Recently, my partner and I took a Parenting Class. This class covered many topics, from child development to discipline. Considering I have been in the parenting business for over ten years now, I felt like this was going to be a fun way to play Devil’s Advocate (one of my favorite hobbies) and my partner, considering he came in late to our instant family, liked the idea of having open conversations about how to better co-parent (something I am so not good at!!) and what his strengths and weaknesses are as a new caregiver. I never realized that I would actually have my eyes opened to not only what type of parent I am, but also to what is really wrong with the relationships between adults and kids.
In the Interactive Play section, our instructor made us list out things that you can do with your children ranging from 0-3yrs and so forth until 15-18yrs. Many of the other parents made arguments that it is hard to get teenagers, even pre-teens, to engage with the family because of their need to be alone. This is a stereotype that needs to be broken! Your children are people and they need to be treated with the same respect as you would expect from them. Yes, they are kids and you are an adult. However, they are still people with their own dreams, likes and dislikes, and interests. As parents, we need to learn what those things are and help foster them to grow happy people.
Both of my daughters are what I like to call “Social Introverts.” They like being out with people and doing things, but only in small doses. The social aspects of school takes a lot out of them! I respect their need to go in their rooms, turn on some music, and just be alone for a while. However, if I was any other parent from that class, I might force my children to engage at home as well. That only fosters resentment in the long run. Yes, your kids should be involved in family activities, but if their idea is to sit on the couch in silence with you while you read different books, let it happen! Let your kids want you to be around. I promise, its doable if you remain aware of who your children really are.
Now you may argue with me that letting a kid be alone may put them at risk of depression and even suicide. You’re right! But I’m not saying ignore your child. I’m saying give them their space. You know your kid, and if they come home from school not acting “normal” then try to talk with them about it. If they blow you off, respect that and let them know you’re there if you need them. I personally take it one step further and arrange for another adult that my kid is close with (like my best friend that is auntie to my girls) to reach out and try to figure out what is bothering my kid. I am humble enough to know that my kid might not be comfortable talking with me about everything, but they still need someone to talk to. If your kid seems depressed, and they won’t talk to you, don’t jump straight to counseling. Try a family member or friend that you both trust. Plus, it’s cheaper. 😉
The class also promoted the idea that you need to be almost fake with your children. In communication, the instructor told us that you must stop everything you are doing, and I mean this side of hold your breath, and give your children you 1000% undivided attention! And if you don’t have time right then, tell them to wait until later to talk to you. Yes and no. If your kid comes to you with something serious, I believe you should drop what you’re doing, no matter what. Whether you realize it or not, you do it for your friends, so why wouldn’t you do that for your kids? But I see nothing wrong with having your kid tell you about their day while you do the dishes or about the new friend they made while you fold the laundry together. The world doesn’t stop turning when you become a parent, and teaching your child that everyday obligations stop over everyday conversations gives them false expectations about other relationships in the future. The only time a child should be told to wait to speak (and this needs to become a serious thing!!!!) is when you are speaking with someone else and the child is going to interrupt a conversation. This is a super pet peeve of mine (which I will talk about in another post)! Children should wait their turn, and adults should find a break in conversation to address the child. Yes, of course, emergencies are an exception, but if you are interrupting me for a cup of water, I might explode.
I’m only going to briefly touch on my issues with the discipline section, which was broken into two classes. I might go further into it later, but I think it needs to be said once and for all: parents are afraid of being the bad guy! The class was adamantly against spanking! Which, ok, I understand that’s not everyone’s style. But, that shouldn’t be an excuse to let your kid walk all over you because you’re afraid to put your foot down. And, yes; you’re afraid! The most popular arguments for not spanking is that you are afraid you will hurt your child’s self-esteem. Which might be true if you are inconsistent and do it out of anger rather than discipline. I have spanked my kids when they were younger, and I would do it again in those circumstances because it was out of love and respect rather than a release of frustration towards my child. I’m not saying that spanking is for everyone, and there is a HUGE difference between hitting and discipline!!!!! But, bottom-line, we need to remember that these little people are going to go out into the world one day, sooner than we realize because the first day of kindergarten is “going out into the world,” and we need to make them into people worth being. That means that from time to time your kid is going to “hate” you. You will be the bad guy. They broke a lamp playing ball in the house, so they lost their ball for two weeks. Don’t give it back after a day because they yelled at you for taking away the ball. And for the love of all things holy, DO NOT be the parent that lets your kid yell at you for any reason!! Yes, your kid is aloud to be upset, that is a natural emotion and they have the right to feel that way. But, they will never have the right to disrespect you or anyone else by yelling when they are upset. Long rant, short: quit being afraid of your kids!
What I ultimately walked away from this class with, aside from the ego boost that I’m not doing a half bad job as a parent, is that respect is the most important thing you can teach your child; respect not only for others, but themselves as well. Respect for obligations like homework and grocery shopping. Respect for their individuality, and that even if you don’t agree or like someone you can still respect them. Respect for commitments and relationships.
The worst subconscious advice that parents receive is that respect from their children is automatic, and that is simply untrue! Yes, your child may think you’re a superhero when they are young, but if you devalue their individuality or don’t show them they are mini-superheros, that image will fade. We have all heard the saying that respect is earned, but we don’t keep that in mind when raising kids; it suddenly becomes the opposite. Disciplining your children for their wrongs is a form of respect. Allowing your child to make basic decisions for themselves is a form of respect. And treating your child like a valued member of the family, even if they are only two years old, is a sign of respect. Letting your kid know that you are too angry to speak right now (something every couple’s counselor will tell you to do with your spouse in a heated argument) is a sign of respect.
No one is perfect, and as a parent you will make at least one mistake a day. But, showing your children how to humbly take responsibility for those mistakes will not only earn you respect in the long run, it will teach your child how to behave when they mess up and make disciplining them easier. Every child has the potential to be amazing people. Respect your kids, even when they are little. They won’t be that way for long and they need to feel excepted for exactly who they are, not what you want them to be.
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