In all my time on play dates, playgrounds, and mommy groups I have noticed some things. Things that good, loving, well-intentioned parents are doing that might unknowingly set them up for struggle later on. My knowledge comes from being an adolescent not too long ago myself and also my own logic and observation. I could be wrong, but maybe I could open your eyes to something you may not have thought of before. Keep in mind my words are never meant throw stones or criticize, if they seem that way I apologize, my feelings are just very strong on this.
I’ve seen a common theme in parents with toddlers: get them to cooperate whatever it takes! I agree, there are things that are downright difficult with small children, simple tasks like getting dressed and out of the house can become a battle at the drop of a hat. Are the things you are doing for your own sanity now going to drive you to madness later?
You won’t believe the crazy “tips and tricks” I’ve heard when someone witnesses a difficult exchange between my toddler and I in public. Of course I smile and say “Thank you” because I know their hearts were in the right place, but even as a young mother I know where I stand on how I interact with my children. I don’t feel I need to rely on tricks to get through, I like to practice what I call Genuine Parenting. Being completely authentic with our children now might just make the tough years of adolescence go a little bit smoother. Of course this is all speculation because my daughter is only two, but we’ll see:)
It sounds harsh when I put it that way doesn’t it? But most parents(and teachers) resort to this. Stickers for using the potty, candy for getting a shot, a new toy for good behavior at school, the list goes on. It’s nice to be rewarded for doing something good, but are we teaching our kids to only do good if they get something out of it. If that sort thinking were to carry on into adulthood don’t you think that sounds like a selfish and unfulfilling way to live? Maybe their own feeling of accomplishment should be the reward. To me the stickers and candy are just manipulations for control over them. Lets genuinely encourage our children instead, show them you are proud when they get it right and tell them “It’s okay, try again” when they don’t.
Stop believing that there is an easy way, parenting is so very hard and so beautiful at the same time. Just listen to your baby. That’s it, that’s how you learn how to parent. Let your baby teach you. You’re going to mess up, but that’s okay, your baby will forgive you. Every mess up is a lesson learned. Where do you think I get my infinite wisdom(sarcasm)? ALOT of screw ups! At this rate my tenth baby might just have the perfect childhood, but let’s hope it doesn’t get that far. My point is this, don’t rely on tricks for your baby. Advice can be nice and helpful at times, take it and apply to your baby if you want. Just know, when things don’t work for you and your family, you’ll figure it out…. eventually;)
3. Putting on a happy face
It’s a nice thought, always be cheerful, don’t yell or lose you cool with your children. Come on that’s not real, children are probably the most frustrating little beings on the planet. If you’re mad, it’s okay to let them know, without all the yelling and cussing you might feel like doing of course. But to say to a toddler “when you throw you food on the floor, it makes me very mad because you know better and now that food is wasted.” is completely reasonable. No need to fake a smile or fly off the handle, could you find a happy medium? Maybe let the child see that you are very upset and are trying very hard to control your feelings. Take a “mommy time-out” sit down and breathe. Now instead of having an incident that left your child feeling out of control or even scared, you have taught him a valuable lesson by modeling your own self-control. You are sending the message that strong feelings are okay and they are manageable.
4. Shielding them from the world
Telling a 5-year-old that the dog just went to live on a farm will certainly save him from some heartache, but it’s a lie. They will learn that heartache eventually and what if you aren’t there to guide them through it. The world is rough and filled with heartache. That sounds very cynical but my point is that you can’t shield them forever. What if you were able to tell them about the world in a way that motivates them to change it. Tell them exactly why that man is on the street corner begging for your change or why that child on T.V looks so sad and hungry. Show them your own compassion and desire to make the world a little less cruel. They might just grow up to make a real impact. But that’s just a side note really, don’t lie to your children. You are teaching them everything they know about the world and if they can’t trust you, they will question everything and seek out their own answers. From my own experience, I can tell you that seeking out my own answers in life will bring more heartache than any lost childhood pet ever will, and that’s the real truth!
5. Not being their friend
I see this more in older parents than in my generation; parents trying so hard to maintain that tough love, authoritative role with their children. This one maybe completely my own opinion, but that is not the relationship I want with my daughter. More than her friend, I want to be her mentor; someone she respects and genuinely wants to please. If she constantly fears being punished don’t you think she would be more likely to hide things from me?( again I learned this from my own adolescence, so trust me;) ) My hope is that if she sees my unconditional love for her and my complete support, despite her no-doubt naive choices, then I won’t have to be the parent that snoops through her facebook or tosses her room while she’s gone. As a kid I always knew my parents loved me unconditionally, but I did fear letting them down and being punished. So it was easier to lie:/ Hopefully, just hopefully, my own daughter will trust that I will always try to understand her first before getting angry and she will be willingly open with me. And yeah, maybe she’ll take advantage of my trust and disappoint me, but that may be a valuable lesson in itself, only time will tell. But in my eyes, everyday is not a promise and I will not squander the time we have living in the same house, learning and growing together. I will not miss out on cherished moments of deep connections just to prove that I am the boss and I’m in control! Because really, I am not in control of anything and you know how I feel about lying:)
-Zoey, I hope you appreciate that, don’t be the teenager I was!!
This one just really gets to me, I don’t know why. A baby falls and starts to cry so we wave a toy in their face and make a goofy face to make it all better? Compare this situation to something as an adult..Having a bad day at work for example, so what do you do? you don’t want to feel anything, right? So you crack open a bottle of wine and distract yourself from the problem..did it help? Or maybe you are a teenager turned down by your crush so do you down a gallon of blue bell? What if instead we taught from birth that feelings happen and it’s okay. How about next time baby falls down we ask if they are okay instead of shushing them and telling them how to feel. Let them process how they feel about it when they can’t have the snack they are throwing a fit for in the grocery store “You’re mad? It’s okay to be mad, you can tell me with your words, but not with your hands” If you are afraid of their feelings, won’t they be afraid as well? Adults who are afraid of their own feelings have a hard time. So many adults rely on prescription or street drugs just to get through the day. I am aware that this come from more than just their childhood I would never blame a parent when there are so many factors in play but maybe it would have some impact if every one of those adults had a parent that helped them process their feelings instead of distracting them. I know that’s a big leap from shushing a baby to being the parent of an addict but that’s just the extreme. Adulthood is hard let’s equip our children to rise above hardships to success.
I’m not trying to tell anyone how to parent, I just hope that the general message of my writing is to be completely genuine and see where it gets you. Maybe it doesn’t take “tricks” and theories to raise a good human-being. It’s worth a shot to try to just be an authentic and imperfect person in an effort to let your children decide the human being they want to be and pray they make good choices.
I want to hear from you other parents, share your own testimonial in the comments…even if you think I’m completely wrong:)