Monday, June 6, 2011

Parental Advisory

Warning: Parental advice is for mature audiences only.

With # 4 on the way, we’re anticipating the arrival of this little girl to see how different she’ll be from her sisters. Each kid is special and we’re wondering how one more little girl is going to change our family.  So I’ve started thinking about how we fulfill our parental duties. As parents, we know that no one else can supply the basics, love them and provide a secure home like we can. We bear in mind that our kids absorb everything that we expose them to in life. We do our best to love and support our children and know that is our joy to relish in their successes and to guide them through their failures.

The most basic foundation from our perspective on parenting is attitude. Often we have to remind each other to have a positive attitude so our children will also have a positive attitude. When we have adult concerns about anything in life, we’re very careful how we voice our concerns in front of the children. Kids pick up on your attitudes and beliefs, adopt it as their own and take it to heart. Dealing with the normal stress of life, we have to remember that a child’s job is to be a child. We don’t unnecessarily involve our children in adult concerns.  Being a kid is tough enough. We don’t want them to worry or become too involved in adult problems then likely develop negative or apathetic attitudes. Bad attitudes can certainly contribute to discipline problems. With Paul’s insane schedule, it takes some effort to find the proper time to discuss things but we think it’s worth it.

Before we were married, Paul and I discussed and agreed upon fundamental discipline guidelines. Of course, Lexi was a large part of our parenting discussion. During our engagement, Lexi was doing her best to push her boundaries and we only had one unpleasant incident that Paul still jokingly refers to as, “The Great Cookie Incident of 2006.”

Late one night after readying herself for bed, Lexi asked me if she could have a chocolate chip cookie. I said no because it was bedtime and thought that was the end of it. Well, Lexi didn’t think so and skipped over to Paul to ask him for a chocolate chip cookie (I bet she even fluttered her eyelashes).  Paul was blindsided with his first parent vs. child battle.  He happened to be nibbling on aforementioned chocolate chip cookie and even worse he wasn’t fully prepared to handle Lexi’s arsenal of parental weapons. She hit him with her best shot – the guilt grenade.  Paul, of course, felt accountable for her wanting a cookie so his first thought was to give her a cookie.  He attempted to convince me in front of Lexi to let her have a cookie (Big mistake, buddy).  He thought it wasn’t a big deal and she could brush her teeth again before bed.  I listened quietly but inside I was heatedly piecing together my argument and rehashing our past parental conversations.  The silent fury underneath managed to make its presence known in my response, “I said no.”  That was that. When Lexi finally did go to bed, we discussed how we were going to have to support each other in order to not fall victim to wimpy parenting. We both made a parental vow to always put on a unified front even when we think the other is wronger than wrong. In a one parent vs. kid situation, we agreed to support each others' decisions (even if we disagree) then if needed discuss it away from little ears.  Later, we could regroup and come to a more agreeable decision. Support and encourage each other as parents because you cannot do it alone. Raising children is as hellish as war. Promise each other to never let your children see the tiniest chink in your armor, otherwise, you’re as good as dead.

The toughest part about being a parent is maintaining strength. Parenting isn't a popularity contest. Your kids will not like you sometimes. So what. Think of all the other people who also have to deal with your kid. This is a shout out to all the grandparents, extended family members, teachers, daycare workers, church workers, sports parents and carpool drivers. These people can only do so much. It is your job as parents to turn out a good kid!  Don’t expect society to fill in the gaps you missed. This would be a good time to apologize for being soap-boxy but I have more to say.  I’d like others to learn from my life experience. Perhaps it’s a bit preachy but I’m compelled to share just the same.

Overworked, overstressed or indecisive parents tend to be more concerned about their child’s feelings than behavior. Children’s feelings are obviously important but the rest of the world reasonably judges us by our behavior. Don’t give in to manipulative crying, don’t excessively praise your child or over explain EVERYTHING.  Parent up and be tough. Wimpy parents are terrified of their child being uncomfortable (I gathered this knowledge personally). I remember the time in my life when I first realized, “My sanity is at stake. I can’t be a wimpy parent!”  Lexi, was a precocious toddler and able to express herself and understand clearly at an early age. When she was 2 1/2, I went back to work and school full-time. Quickly, she picked up on the fact that I dreaded leaving her every morning. Not only had I said so in front of her but it was all over my face (Well, mascara was all over my face. I soon opted to ditch eye makeup altogether).  Soon, she started crying or throwing fits when I needed to go anywhere, including the bathroom. My anxious reactions to her tantrums fueled her controlling behavior. I had no one to blame but myself.  I’m the parent here. Am I so insecure in my parenting abilities that I’m letting a toddler manipulate me?   Eventually, I regained my confidence and despite the less than favorable circumstances, I quit feeling like I was at fault for working or like I was purposely hurting her by depriving her of the privilege of spending all day together. Our life was a bit chaotic for awhile but we both survived.  Today, I have a BBA in my back pocket, no longer hold down a mediocre job (thanks to Paul) and stay at home with all 3 of our girlies.  Lexi, on the other hand, is one independent, adventurous, well-adjusted kid.  By learning to conform to new situations, she actually grew into the awesome kid she is today.

Even if your time with your children is limited due to work and school, make sure your personal and/or marital needs don’t fall to the lowest daily priority. It will be tough and take some time. However, it’ll be worth all your effort because it’s far too exhausting and impractical to let your children rule your household with an unrealistic sense of importance (Stepping down from soap box). 

Three beautiful reasons I have so much parental advice to give.