Parenting is hard. Not everyone should do it. There are lots of “manuals” in the form of “self-help” books, thousands of them. Every theory, every strategy, every study, every child-rearing notion known to man available in print. Oh, and blogs galore! Present company included.
I can honestly say that, as a parent, I read my fair share of books. I also observed other parents and their children to help me decide what was the better plan of attack. Raising children is like planning a war – preparing for battle each day – and you will all get plenty of battle scars, parent and child alike. If you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean. (They don’t want to wear that, they want to wear that. Put it on and they don’t want to wear that either. They don’t want to eat that not even one single bite. They don’t want to read OR to take a nap OR to pee!) It is exhausting!
My husband and I were very strict with our children. We had very rigid rules:
- No screaming unless you are bleeding or dying.
- You must clean your plate – if you take it, you eat it. (And you must try everything – at least a small portion)
- Good manners are important. No talking with your mouth full. Say “please” and “thank you”.
- No fighting!
- Saturday was chore day – everyone must clean their room (older children had to help younger children)
- Mom & Dad were in charge and there was NO ARGUING and you should never have to be told something twice.
- If you are out playing and you hear my whistle – stop what you are doing and come to me. (this still works to this day and they are adults!)
- If you make a mess, clean up after yourself.
I’m sure there were plenty of others (my kids could probably add to the list) but those are the major rules that I remember. Of course, in hindsight, I do realize that in some cases we were far too rigid. Meal times were often very stressful because my husband was adamant that everyone learn those good manners. We both regret it now — although, they DO have good manners and could make a good showing at a meal with foreign dignitaries – but mealtimes should be a time of sharing and relaxation.
I do know that, as a mother, I needed to have these rules in order to keep my household moving forward. When I was in my thirties, my friend told me about John Rosemond, an author on parenting. I bought his book, The Six Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children. It helped me immensely! That was back in 1994 or so — but so many of his ideas remain true (to my mind anyway).
Life has changed. There is so much technology and lives move much faster. With divorces, same sex marriages, single parents – the core family looks very different. There have been many new studies and there are new theories on how to raise children, as a species we continue to evolve in that regard. But I am old fashioned, I still believe that the parent has to be in charge and while you can be less rigid than we may have been – you still have to call the ball. You make the rules and you enforce them. Children need to know that you are watching over them – they may not like it sometimes, but they know where they stand in the grand scheme.
BUT. Parenting is hard. Sometimes, you are co-parenting with someone who has no parenting skills. You spend much of your time doing damage control. Sometimes, you work a full-time job and are exhausted before you arrive home to your second job – parenting. Who wants to continue the battle – 24/7? Take it from me – rules do help. In this day and age of loving the child and trying not to hinder their spirit – things do get muddled. Before I understood what my true role as a “mother” was – I wore myself out trying to reason and argue and yell – basically, begging my children to behave. Rosemond’s book helped me to realize that I was expending all of my energy and they were learning how to ignore me. I wanted them to behave but I didn’t expect them to do so.
“Tolerant parents repeat themselves, threaten, bluster and otherwise work themselves into a state of frustration that eventually expresses itself in yelling. Intolerant parents do none of that. They are mean. A parent who qualifies as mean does not yell. Said parent is virtually unflappable, which is to say cool, calm, and collected.
From a child’s perspective, a parent (or teacher) is mean if the child discovers that the parent says precisely what he means and means precisely what he says. No means no. It does not mean maybe. “I (parent) want you (child) to do thus and so” means the child is going to do it. It does not mean anything short of that.” John Rosemond
Once I finally understood this and began to implement this attitude., I was truly amazed at the difference for my stress level. The kids didn’t like it and it took a while for them to adjust but eventually they knew that the dance had changed. I would love to say that I was a calm and stern mother for the rest of their young lives – that would be an exaggeration. I still had moments of doubting myself and falling back into feeling like I needed to let them have their way because I did so love them. There is a magnitude of outside influences for all of us. Each one of us has our own road to travel and struggles to endure. No two children are alike but they can accept (and need) guidelines and boundaries. They need to know what to expect and what is expected of them.
Even with the manuals, self-help books and advice from scads of sources — parenting is hard. We do the best we can and when we know better, we do better. It’s all in the knowing…and who really knows?