I just want to start by saying my views on this topic and are very general, as there are so many different people, and kids, and families mixed together. I also want to say that I did not have any specific in mind as I thought about what I wanted to say.
People don’t know how to parent. And no one ever teaches you how to. It’s like you just have to guess and hope and pray that you get it right. Except too many kids are growing up in homes where parents aren’t parenting or are blaming any issues on their children. Our kids start learning the moment they are born. As they learn to walk and talk they are learning, from you, how they will react to the world and the people in it.
Too many people spend about zero time thinking about the way their kids feel and who they are as people. I don’t parent any of my kids the same way. They aren’t the same person why would I parent them all the same. I started teaching them things as early as I could. As soon as they could demonstrate they wanted candy or a toy I made them put it on the register to be paid for. When they were 2 or 3, maybe even younger they “helped” me by taking their clothes to the drawer or taking towels to the bathroom. They have never had hard chores. But they do have chores. While we help them if they have school stuff or are sick, they do their chores when they need done. Trash, unload dishwasher, clean microwave, etc. This year my 12 and 14 year olds will share the job of mowing the lawn. Not because my husband and I can’t but because we want them to know what work is and we want them to be good workers as adults.
I have always talked to my kids. About anything and everything(age appropriate when necessary). They have always asked me questions and shared things with me. As they have gotten older I have it only have but start conversations that were not by any means easy. I have talked to them about sex. I have talked to them about friends and not only being kind but standing up for someone if you see them being mistreated. In our house if we ever find out you DIDN’T stand up for someone you will be in much more trouble than if you DO stand up for them. I have talked about parties and drinking and drugs. Mostly telling them not to do it but also telling them that if they ever need someone I want the first call to be me. I said/say these things a lot. I tell their friends to. I have told Lily that if something happens and she doesn’t call me I will be upset with her. I have told them if they ever find themselves as a party NEVER to get in a car and drive or get in a friends car if there is drinking involved. I would rather you stay where you are than have to get that phone call.
But I talk to them about other things too. Anything and everything. I MAKE the time to go to their rooms where they are comfortable and sit down and chat with them. There’s nothing like having your 19 year old ask for advice. I talk to 5em about their friends. I want them to know that I WANT to know their friends. And I want them to know that even when things happen with their friends that I don’t agree with I still WANT them to be friends with them. I am trying to teach them how to live in the world but not be of the world. They don’t have to do all the things their friends do in order to function in life. My daughter has a couple “friends” that I severely limit her time with. These people were given more than one chance not to treat my daughter badly, and I don’t care if they are 12 my daughter will NOT be subjected to that. But I talked to my daughter through every step in the process. Through the 3 chances to get it right. I told her they got one more chance and then I could be the mean Mom I didn’t care I wasn’t gonna have her suffer because I wouldn’t put my foot down. I tell her not to listen to people on a regular basis and I do my best to explain why. I am teaching her to know people and read people. I saw it in my older son as well. I have seen him make choices his first year of college that next to no other college freshman would make. Because he wasn’t sheltered. He didn’t feel like he was getting out and he could do whatever he wanted, well maybe a little, but he was pretty much allowed to do whatever he wanted at home as long as he talked to us. Because like it or not it IS absolutely to be respectful and considerate of the people you live with. And I’m not talking about chores and food and such. I’m talking about letting people know what is going on. I’m talking about letting the people you live with know if you won’t be home. Our oldest daughter is 28 and has 2 kids and yet every time we leave each other the one driving home always sends a message when they get there. It’s not because we have to. It’s because I worry. My husband probably not so much but I do. And it can keep me from sleeping if I don’t know they are ok.
My kids come when I call them, or they say “just a minute or something”. And I typically don’t call twice. If I yell for you you come to me. That’s just one of the perks of being a parent . But again I started this when they were very little. You come or you yell. One or the other, not no5ing. If I call you and you yell back at me there likely will not be a response because that isn’t the way it works. It’s simply human nature. We learn what we are taught and when our parents don’t even attempt to teach us anything we don’t learn anything.
Our kids are basically just small people. Born with their own personalities and issues of their own. I have no idea how many times I have said, “you don’t have to like it or you can be mad, but your not going to be ugly to me or anyone else”. I always thought that was a pretty simple idea. But I have heard so many kids talk about how their parents never pay attention to their feelings and expect them to just basically be a soldier. What’s the point in that? What will you as a parent ever learn if that’s the way you view it. But we ALL have a right to our feelings and that includes our kids as well. They can also be very different from us. I am a complete extrovert. My 14 year old son is as introverted as they come. It took me literally YEARS to figure out that was ok and I didn’t have to be worried about him all the time. He has friends and he enjoys being with them from time to time, but he very much enjoys being by himself. And for the record, he’s not turning into a school shooter because he’s in his room playing the game all the time. Actually the opposite, for Valentines Day they sold little valentines at school. He took his money(like 40 bucks) and bought one for his whole 8th period class, without saying a word to anyone. Except his sister, that’s how I found out !!
So when I see people treating their kids as if they were just born for them to yell at or tell what to do I often wonder when those kids turn into teenagers “what did you think was going to happen?” I am by no means always right. But I have a good sense of people(especially kids) and I have been told I have the gift of discernment. Which is interesting because I always thought everyone could do what I do. Nope! No! Not at all!! I also can’t usually explain why I say what I say or think what I think, but where people are involved(especially people I know well), I am very rarely wrong. So I wonder why do people have kids if they have no thought of ever actually thinking about their kids. If they can’t take a step back and be a neutral observer long enough to figure out what their kids might think or feel how do they expect them to learn anything and be able to function in society.
Somewhere along the line someone decided our kids should be protected and kept from things that can or will harm them. Please believe that with all my heart I WANT to do that as well. But we can’t always protect them and keep them from harm. So the next best thing is to teach them and help them learn how to deal with life and the people in it. And I truly believe that the more we teach and prepare them for as kids(especially teenagers) the less likely that the world will chew them up and spit them out. My 12 year old daughter talks to me. She tells me things and she asks me questions. Much of which isn’t something that her friends do with their Moms. I see her hearing what I am saying and putting it into practice. I have heard her tell her friends things I have said to her because she wants to help them. All of this because I have always talked to her, asked questions, given explainations.
Our pre-teens have so many questions. They are starting to figure out that theirs friends and their families don’t operate the same way as what they have always known. Their friends are doing things that they may have never ever heard of before. If they can’t go to their parents where are they going to go? Most likely? Their friends, and that is the worst possible place them to get the i formation. We may not want to think about it and our first instinct IS to protect them. But WE are the adults. We are the ones that have our heads together and that they trust to take care of them. So WE have to bite the bullet and have the hard discussion(age appropriate of course) and do the best we can to help them understand. I do my best to explain things to my daughter. She knows why I don’t like to do late pick ups at skating rinks or movie theatres. She knows that I like having her home and that I will never allow her to spend whole weekends gone from our home(unless she’s with family) because I feel it’s very important for them to be here. Where I know what’s going on and what they are doing. So we have a lot of friends that come through our house. All of which to date, love me . But it’s not because I’m fun or buy them things. It’s because I talk to them like the young people that they are. And I try to put myself on their level when we talk about friends and school. They aren’t adults yet, but they know when people are being dishonest or uncomfortable with a discussion. So I try to remember what it was like to be 12 and I try to remember they know NOTHING. All the things we have had years to learn they are just starting to even know exist. So when we say things to them they don’t have the frame of reference we do. They need you to explain it to them and tell them stories about your life so they can understand. And guess what!?!?! Just because you may have done something bad when you were younger doesn’t mean your kids will take your honesty as permission. I had a baby when I was 18 and still in high school. My daughter knows that and I am very clear she does NOT want a baby at 18. She has assured me that isn’t going to happen. I have never demanded greatness from my kids but I truly believe a side effect of good parenting IS greatness. My middle son wants to go to Harvard for goodness sakes!!
Our kids are begging for our attention and input in their lives. And sometimes it’s really HARD work. But if we start from birth it is so much easier. Or I hit the genetic lottery and have 3 kids by 2 different dads that are all really good, kind, get good grades, and care for the people in their lives. Be diligent. Be prepared. Be honest. Ask questions and most importantly try to figure out what something feels like for THEM. Just because they are your kids doesn’t mean that you own all the power. More likely, the more power you try to have the less you will have. So decide today that you will make a change. Imagine for a moment what it might actually be like for your child and then adjust yourself to help them the best way you know how. And despite what some may say get help!! From family, from the school,from friends, or from a counselor if necessary. If someone loves your child and wants to be there for them, let go and allow them to have some impact on your kids.
Be blessed and have an awesome Easter!!