The Most Crucial Parenting Techniques
No matter who we are, or what we do in life, most of us have kids. And there are numerous theories floating around regarding parenting. The two I have found that are crucial above all else: teaching my kids that everything but love, shelter, clothes, schooling and food are privileges, not rights, and more importantly is to be consistent with them.
It is imperative that you are consistent with EVERYTHING starting when the child is very small. Sounds easy, but it’s very hard to do. We all get caught up in our lives, get frustrated or angry and threaten things we don’t mean, are too tired to deal with keeping our word, or don’t have the strength for the temper tantrums and begging. Besides, those little buggers are so darn cute when they plead for something, and have a unique way of melting your heart at the most inopportune times. How do we resist caving in? It’s not easy! But having two boys 13 and 15, I can tell you it only gets worse. Because if you aren’t consistent in the beginning, they learn you will cave, that you don’t follow through and if they wait it out long enough, beg or plead enough, you’ll give in. As an example, I have been telling my oldest for years to raise his grades or he won’t be allowed to get his driving permit. He blew me off, but when he turned 15 1/2 (the driving permit age in California) I refused to let him get it. He was floored. He thought for sure I would cave, but I didn’t. We’ll see if his grades improve now or not.
I have not been very consistent with my boys while they were growing up. I tried, I tried very hard, but I work full time, I have health issues, I had my boys in my thirties, and I’m just plum worn out! They know from past experience if they play me right, I will go ahead and reverse my previous decisions regarding grounding, etc. Add to the fact that I am not home half of the time they are, because I’m working, I am not home to enforce anything. This makes being consistent extremely difficult. But it is do-able. I’ve learned with my youngest I have to go to the extremes. He got in trouble for not doing his homework, so I told him no X-Box privileges till he raised his grades and I didn’t get notes on his report card that say “missing assignments.” In order to keep that restriction, I had to actually take the X-box console to work with me! Sounds extreme, but it was the only way I could enforce my rule. He got very mad at me, but we all need to remember that we are their parents, not their friends. We are here to produce happy, contributing citizens to our communities. I tell my boys all the time “I’m not as worried about your happiness as I am for your safety.” We as parents have to make priorities, and our kids should be our number one priority, not how tired we are or anything else. I just wish I had reminded myself of that more while they were growing up.
My oldest came home with a marijuana pipe with his name on it not too long ago, and I found out he was skipping school, too. Of course I got every excuse in the book…”It’s not mine, I made it for a friend and it broke so I have it to fix for him” etc. etc. blah blah blah. So I went and bought a drug test and told him if he did either again I would kick him out of the house. His response was “Fine, I’ll go to Grama’s.” My reply was “Grama was a school teacher. Do you really think she would allow a flunking student, school ditching drug user in her house?” Sounds harsh, but he hasn’t done either since. If I could go back to when they were smaller, I would change the way I raised them and would have MADE the effort to be more consistent, no matter how worn out I was. Because as they get older, so do I, and I find myself more and more tired each year. I am lucky that they turned out to be relatively good kids. They have their good days and bad days, but all in all I am very proud of them.
Read all the parenting books you want, but I can tell you from experience that the major thing to have happy kids that behave well is consistency with boundaries, limits and rules. And the best thing to teach them to respect things is to teach them the difference between privileges and rights. If you follow those words of advice, you will have happy, well behaved children. Let them speak their minds if they need to, but be sure they do it respectfully. I am not one to censor children, but it better be said with respect! Being consistent with them will also help teach them respect for you.