Monday, July 31, 2006

Sunday Scribblings - My two cents

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 . . .

If you need more change in your pocket, read other writers' two cents worth here.


Amber said...

Wow! Well, I would say that I agree with most of what you say here. And I would also say that I am a strict parent, compaired to a lot of people. I am big on teaching respect, boundaries, and responsibility. Basically, I think of my grandpa a lot when I parent. There is a certain amount of "suck it up", and "sucks for you, thems the breaks" said around our house.LOL!

But, the idea that the world doesn't revolve around the kids, kind of rubs me wrong. Even though I TOTALLY understand what you are trying to say! Maybe it is the phrase, more than the idea.Maybe it is because I was neglected, and I work with kids whose parents always put themselves first. So it's a button for me, that kids would be put far down the list.

I will be honest, I HATE that book Babywise, because this is the main idea in it. And I think, although kids need to learn that they are a PART of the world, and not the WHOLE world-- that there are certain developmental phases when the hard-ass approach is appropriate, and when it is not, with a child. Infants do not "manipulate", as babywise suggests. They communicate needs. So I hated that book, because I fear that it gives people who are prone to be selfish parents, an excuse to be that way. I have not read the book your talking about, but I wonder the same thing about it.

I worry a lot that some people would not misunderstand that idea, and take it to the extreme. Or if that idea is not one of the reasons so many kids are left to be raised by nannies and in day care, even if it's not nesseary to the families financial survival. As a counselor of kids, I can tell you that our society is facing an epidemic of improperly emotionally attached children. It is a serious problem.

On the OTHER hand, we also have an epidemic of spoiled brats. Just about nothing bugs me more. Sometimes what a kid needs, is a good kick in the ass! LOL Sometimes I hear parents out in public, and the way they let their kids talk to them just makes me laugh! WTH?? And then there are times when I say to Wyatt (and soon georgia),in a VERY serious voice with his face in my hands and looking into his eyes, "THAT is UNacceptible behavior. We do not behave that way in OUR family."-- and I think people believe I am going to take him home and beat him! LOL. But, the thing is, I don't have to do that, because he understands who the boss is. He knows who the PARENT is.

Anyway, that was more than my two cents! Sorry! Good topic, though!


Kim G. said...

Amber - I really appreciate your comments and agree whole heartedly that some might take the stance I suggested and twist it to mean that they can be selfish, even abusive parents. That's not the way I intended to practice that philosophy, nor do I think that caracterizes my parenting approach. I can see how your past influences how you might feel when you see a statement like that and I'm so sorry if it came across badly in any way.

I think I'm arround many more people that tend to spoil their kids than to ignore them. Perhaps because we live in an area where there's quite a few families of affluence as well as a mix of middle and lower income families. I feel like I need to activly prepare my kids to know that living a life thinking others will constantly bend to your whims and desires is just not reality (even if some of their friends have that lifestyle). And so, I practice as a parent, using teachable moments to show them that even though they want something so terribly at any given moment, whether it's a snow cone at the fair, or to stay up just half an hour more, or to have the latest and greatest gadget, or have me drop what I am doing to run them to a friend's house that minute, that they live in a place that's bigger than just their own desires. In fact, they live in several places: a family, a neighborhood, a community, a world. And often, their desires have to be balanced around the needs, plans and desires of those others that live with them. I have just seen that this approach has made my kids much more flexible and able to cope with disappointments in a way that's appropriate for their ages and where they're learning that sometimes waiting or to not having what they want right away, can often lead to better things down the road. I wish I could think of a specific example, I think this is something my 12 year old is really grasping sooner than some of her peers because of what we've been practicing but I can't think of a specific right now!

Anyway - thank you so much for your comments! I really apprecaite your honesty and your experiences in your childhood ALWAYS motivate me to be a better parent to my own two. Like I said in the post, I wasn't totally sold on all the parts of the book, but the ones that made sense and passed the test of the Scriptures and showed themselves to work, have served our family well.

Yak Attacker said...

The Good Book says to "TRAIN a child up right...", not to let your child rule your world. If you don't teach your children to respect you, how will they ever have respect for God. You have one of the hardest jobs in the world (raising children). They are our future: becoming the leaders, teachers, politicians, etc. of our future. And children who see that mom, too, can make a mistake, and apologize for it, will learn this and be so much better off for it. Well done, Kim.

briliantdonkey said...

MOM!!!! I am 37 now not 12!!!! jeeeeshhhh! Seriously though, I agree with most of what you are saying. There IS a very thin line between spoiled children and kids that are not allowed to be kids I guess. I don't have kids of my own yet unfortunately, so I can't really speak about parenting. However, I know my mother who is 65 now, and weighs no more than 110 pounds soaking wet could tell me right now to do something and I would do it no questions asked. It didn't take beatings,(though I DID get my share of spankings)she could just give me a look that said quite clearly "I had 6 before you do you REALLY think you are the first to try and get away with that?" It certainly didnt take anything remotely close to abuse, but again she could just give me "that look" , the one that said "lovely son o mine, I will gladly write down the number for the abuse line for you and give you the quarter to call them if you wish, but if you persist with what you are doing you may very well need it." I don't know exactly what it was she did or how she did it, all I know is it worked. Thanks for the great post.


briliantdonkey said...

btw, I forgot to mention,,,,,,Thanks for your comments over on my side of the world. Very nice post, and blog as well.


paris parfait said...

Very insightful post. It's certainly true that children need boundaries. When my daughter was in the eighth grade, she had a friend who was having numerous problems. My daughter told me it was because her friend's parents "weren't there for her" and "didn't set any boundaries."

Jenny Rough said...


I'm so grateful for your blog. I appreciated this posting a lot. God-willing, my husband and will have kids soon and one of my biggest fears is parenting in a way that brings about unruley, gripy kids.

Seems like lately I'm meeting a lot of parents who have taken your approach to raising (training) children. Thank goodness! I may be asking you for more detailed advice down the road!

Bug said...

Interesting post! It's great that you have found a way and a forum for you to be "in front of the mic" and sharing your expertise! And thanks for your comments on my blog. :)

Michelle O'Neil said...

I think every family has to find their own way. I'm glad you can take what works from the book you mentioned and leave the rest.

Of course, if you have a special needs child, all rules go out the window and you often have to start over in a whole different way. Everything you thought you knew about discipline, what works for most children, doesn't work for them, and often makes matters much, much worse. I've been in so many situations where people judge my child as a brat because she looks so "normal" and they don't have a clue. This post pushes my buttons on that front because we dont' always (or ever for that matter) know what is going on under the surface of those "bratty" families we are judging.
I know this is not your intent, but that's what it brings up for me.

P.S. I used to judge the crap out of other parents before my little "teacher" arrived!

Amber said...

Oh, KIM! I'm sorry if you thought I thought YOU were one of those selfish parets!! LOL! No. No no no! (I actually had said as much, and then took it out because it was getting so looong.)

I know what you mean. I agree with you, really. I always say that I am raising citizens, not only children. That is very important to me, because I know that I wouldn't have been raised the way I was, if more people understood that! People should not parent by accident! It is far more important to me that my kids grow to be good people who give to the world, and who understand their relationship to it and to God, than that they are always totally satisfied... or maybe it is, that I want them to learn to find their satisfaction in knowing that they are good people, not the most important people... If that makes sense.

Anyway, I KNOW YOU are not the kind of parent I was talking about! I would never want you to think that! I know we actually really agree on this subject, over all, for sure. ;) I don't think people realize how much letting kids get away with being spoiled or self-centered hurts them, and sets them up for failure in life.

I read not long ago a report in a psychology journal, about how the suicide rate of kids in their first years at University has risen SO much. And some professionals beleive that these kids just are not prepaired for real life! They are the most coddled generation ever. They don't know HOW to face set-backs, or to lose, or to deal with failure or stress. They have been so protected and taken care of... It makes sense to me.

It is a loving gesture to teach and train our kids to deal with disapointment, and to stand on their own two feet.

oxoxox :)

Kamsin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kamsin said...

Great topic! I don't have kids yet, but have taught children and have a young nephew. I don't think there are any easy answers to how to parent well. I guess kids need to know they are loved and to feel secure, and setting appropriate boundaries helps to ensure both of these things. I'm also not 100% sure that parents can take all the credit, or all the blame, for how their kids turn out, although I do think they take 100% of the responsibility if that isn't a contradiction.

aithbhreac said...

My two cents is I really liked your post! I'm so heartened to hear someone out there with a rational and balanced take on parenting. Unfortunately, most of the parents I know are the overboard type. This was positively refreshing!

Roadchick said...

Preachin' to the choir, sister! This post is amazing.
Roadchick has a 17 year old son and she made the effort during his younger years and is definitely reaping the rewards now. Roadchick would tell him, semi-jokingly - "Mom is not here to entertain you. You need to entertain yourself." And there were big doses of "clean up your room" - and it was done...."make your bed"....."wash your clothes".....
And he does it.
Roadchick has raised him on her own for the past 6 years and she cannot imagine how he could be any better than he already is.

The fact that you listed the order that things should fall in is fantastic - there are so many that do NOT get it. As a divorced woman entering the dating world, Roadchick cannot tell you how many men she has met that have told her straight out - "my kids will always come first". That is Roadchick's cue to exit, stage left...not because she doesn't ADORE kids, because she does...but she refuses to play second fiddle to them since she would not make the man in her life play second fiddle to her son, as much as she loves him. Her son is being raised to grow in independence and MOVE out - to be an adult in his own right - not to cling to Mama's skirts forever. And when the kiddos are gone....then what? if the man in your life didn't rate before the kids? (Not to mention God...)

That's about 2 cents worth times 43 but your post was so amazing that the 'chick couldn't resist.


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