Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Walking Fine Lines

Parenting is sometimes like trying to walk a tight rope. On one hand, you don't want to be a drill sergeant and lack flexibility. Because each child is different and what worked for one child may not necessarily work for another child. On the reverse side, you do not want to be a "popular" parent either. We all know a family where one of the parents wants to be their child's friend instead of the parent who gives rules, guidance and discipline when needed.

There is a section in S. E. Hinton's book The Outsiders where the main character is visited by one of the friends of boy (Bob was his name) that Pony's friend Johnny had killed in self-defense to protect Ponyboy. Randy, the friend of the boy who was killed talks to Pony and tells him that all Bob wanted was for his parents to care enough to notice him and ground him or punish him so he would know they cared about him.

I know we all hate it when our kids mope and sulk when they are disciplines, whether it be through grounding (or removing privileges as we usually call it) or whatever other effective means you have found. And yet, I have several teens in the youth group who have openly told me they wished their parents cared enough to stick to their punishment. My oldest daughter, often told me that she wished her mom would stick with her punishment. Yes, sometimes grounding or disciplining your child punishes you too. However, it is necessary.

The irony of this conversation is that my family is at odds at times over how strict or not strict we are with our girls. My sister, is convinced we are too tough on Sarah and that we need to lighten up. My mother, though thinks we give Sarah too much freedom. This in itself makes me chuckles since I know my Grandma Taylor and Mom used to go rounds about the fact that Grandma thought Mom wasn't strict enough with us. As it stands, I figure between my liberal sister and my decided more conservative mother that we must be doing something right.

It was interesting at church a bit to say the least when we allowed Sarah to dye her hair black underneath and blue on top for her fourteenth birthday. One person asked what we thought of it and if we were mad at her. They were rather shocked when I told them, no I wasn't shocked, I paid for her to color her hair. This is my theory. In allowing Sarah freedoms in some areas (clothing, what she does with her hair, sleepovers when she has earned them) we are able to lay restrictions on other things (going to boys houses, wearing make-up too soon, dating, and doing things with her friends that might be a bit dangerous). I met teens who outwardly met all the requirements that society and church folks might consider the makings of "good kids." Inwardly, they were the kids who were out partying, drinking, and doing drugs. They often rebelled in ways that were harmful to their bodies.

I don't think I am an overstrict parent. I have some rules though that I refuse to budge on.
1. You will speak respectfully and with good manners to ALL people at ALL times. This is especially upheld when it comes to teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and adults in charge or you at youth functions. You may not like the choices they make, but they require you to follow the rules for a reason even if you don't understand it at the time.

2. OBEY YOUR PARENTS! I think that one covers it all.

3. It's important to be uplifting to your children, but realistic. I love Sarah very much and I think she can do almost anything she sets her mind too. However, to become an engineer you must have a love of math and numbers and she does not. She loves Music, English, and Poetry and to read. Engineering would not make her happy so we encouraged her to keep searching or learn to love Math. She's still searching for her career path.

4. Don't discipline your children when angry. . . there are more than a few times when I tell the girls I will speak with them in a little while. It's not because I'm trying to think of a harsher punishment. It's so I don't ground them for an unreasonable amount of time.

5. Don't ground your kid for something you haven't told them they shouldn't do. The one exception to this rule I've made is finding them doing something insanely dangerous. For example: Over Christmas 2009 I found Elizabeth getting out of a car of friends of our neighbor. While the neighbor was a great friend of ours, I did not know her friends. She spoke to her friends, and Elizabeth lived in her room for a full 7 days and had to write sentences for me to hammer home the point "I will not get into a car with strangers that Mom and Dad do not know."

6. Kids, manners are important. I started teaching this one as soon as each girl became vocal in some way or the other. For example: If the girls had something in their hands as babies I would ask "May Mommy have that please?" As I gently removed it from their sometimes death like grip, I would respond "Oh thank you." And I made it a point to smile at them. I got a little bit later start with Sarah, but I had help. Grandma Mary and Grandpa Ted really hammered them into her when she was five years old and stayed the Summer with them in Florida.

7. Speak kindly to everyone - even the people who make you truly nuts at times. And as parents it's important to lead by example.

8. Church is not negotiable. Until you are 18 years old, you have to go to church with the family.

Something I've made it a point to give to Sarah is her own room. This will be passed on to Elizabeth as she gets older and Sarah moves away to college. However, a room is a privilege and not a right. So I have a few rules about this:
a) You have to keep your room clean. If you don't keep it clean you lose the privilege of having your own living space and have to share a room with another sibling. The only thing that saved Sarah was that Elizabeth missed Beka too much and asked me after seven days if she could move back in with Beka. But it made my point and Sarah improved in keeping her room clean.
b) Your room is your sanctuary. When I send you in there, you can scream into your pillow and say what you need to on one condition. If I can hear you well enough to understand what you are saying, then your sanctuary is invading my sanctuary and we'll have a problem. It's about learning to express yourself in a manner that is less loud and more about getting to the point.

As Sarah got older there were times when I would send her to her room not as a punishment, but to give her time to calm down and take a few deep breaths. I usually told her, "Sarah, you are not being punished, but I need you to go take 15 minutes in your room to calm down." By ten minutes I would tell her it had been ten minutes and she needed to start winding it down. This helped her still express what she needed to get out and have her little kvetching session but not end up grounded because her attitude stunk big time. This saved her from being grounded on a permanent basis and it gave me a few minutes to think about what might be going on and think how I wanted to approach it. By the way this method wasn't always used and in times of stress I admit, Sarah got grounded a lot more than she normally would have if I had been a little calmer myself.

That is our rules for our house - for now. Stay tuned they always change and need tweaking as each girl grows up and shows her own personality and own needs for discipline.

Have a good week.
Love in Christ,

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