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Parenting Outside the Box

Posted by Rachel R. Vanderveen on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 3:43pm.

Is it a permanent full moon out there this week, or what? All of my kids seem to have gone haywire. Each one of them having seemingly strayed from the good discipline that I have tried so hard to teach them, and replacing good behavior with all but swinging from the rafters. Am I the only mom that struggles with where to draw the line between teaching my kids the law—or what is right and wrong, and teaching them grace—or how to deal with heart issues?

The best of what I think I’ve learned seems to promote the idea that young children, around 5 and under, seem to benefit from teaching straight “law.” They simply have to know that they can’t touch a hot stove, or hit their playmates when they are angry. In my experience, they don’t fully understand, before that age, what the implications of their actions are.  I can tell my three-year-old that when she hits her brother, it hurts not only his physical self, but his emotional self as well (all in 3 year old speak) but it doesn’t seem to register yet for her that other people have their own set of feelings, needs, wants etc. I have trouble enforcing the “law” without explaining the heart side of things, and yet I know that even if I explained all day long, they will never fully understand at this age how what they do emotionally effects another person.

Then comes the trouble with “do as I say, not as I do.” I hope all other mothers understand the trouble with this one; I know I do. Sometimes I lose my cool with my kids when they’re being insolent, rude, or straight-up cruel to their brothers and sisters, but in the very act of losing my cool, I’m teaching them that losing one’s cool is how we deal with frustration. When that is the very opposite of what I want them to learn! But it’s difficult, isn’t it, to always be perfect as a parent---to never slip-up and be the worst side of yourself. We all try so hard to be that parent that we desperately wanted our parents to be, or maybe emulate perfect parents that we thought we had, but it never comes out as we intend.

In order to stay 100% cool all the time, we have to emotionally distance ourselves from our kids. We have to ensure that nothing they can do will rattle us. But that turns us into some kind of an emotionally inaccessible Betty Croker-type, mom-zombie.  Which is exactly what we don’t want, at least I don’t think so! But if we succumb to our worst parts, then we’re a terrorizing parent who has articles written about their atrocities in national news. Both types of parents, I think, will cause their children to pay dearly to a therapist sometime in the future.

Don’t you find that whenever you suppress something inside yourself with all of your might, it comes springing out of you at the worst possible moment, and suddenly you’re confronted with just how much you’re unable to measure up?

So what’s the answer? Well, honestly, I wish I had it, but I don’t. I am starting, however, to see that suppressing anything in yourself is like pushing down a coiled spring: as soon as you find yourself in a weaker position than you normally are, you’ll let your hand off that spring, and whatever you were trying to hold back will bounce out of control around your life and leave disaster in its path, exposing you for the fraud you are. I’m starting to see that perhaps we don’t need to teach our children how to be perfect, because then we’re just teaching them how to keep their hand on the spring. Perhaps we need to teach our kids how to handle being an imperfect person. Meaning that when we slip up, and make the mistakes that our mother made, we need to show that we can apologize for our shortcomings---that we’re not perfect either. We need to show them that real people make real mistakes that cause real damage, but a good person can look at damage they caused and face-up to the consequences. I’m starting to understand that maybe I need to stop trying to train my children to be perfect because it’s an impossible goal. Who wants to try to do something that they can never achieve? Maybe that’s why “the law” is so important when they are young. Perhaps they need to set out on a journey. The first part of being a child is understanding what is expected of you, and the second part being a child, is understanding the effects of your choices and how to make right what you’ve got wrong when you’re not able to do what is expected of you. Does that make sense? (I’m not sure if it makes perfect sense to me yet!)

This blog is just me thinking out loud, and it has nothing to do with Calgary Real Estate, but I did say in the main title of this blog that I would write about parenting from time-to-time, and so here is the first blog that suits that aspect of my blog’s purpose.


Rachel Vanderveen

The Vanderveen Team
Maxwell South Star Realty
Phone: 403.253.5678 Fax: 403.592.6736
Email: Info@VanderveenTeam.com

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