One of my dreams is to be an expert. In what? It doesn’t really matter. I just want to be one of those people that when there is some sort of crisis or breaking news story, they put a microphone in front of you and ask your opinion. Portland has an FBI spokeswoman that I have a little bit of a girl crush on. She as cool as ice when they start asking her questions and her answers always sound incredibly intelligent and you never question her expertise as a spokesperson and agent.
I want to be an expert.
I’m not sure in what area, but when Laini and Megg gave us the prompt for Sunday Scribblings this week, they pretty much said, “Have at it! Give us your opinion on anything.” So, in humility, knowing I’m NOT an expert but, being given the mic so to speak, I’d like to talk about something that pushes my buttons. Disciplining kids.
A few weeks ago, I posted about my lovely but fussy little nieces that spent the night with me. They wanted the nuts picked out of their eight-grain bread, girl-colored sleeping bags and wanted their own personal popcorn taster to make sure my brand of popcorn was not sub-standard to their home brand. I mentioned in my blog how I really felt that my kids were not that fussy and Laini asked how I had managed to raise kids like that. Well, I firmly believe it started before my kids were even born.
You see, I read a book that was a bit controversial but had come at the recommendation of a few friends. It was called “Growing Kids God’s Way” and it advocated some parenting practices and foundations that run a bit contrary to society’s view. Now before you think I’m some kind of cultish, over the top kind of person, let me just tell you - I’m not. I don’t consider myself a blind follower and there were some points of this book that I knew weren’t for me, but there were some basic philosophies that just made sense considering my belief system and what I believed to be true about the way we work as human beings. In this book I learned some basic philosophies on parenting based on 1) the Bible and 2) statistical data and testimonials to support their theories. Their basic foundations were:
Your child is a gift from God. She is precious and you are called to love her, care for her and teach her. However, your child should never become the center of your life. The moment you do that, you elevate them to a place they’re not meant to occupy and you put expectations on them that they will meet your needs instead of it being the other way around. A child doesn’t know what to do with these expectations and they can often lead to confusion and aggravate normal behavior issues to a point where they become overwhelming. My most important relationship is with my Creator, followed by my Husband, then comes my children.
I have always shown my children that I dearly love them and they are such a blessing in my life. But, I have always sought to teach them also a level of humility and acceptance that THEY ARE NOT THE CENTER OF MY WORLD and I’m not here on this earth to serve them. That is why my children understand, if all we have is 8-grain bread, they will need to put up with the nuts and mom is NOT here to be their personal nut-remover. Seriously, they know that I deeply consider their needs and their desires, but there is no guarantee that they will get what they want in every circumstance. I began this from day one of their little lives and so now as 9 and 12 year olds, they know, throwing fits doesn’t get them anywhere. Mom and Dad make the decisions, not the kids. I feel like setting these boundaries and being consistent with them has helped my kids in tremendous ways with dealing with disappointment, setting goals, and being very flexible and adaptable to new situations.
One of their other basic foundations was that kids need boundaries. Sounds good enough, but I can’t tell you how many might interpret this statement differently. My opinion – kids need more than just a line drawn in the sand. They need a six foot barbed wire fence. This is the point where some might shake their head and think, “She’s too restrictive, she’s too strict, she’ll suffocate her children with rules and regulations.” I would argue that if you spent a day with me and my kids, you’d see just the opposite is true. My barbed wire fences started out close in when the kids were young. They learned early on that mom and dad meant business when we said “no”. It meant “no”. As they got older and decided to test this more assertively, they realized the harsh consequences of trying to climb over the barbed wire fence. There was pain and discomfort. Not literal (although we have used spanking when appropriate – more when they were younger toddlers and swats on the behind carried more meaning that long discussions of the need to obey out of respect and safety). We made sure that if the kids chose to willfully disobey the rules we had established, there were consequences that meant something. As a result, we try to reserve those for the big infractions because we know that often a removal of a privilege or imparting discipline means disrupts the normal flow of the family but it is SO important in establishing respect and authority in the home and, most importantly, demonstrating love.
Those fences are often protection from things and situations they just are not ready for. As the kids get older and they see us push the fences out as they earn respect and trust, they see that those fences are built with love and a desire to see them succeed as human beings and not the desire to make their lives miserable.
Now let me just end by saying very clearly, my kids are not perfect. They still disobey. They still have respect issues sometimes (especially the 12 year old). They blow it – just like me. I am not anywhere near a perfect parent. I yell when I shouldn’t, I sometimes let things slide when I shouldn’t. But, I have tried to make sure that the majority of the time, I am holding the principles I’ve listed above. When I do, I see growth in my kids and in me as a mom. When I don’t, that’s when things start slipping into chaos. I can tell the natural order of things is off and we are all walking around in a grumpy funk. I know that every family is different and I firmly believe the same principles can be applied in two different families and look totally different but I’m a firm believer from the success we’ve had in our family that these ideas work for raising healthy, well-balanced, flexible and respectful kids.
And that’s my very humble two cents worth . . .
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