For Shakespeare: Parenting Guidelines Part 2

>> Monday, May 4, 2009

Shakespeare asked: How do many parents go wrong in making their children responsible adults (even from a young age), and what specific things can I do as a parent to help my two kids learn to make that transition to adulthood (trust their own opinions, make their own decisions, think of others, admit when they are wrong, learn the value of money, etc.)?

Let me remind you all that I'm not omniscient. Let me add that I'm big on not advocating "the" answers since I don't think there are primers that work for all children, all situations.

However, there are guidelines I try to follow myself because I believe that they will help me raise my children most effectively with the goal to make them the best adults they can be (not make it easier on myself or control them, by the way). But I could not put them in a single post so I'll put them up in pieces. Here's another suggestion, something I try to do myself.

Obedience and responsibility are not interchangeable.

This is a hard one, partially because how you handle a child is as individual as the child herself. I'm not saying you aren't in charge or shouldn't be. Children need limits, need restrictions and need discipline. Judgment isn't the strong suit of the average child and usually this is true far longer than the child has any notion of. It takes judgment, you know, to figure out you have some. Rules are important and you do yourself a favor by being consistent, doing what you say, following through with the consequences when they misbehave, even though that's sometimes challenging. If your kid can walk all over you, you haven't done your part to help them toward adulthood because, in the real world, it's rarely so easy.

But making them easily controlled doesn't exactly make them prime examples of adulthood, either. Children are living, thinking beings, with individual personalities, with preferences and imagination and opinions of their own. Crushing those or manipulating them so they always do things your way, through fear, through guilt, through discipline - you lose something and so do they. Keeping control of your children shouldn't equate with taking all of their control away.

Now, raising children safely with limits and discipline but without crushing spirits or individuality is tough and, often, a thankless task. And the path to doing so is often different for each child. In my eldest daughter's case, it means explaining each and every restriction I give her. This is irksome and tiresome and frustrating. However, if I can get her to understand why I want her to do something a certain way, I don't have to worry about her sneaking off and doing it behind my back. She understands and can (and will) police herself - and be disgusted when her friends fail to be as practical.

It's a lot of work for me that way (and, when my reasoning is not sound, I'm often in a position to back off on a stance I want to take - which is not only frustrating but embarrassing), but, by showing her my reasoning and helping her understand it, I encourage her to use her own reasoning when confronted by things I haven't foreseen. Being able to use her own brain is a heck of a boon in an adult or a teenager and my challenges are a small price to pay if that's where the effort leads us. The jury's still out, there, but it looks promising. Mostly.

With my son, five, who is somewhat autistic, reasoning is a complete waste of time. Instead, I have to manage to find a way to convince him what I want is in his best interest, which makes reasoning with my daughter look childishly simple relatively.

Two last bits I want to add on this. Don't think you can (or should) keep them from learning everything the hard way. Truth is, if children don't ever learn anything the hard way, they never appreciate the fact that sometimes you actually know what you're talking about. And their ain't any lessons more effective than experience. Chances are, although there are some lessons you'd give your soul to keep them from learning the hard way, there will be some they just won't learn any other way. Think back; I bet that was true for you, too. Accepting this, no matter how hard, might be a good plan.

Last bit here, and this is a personal vow for me. I personally never use affection as a reward or withhold it as a punishment. Privileges and, yes, punishments, I'll dole out according to the circumstances, but my son has never been so bad he can't get a hug and my daughter has never been so irksome that I tell her I don't love her any more, even when the temptation is strong. I truly believe that love is unconditional and I make sure they know mine doesn't have a price tag.

Just what I think.

Not sure if I have more to say on this subject. I'll think about it and let you all know tomorrow if any other wisdom comes to mind.


  • Shakespeare

    From the beginning, my kids have known my love is unconditional. Crystal used to ask me, "Do you still love me?" and my answer has always been, "Of course I do, forever and ever, no matter what."

    You're right about the balance... and my kids are on either side of the spectrum, and the OLDER one is more co-dependent than the younger (go figure). I find myself trying to get Crystal to judge for herself what she should do, rather than depending on me to tell her. Brandon, on the other hand, HAS to feel as if the decision is his, so he's a bit more complicated... but we discuss choices a LOT... and he knows he's responsible for the choice he makes at each moment.

    I fear what it will be like once he's in full-day school, though. I don't want either to be sheep (so much trouble comes from this), yet I want them to think of others, not just their own wants...

    Funny, too, that I was always taught to be codependent... and most of my efforts are to think more of myself, to do more for myself... while my hubby (genetically) thinks he's the center of the universe, and his efforts are to shift from that to thinking about others.

    I'm sure my kids will still have things to work through still when they become adults. I just hope they don't blame me for all their problems (or, more importantly, I don't blame myself).

  • Stephanie B

    Oh, sure, give me the impetus for another section of this.

    Parents make mistakes. ALL parents make some mistakes, even "perfect" ones. One of the biggest is assuming the child has no input into their own upbringing.

    You can show them an excellent example, provide direction and instruction on learning for themselves, growing empathy, etc. But, in the end, they have to decide to do it. Good kids can come from bad parents (don't we know it) and bad kids can come from good parents.

    In many ways, raising kids is a cooperative effort. In many ways, I deplore choices made in my own upbringing, but not just that of one parent or the other, but choices I made, paths I chose, etc. Others I'm proud of. All of them influenced the person I became, but, in the end, I chose what examples I followed, what I wanted for myself, what kind of life I wanted to live. No one could do that for me.

    The same will be true of your own children. In the end, the decision on who they will become will be theirs, not yours. Even if you did everything perfectly, you would not deserve all the credit and even if you did everything wrong, you wouldn't deserve all the blame.

  • Quadmama

    I'm glad you brought up the issue of witholding affection as punishment. At the end of the day I try to make sure my daughters know no matter what they did I love them. Just last night one of them had a full on meltdown, complete with throwing things. At the end she walked over to me with her arms stretched out for a hug. I gave her a big hug and when she calmed down I (sort of) got to the bottom of what was troubling her.

  • Aron Sora

    I agree with you, protecting children from everything. For example, I got my love of math from Runescape. I was assigned to handle the clan's (in game army) money and I also did any of the clan's math. I torn down the game's equations for finding xp and found the most efficient way for our clan to level up.

    Playing the Eve online trial was a amazing simulation of my dream. I still go back there when I get discouraged. I learned to be a positive person by listening to Yes, there are creepy people on the internet, but it unlocks so much if you don't fear it. I mean, I've network with a NASA engineer by just fooling around on entrecard. I have no idea how networking works, but my parents keep shoving that term down my throat when they try to get me out of the basement. (Argh! the sun)

    So, yea, let you kids explore and ask them about their exploration. I felt so good sharing my blog with my parents.

Post a Comment

Blog Makeover by LadyJava Creations