrage of screaming and threatening or spanking or being slapped in the face and demoralized and put down. Some people could classify some of what my brother and I went through as abuse and other things as benign neglect.

I decided I wanted a different kind of relationship with my kids.

When my first baby was born I was surprised at the love I felt and his dependence and total reliance on me blew my mind. When he cried due to gas pains I hurt so much and just wanted to make him feel better. Having read Ezzo's Babywise and hating everything I read I turned to the local Barnes and Noble and found William Sears M.D.'s book The Baby Book. I glanced through it and felt the advice was in alignment with my gut feelings so I bought it and read it. I relied on that information to help me deal with things like a sleepless newborn crying. By the end of that first week I was already pretty well in tune with my baby and everything I read in the attachment parenting books was working.

I was very gentle and patient with my baby. I taught myself about developmental stages and I didn't get angry with him for doing what is normal for that age and stage. I just adapted our surroundings so he would not get hurt and gently guided him to stay safe. My son was very close to me and he had separation anxiety when I returned to part time employment (for 8 weeks) and also when I just tried to exercise at the gym. I felt bad that he was in such distress in those times. Yes, I was worn out at times and felt I could never get away but I also knew that babies grow up and change quickly and that it was all temporary so I could just "suck it up" and be the mature adult to match my chronological age. Actually parenting with that mindset really helped me stop being so selfish and self-centered because I was putting someone else first.

Several times strangers in restaurants have complimented my husband and I on how we spoke to our kids and on how well behaved our kids were. I was kind to my kids and patient. I spoke to them just like I spoke to an adult. I treated my kids with kindness just like I treated strangers and adults in my life. I have never understood why a parent feels they can be rude and mean to their young children when they would never act that way to strangers or their adult friends.

I never coerced my kids to behave well. I did not spank and I did not use pain infliction or threats to get them to be well behaved. For keeping them happy in restaurants, I'd being quiet toys (so as to not bother other customers) and crayons and I'd interact with my kids by talking to them or playing games or coloring alongside them while I chatted with my husband at the same time. When they were toddlers we sometimes would have to eat in shifts while the other walked around the restaurant pointing out the cool stuff nailed to the walls or strolling around the parking lot a bit. I paid attention to my kids. We didn't ignore them so they'd fight for our attention and act out so we'd address them. We didn't give them electronic toys to preoccupy their time in public because we wanted them to learn patience and how when you eat in a restaurant you do have to sit awhile as the food is cooked (the opposite of how eating is done at home).

People kept telling me to read the book "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen". I finally read some of it when my son was about three years old but I was already doing most of it from my own common sense. My issue with the book is it trains to use certain language but I feel like it comes off phony as the reader is told to just do it that way and it will work. I spoke that way from the heart and naturally not because someone was telling me to say sentences in a certain manner. It's hard to explain.

I agree with everything that Dr. Sears has ever written with the exception of how he would say that all moms could go to work with babies in slings. Sorry to announce it but most employers won't allow that. I think with that recommendation in The Baby Book he went a little off the deep end.

Later I read Barbara Coloroso's books and heard her give a few lectures (via audio recording) and loved what she had to say.

When my first born was five and he struggled to learn to read for homeschool lessons, I got angry because it was the first time I was mandating that he do something for formal learning and he was rebelling. I wondered if I'd given him too many choices. I thought maybe after all I was a permissive parent in a bad way, even when I thought I was not being permissive. The thing was, in the past I'd just talked to my sons frankly and they would respond with logical thinking and they'd do the best or right thing. This was the first time my son was really resisting me.

Because my son had every sign of reading readiness I really struggled with his inability to sound out the words. I would try to teach him, shelve the curriculum, then let two months go by then would re-try. The only real resistance I got from him in his entire life was about the reading, oh, and haircuts. He said that he could feel every hair being cut and it hurt. He had other signs of sensory issues that were a bit tough to take. About the reading, I think some of the resistance was a developmental stage, but at age 10 he was diagnosed with a reading disability so perhaps his resistance was not a strong will but an early sign of his learning disability.

In that Kindergarten year, I started to have some expectations for the homeschooling and he would comply. I figured that if 98% of his life was kind of open to doing what he wanted to do (play) that to do up to 30 minutes of formal academics a day (reading, math and penmanship) was no big whoop. He would also listen to read alouds of fiction, science and history (which he didn't know was something that some kids are not interested in).

The older my kids got the harder their homeschool work load got and the more I expected of them. I think that is a good thing.

My goal has always been to raise kids who are independent but to give them freedom in a safe manner. As they grew I would teach them new things and would give them more and more responsibility. My goal has never been to keep my kids dependent on me.

I want my kids to be able to handle themselves and to stay safe. I want them to know how to hold their own and to be able to socialize in a healthy way with other people (of all ages and both genders). I want my kids to be polite and friendly happy people.

Kids and teens don't always do what is right and best for them (such as comply and cheerfully do the type of school work that our society wants them to do).

We set limits in our family, and my husband and I are pretty consistent with our application of the family rules and with giving consequences. I do remind them sometimes of the rules when they are about to break one and I remind them of the consequence (some may call this a threat but I feel that's a wrong term). If they do break the rule especially after that reminder, the consequence is in effect. Period. I do not reneg on it.

I have a habit of blogging some of my challenges and problems but not equally blogging the happy times and how smooth things are going. I fear that sometimes that sounds like bragging and I hate bragging.

I think I'm a reasonable and fair person all in all. In my work with other kids through Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting and teaching homeschoolers at the co-op I think there are just a few kids who don't really like working with me. There are a few who really rub me the wrong way so perhaps our feelings are mutual.  There are some problem kids who are known to others to be pains in the butts so it's not just me. Some kids are real stubborn and don't like to follow rules or that seem to have it their life's purpose to go against the grain. When I'm leading or teaching a group and there is some nuisance kid in the group trying to derail the direction of the class it is challenging. If they don't like me because I don't put up with their nonsense I really don't care. I will not cave in and give in to a kid who is trying to manipulate me; I don't do that with my own kids so I won't do it with someone else's. The rules are applied evenly across the board. I don't play favorites nor do I pick on the kid who is not my favorite. Nipping things in the bud is good for all kids so that's what I try to do.

I have a bunch of kids who love taking my homeschool co-op classes. If I was a too strict mean pesron I'd not be well liked by those who actually know me or take my classes. I have gotten compliments directly from the kids. I was also surprised to hear that some of the kids praised me to my children who then passed their kind words to me. My son acted proud that his mom was well liked by the other kids.

There is one boy who some say is hard to handle in a class who considers me his favorite teacher. I love having him in my class and he does not wear me out like he does some other teachers. I know that kids are different and I try to be flexible with how I relate to kids depending on what I think they are going to respond well to. I can adapt how I talk to kids so that they respond well. There are some kids who you just have to be very direct and clear with communications with and others who want to be spoken to all sweet and gushy. I'm not that type of a person so the ooey-gooey talk is something that comes harder to me so I struggle with that; perhaps that's why not all girls flock to me but the boys seem to be able to accept me as I am?

I am willing to give kids freedom and responsbility (even other people's kids who are under my supervision). If the kids can't handle what I've given them then limits are more clear rules are laid out. I guess I give them room to breathe and if they screw up I come in and make clear what is expected.

I've found that as my kids get older I have both given them more responsiblity and also given them some clear limits. They look like they have a ton of freedom but I'm still keeping an eye on what is going on. I don't think that I'm at all overly controlling nor am I being negligent when my kids are being given some freedom to move and make their own decisions.

I know that sometimes people need to make mistakes in order to learn something, even when you tell them not to do that thing or that bad thing may happen they go and do it anyway, then the problem happens. I never set my kids up to make mistakes just so they'll learn something. However if something happens due to a bad decision on my kid's part they will suffer the natural consequence. We will then discuss it unless all it takes is a "look" from me and they know what I'm thinking and that is "enough said".

Most times that one error and consequence does not result in the lesson being learned and they go and do it again, and again. That's not my problem, it's their problem. All I can do is let it go and let them find their own way. I do remind them of the risk or the rule or the limit and if they do it their way instead and screw up they have to live with the natural consequence.

A mom who has known me about a year and a half but who I don't see very often finally figured me out. She recently told me that I seem like a tough person (something I have a hard time realizing that I'm perceived as being) but I'm actually really soft hearted inside.

1 comment:

Joyful Learner said...

I feel like we had a similar upbringing! But I appear soft on the outside but actually, I'm pretty tough in the inside. ;)

I love reading your posts, by the way. You always make me think.