As the children get older, I'm starting to recognize how parenting changes and how significant early habits really are! I also just read the most fabulous book, Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax. WOW! I have been quoting this book everywhere I go it seems. People are surely getting sick of me. There were three very real take home messages for me that I have been pondering since reading. Three parenting principles that I have somewhat confused me all along, but suddenly became clear.
Principle #1: A Familiy is not a Democracy
In the book Sax talks about how it's not logical to give children choices when they don't know what they're really choosing. For instance, if you say, "Do you want to go to Disneyland or to the museum?" The kids are most likely going to choose Disneyland simply because it either sounds more fun or their friends have talked about it. Sax says, "Your job [as a parent] is not to maximize your child's pleasure, but to broaden her horizons."
I was talking to a friend about this concept and she said, "Well, this is what we've been taught to do. Give your toddler the choice, 'Do you want the green shirt or the blue shirt.'" Though this is an appropriate choice to give, we need to be careful of what choices we are really giving them as they get older. And even with that simple choice, I still find my toddler screaming that he doesn't want either shirt rather than letting Mom just put whatever shirt she wants for that day! I'm starting to think that maybe we give choices to our children too young. I also think that when we focus on "not requiring" in the TJEd world, we think we need to not ask them to do anything that might make them unhappy. Still simmering on this one. . .
From An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family, one author writes, "Our job as parents is to help children have the experiences that will help them grow and develop their agency." Notice he says we need to give them experiences so they can make choices. Our job, then is to expose our children to lots of different situations (whether they like it or not, more or less) so that they can thus make wiser and more appropriate decisions. Take them to museums so they know what museum is. Take them to Disneyland, if that's something you want your children to be exposed to. Then, when given the choice, they will be better prepared to decide.
Principle #2: As your children, they have a right to the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else is a privilege.
Duh! I knew this but at the same time it's been tricky to implement. Difficult because we live in a more affluent society and "What does one dollar matter?" Life is relatively easy where temporal needs are concerned. Work isn't nearly as necessary nor as difficult as it once was. This is what we tell ourselves anyway. So, it's easy to give when our children want. We've been pretty good at not giving our children everything they want, but consistancy is one thing I'm striving to have more of. I want to teach my children that they earn anything other than those 4 basic things. I want them to understand that to earn them they must behave a certain way and do certain things. Again, still simmering.
Principle #3: "You can't discipline your child if you can't discipline yourself."
For me this equates to love as well. Avi, a popular children's author once said, "First you have to love them. If you can convince your children that you love them, you can teach them anything." When I get unrighteously upset with the children, it's usually having to do with my lack of disciplining myself to teach them with love rather than punishment or criticism. Again from the In Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family it says, "We do not have the right to control anyone we do not love." If we want our children to treat one another kindly, we treat them kindly. If we want our children to study hard, we need to do our tasks with vigor. If we want our children to clean the bathroom well, we need to train them in love and show them by example what clean bathroom looks like. As always, it comes back to focussing on YOU not THEM.
These are my thoughts on this Thursday evening. I highly recommend this book by Dr. Sax. There is so much more in there than I can write in one post.