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I remember thinking my mom was old fashioned. She would give me unnecessary child rearing advice that didn’t apply to the here and now. Didn’t she know she raised us wrong? All the things she did was wrong. I know that because all the experts tell us to raise our children differently then we were raised back in THOSE days. And surely they had to be right, at least that’s what I thought until my toddlers turned into teens.
Here are a few examples of what I was taught and where that advice went so wrong.
1) Give Kids Choices
You’ve practiced this one a million times. You let little Sally choose which shirt to wear to preschool. You ask with a great big smile on your face, “Will it be the pink one or purple one?” Then little Sally comes home for the day and you ask, “do you want to take a nap now or after one episode of Barney?” She chooses now and you are delighted in the knowledge that Sally is smart enough to make the most responsible decisions, even at her young age. You feel proud. Later that night as you sit down for dinner, Sally tells you she doesn’t want to eat her peas. You tell her that she has to eat three out of four things on her plate but she gets to choose. It’s no surprise she skips the peas. I think you get the point.
2) Respect and Understand Your Child’s Feelings
Little Sally doesn’t want to take a nap. We do what the good books tell us to do and we try and ask the right questions so we can understand where this is all coming from. Sally’s eyes well up with tears and she explains she misses mommy and Sally time because school is such a long day. Mommy feels sad. She probes. “Sally, do you feel like Mommy doesn’t want to spend time with you? Does it make you feel sad when mommy is busy doing other things?” Do You see what’s happening here? Sure, sometimes Sally does not want to take a nap but she lacks the knowledge and maturity to know what she needs. Mommy knows Sally is tired and will have an emotional tantrum if she misses her sleep, but shouldn’t we give Sally the choice anyway?
3) 5 Minute Warning
We’ve all had that one mommy friend who prides herself on five minute warnings. “You have five minutes to clean up your toys.” She holds up five fingers and smiles at her child lovingly. “Sally, we have to leave in five minutes. This is your warning.” Then, somehow the moms get caught up in the latest gossip about who is no longer wetting the bed and before you know it twenty minutes have gone by. “4 minutes Sally and we are going to leave.” Can you see where this lack of follow through will eventually lead?
What is Sally doesn’t want to leave? She’s upset now because she wants to stay and play longer with her little friend. Shouldn’t we respect HER feelings?Maybe we should ask her why she feels this time isn’t adequate enough. Maybe we should give HER the choice to decide when it’s time to leave. Maybe we are being unfair and that is why little Sally looks so distraught.
I don’t claim to be a perfect parent. I believe that parents are ashamed to admit they raised their children wrong and they made mistakes. ALOT of mistakes. We throw our entire selves into being perfect parents and one day we wake up to see that that what we raised is a very bold, spoiled teenager. We can’t admit that though. We mask what we’ve created by putting a positive spin on their less that desirable personality traits. We call them strong-minded, smart, mature, strong-willed. There are thousands of ways can can spin the negative into something that feels better to believe is good.
When our toothless little toddlers grow up to be teenagers, all they know is what we have taught them. When we say be home by ten, they bargain for a later time. They want a choice. They want you to respect their need to stay out as long as everyone else. “You are a horrible mother. Everyone else’s mom knows that it’s important to stay until the end of the party.” Then you remember the deal was that she could go to the party as long as her room was clean. “Have you cleaned your room” you ask. “I will do it on my own time” she responds. “You need to respect my schedule.” Hmmm….you start to sink a little lower. You did this, you created this and now you have to deal with it. 5 minutes you would say and not follow through….AND YOU WONDER why she feels she doesn’t have to clean her room BEFORE the party????? It’s her time, they are her choices and she will do what she wants while you have no choice but to respect her decisions.
Wake up moms! Our teens are walking all over us and the truth is we have lost control. We want things to change, NEED them to change but now what can we possibly do? We gave them too many choices, we respected their feelings, we always gave them too much time to do what we expected of them. This is the reality that we created because we listened to the people who we thought knew better.
Looking back I would do it different . This is how the day would play out.
“Here are your clothes for school Sally.”
(Sometimes we have to do what were told)
“We are leaving right now Sally, get in the car.”
(Time waits for no-one)
“I’m not interested in why you don’t want to take a nap, you are going to bed.”
(Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do)
I did everything those books told me to. I did the best I could do. I am ashamed to admit what happened with my own teenage daughter this morning but if someone, ANYONE learns from it then I have done my job well. I told my daughter she had to have her room clean before she goes back to school tomorrow. She told me like it or not, she would do it on her time. Did it hurt my feelings? Of course but my feelings are not whats important. What is important is that my lack of knowledge, my lack of good parenting will come back and haunt her. Unfortunately, it will be a very hard lesson when she learns there is no “my time”. Soon she will be forced to succumb to and respect her professors time and eventually she will stand in front of her boss and I cringe to think about what his response will be when she tells him she will do the job in her own time. These techniques do not work in the real world. They set our children up for failure and a misconception that they have more control than they actually do. Her current mindset will not serve her well in the real world. I am sad for her and I am sad that I created something that life will eventually completely destroy. Heed my warning, do better by your kids. Don’t make the same mistakes I have made and stop thinking that you will find your answers in a 200 page book. Use your common sense and make choices that make sense. If you take my parenting advice, it just may change your life and I guarantee you will have an easier time when your toddler turns I to a teen.