Viewing entries tagged
Faith

All Children Are Not Created Equal

Comment

All Children Are Not Created Equal

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.” ~John Wilmot

All children are not created equal. We recognize this when we have more than one pregnancy, when our friend’s child starts to walk and talk quicker than our own and when we see grades on report cards that allow for improvement. And yet, we so often feel compelled to treat our children equally when it comes to parenting.

If there was one style of parenting that worked, there would not be 3 million parenting books to help teach you the way that works for you and your child. Like the acquisition of most life skills, effective parenting is trial and error and the learning curve is often huge!

When most moms get together and talk about their kids, they spend the majority of their conversation swapping stories of how different their children are of each other and their friends. And then they will talk about what discipline or praise works for them. It is often quite different, just as different as our children. And yet, experts still write books which we read on how to do it the “right” way. Really?

My daughter is a gem. Sensitive, kind, insightful, super smart and well mannered, she brings us great pride. She is also incredibly manipulative and dramatic and uses her intellect to outsmart friends and her little brother to get what she wants, sometimes in deceptive ways. Confident and hopeful, she tries to work over her parents. Doesn’t she know these skills are genetic?

My daughter is also a perfectionist and has anxious tendencies. I know when I talk to her, I have to be sensitive to how she responds to criticism. She works hard to be the best and when she realizes she isn’t all the time, she struggles with this knowledge. My parenting style with her is direct and firm, but with a lot of reinforcement and praise for her positive behaviors to make sure she recognizes her strengths.

My son is a love. I have frequently labeled him “the happiest boy alive.” Charming, witty and always laughing, he truly seems to embrace every moment of life’s joys. I have also labeled him “the beast.” Impulsive and contrary, with an inability to sit still anywhere, he is tough to monitor in public without fearing arrest.

My son is not a perfectionist, with exception to his perfect ability to accept that he will not do everything well. He is quick to give up when he is frustrated and moves on quickly to the next task at hand, comfortable with his level of success. My parenting style with him is also direct and firm, but with more encouragement to keep trying until he does what he sets out to accomplish. He needs continuous redirection and a push to plod forward no matter how tiring or frustrating the task.

As their personalities develop and their behaviors change, I am more aware of how differently I have to treat them, but yet not let them in on the secret, because anyone who has more than one child knows, they are constantly watching for favoritism and discrepancies between how they are being treated. Gender differences and age can also impact how we parent them, but eventually we realize, it’s because they are simply different people, regardless of maturity or gender. By the way, I do think gender makes a big difference in how we parent at times, but that is a different discussion.

So how do you know the right style of parenting for your child? Start with knowing your child and seeing them for who they are. Then take the advice, your own or someone else’s that you have been given and try it out. I really am a firm believer that effective parenting comes from trial and error, which can be time consuming and frustrating, but once you find what works, you are blissfully happy…right up until you and your child change again! And know yourself. If you are given a suggestion that doesn’t jive with your personality, it’s not going to work for you because you won’t be comfortable and it won’t work for your child because they will see it doesn’t fit you. For example, if someone suggested I monitor my son’s every move and redirect his behaviors whenever I see them become negative, it would not work. I believe in fostering independence and learning from your own mistakes. If I were to monitor to his every move, I would get annoyed and he would become dependent on me to know when he was doing something right or wrong and it wouldn’t create the desired result.

So just as much as children are not created equally, neither are their parents! How much trial and error got you to where you are today? My guess is plenty. Sometimes scrapes and bruises help remind us to jump over the rock the next time we see it in our path. And sometimes the scars we endure help define who we are. Error is okay if we learn from it. Embrace what you learn and regroup when it’s not working, with the confidence of knowing we all are in this big learning curve together and with enough patience and effort, it can all work out.

Comment

Mother’s Intuition

Comment

Mother’s Intuition

I knew my child’s pediatrician was a living, breathing reincarnated saint when I first heard him say to me, “trust your mother’s intuition, it is always right.”  Thank goodness he had recognized my brilliance! Now I wouldn’t have to explain in detail why every book I had used to research my daughter’s current symptoms suggested that she did not have the asthma she had been previously diagnosed with and I would no longer be medicating her.

When he gave me permission to make decisions that felt right to me, I knew a door had been opened that I never realized had been closed before.  Trust myself.  I may actually know what I’m doing.

If Mother’s Guilt is a disease, Mother’s Intuition is its cure. Since our child’s birth, we look to outside resources for our information and answers.  Tell us how to make the baby stop crying. Tell us how to know when they’ve had enough to eat.  As they start toddler hood and preschool, tell us if they are developing on track with their peers and tell us the signs to know if they will be serial killers.  Early detection is the key.

Throughout their school years, we look to books, teachers, doctors, counselors, friends, and for some, police officers, to get a stronger impression of our child. Who are they and how can we best support them through their development? We are constantly asking ourselves, am I doing this right? I am suggesting, instead of asking “am I doing this right?”,ask “does what I’m doing feel right?”  You know how to answer that question. It’s the feeling in your gut, the gnawing knowledge you don’t always give recognition. It’s real and it’s yours.  We all have it and have experienced its power, but sometimes, we forget to rely on it and sometimes we forget to allow ourselves to trust what we already know.

If it wasn’t for my Mother’s Intuition, I could have lost my son a couple of years ago at a family party.  As I sat talking to a cousin on the back deck, I randomly interrupted her as I was overcome with a feeling to check on my son.  When he wasn’t in the bouncy house where he was last seen by at least 15 family members, the hunt went out to find him. He was found 10 minutes later, hysterical and overheated locked in a parked car in front of the house on a very warm day.  Mother’s Intuition does not know good manners.  It rudely interrupted my cousin. It does not look for other’s opinions or even ask if we think we are right.  It blatantly tells us how we feel and we can respond accordingly…or not.

By the way, I know we call it Mother’s Intuition because Mom’s rock, but Dad’s have it too and we need to give a little credit where it’s due.  As a counselor, I have worked with some of the best, in tune Dad’s who have no idea just how impressive they are.  Another reason I really believe in reincarnation.  They clearly must have been women in their past lives.

Now the one thing Mother’s Intuition will not give you is a direct list of options to your long list of questions.  But it will tell you when you’ve picked the one that works best for you and your situation. So go ahead, give it a try and Trust Yourself.  There’s a really good chance you may actually know what you’re doing.

Comment

The Curse of Mother’s Guilt

Comment

The Curse of Mother’s Guilt

“If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”

There are hundreds and hundreds of pregnancy and baby books which guide you through the trials of pregnancy and living with a newborn, giving you every scenario of the excitement of your growing baby and the intense fear of everything that could go wrong. They cover every aspect of prenatal health and the postnatal care down to learning how to teach your muscles how to support your bladder for long term comfort and deciphering what every coo stands for in your newborn cherub. There’s advice on breastfeeding, post partum blues, twelve different forms of diaper rash and survival tips for living sleep deprived and feeling like mush. Yet the one fact that we are kept sheltered from is the warm introduction to our new lifelong companion, Mother’s Guilt.

Mother’s Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions you will ever experience which follows you around like your first boyfriend who just seemingly hit puberty. And not normal guilt like you did something wrong and were aware of it; useless guilt for not being in the same room when your baby opened their eyes alone or when they still seem hungry after they ate and you were ill prepared to meet their momentary whim. Guilt that you have to work to keep clothes on their back and a roof over their head. Guilt that you stay home with them and don’t love every minute of it. Guilt that they cry when you are not around and guilt that they do cry when you are around and you can’t soothe them. Useless, unnecessary guilt that grows stronger and more pronounced as they do.

When I first had my babies, I rarely left the house outside of work. I felt like I couldn’t leave them because no one could care for them as well as I could. Plus, I worked and oh the guilt that came with that—wow! I felt I had to compensate for my absence by filling our time together with meaningful activities and joyous outings. My time spent with friends was usually limited to play dates. My life was not my own; it was theirs. I was a slave to making sure they had everything I thought they needed. My husband regularly encouraged me to get out more, but I rarely took his advice. Instead, I built up resentment towards him because he seemed to live his life so freely and I was holding on to my guilt of not being everything for my children and slowly losing my identity of who I thought I was.

I am well aware of the fact that in order to effectively take care of someone else, you must first take care of yourself. I have offered that knowledge to others and meant it. But it wasn’t until I started living it myself that I discovered it really is true.

I started to take care of myself by learning to trust that my children would be okay without my watchful eye and acknowledging that I was not the end all be all for them. I began to attend “Book Club,” and “Ladies Night” and added in regular dinner dates with friends. It was time for me to be me and relinquish my role as mommy for a few moments to role of woman who has a brain and interests outside of managing every aspect of my child’s wellbeing. And an amazing thing occurred, I was re introduced to a friend I forgot how much I once liked and respected, ME!

As our child’s primary educators in life we are teaching them the importance of taking care of ourselves by our example and the satisfaction that comes with it. We need to train them and ourselves that the word “selfish” does not have to come with a negative connotation. We are teaching our children our values within our absence. When I go to the gym, my kids learn that I value health and wellness. When I go out with my friends, they learn the value of maintaining friendships and the necessity of tending to their growth. When I go to work, they learn the value of getting an education which allows me to work in a job that I enjoy. If we want our children to grow up to be individuals we must teach them that we too are individuals AND be okay with it.

Now my Mother’s Guilt has me playing legos for longer than I’d like and having a picnic dinner on the living room floor because its “fun,” but it feels much more manageable since I have found its natural remedies which are following my personal values and Mother’s Intuition to know when I am doing what is best for my child. I am still the greatest mother in the world to them because I want to be there and I want to take care of them, which makes balance that much easier.

As our children grow, so do their problems and our insecurities on how to handle them. We will always have questions on how to solve these problems, as we should. How do we know if we are doing it right unless we’ve done it wrong? Let go of the guilt and hold on to the faith that together, you will get it right.

Comment

The Art Of Choosing Friendships

Comment

The Art Of Choosing Friendships

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”

~Woodrow Wilson

It can be so exciting when our children begin to form friendships. Their first ones typically are created with the children of our own friends who we have carefully chosen for ourselves. When they start preschool programs or activities we sign them up for they may start to explore new relationships of their own. And suddenly our antennas are up and we are on alert of who is influencing our child. We tend to not want them to be friends with kids whose parents have parenting styles that do not match up with our own or who display behaviors we are not comfortable with. We may even try to control their experiences and censor what they observe, but really this is the perfect environment to learn. What better way to know the difference between what works and what doesn’t than to experience it head on? When we see a behavior that we don’t approve of, this is the time to explore with them why this behavior can hinder them and what the uncomfortable consequences can be. When we see a behavior we feel good about, we can emphasize how well that behavior can benefit them (and us!).

When was the last time you made a new friend? You probably hit it off with them making small talk about something you both were interested in or maybe you liked their sense of humor or how kind they were, and then one of you put yourselves out there, took the risk and set up plans to spend even more time getting to know each other. Do you remember the slight hesitation you may have felt exposing yourself or setting yourself up for rejection? Or the satisfaction of realizing you had someone else who could relate with you and you could share with? This reaction was learned through experience, through knowing the difference between friendships that work and friendships that didn’t. If you had not had the opportunity to explore those relationships, you would have never known the difference. Your child needs to learn this lesson too and the longer you block them from learning, the longer it will take. We often concern ourselves with the idea that if they spend time with friends whose behaviors don’t match up with our values, their friends’ influence will be stronger than what we have hoped to instill. Who they choose to follow is not within our control, but creating opportunities to form open and consistent communication to discuss these relationships can be.

Let them choose based on what they are drawn to. We all learn about ourselves and the world through relationships and friendships. We grow through direct experience and interactions with how we treat others and how they treat us in return. We learn to trust our choices and decisions when they work and learn to alter our direction when they don’t, sometimes after repeated tries! We owe it to our children to let them make their own choices, but keep the lines of communication open so we can help them see what is a good relationship that works for them versus one that doesn’t. It is also important to note that if a relationship is causing them harm in any way, you will be compelled to discourage its continuation and appropriately so! You may not have the ability to stop them from spending time together in school, but you do control over who is allowed to spend time in your home.

So consider letting your child mix their own cement and learn how to create lasting bonds that will work for them, but be prepared to add a little more water if it starts to dry up too quickly before its ready to set.  When these bonds finally do solidify into a friendship that helps support and inspire your child, experience gratitude.  Nothing beats a trusted and wonderful friend.

Comment

Dependence or Independence? It’s Your Call

Comment

Dependence or Independence? It’s Your Call

What is the goal for your children? Independence or Dependence? With the end result in mind, you can tweak your parenting style accordingly.

Of course you want them to tie their own shoes and do their homework unassisted, but it doesn’t happen without a few long, tiring lessons in between. In the beginning, we do everything for our children. We change their clothes, we teach them words to use and when to use them. We tell their bodies when to sleep and how to do it on its own. We determine exactly what goes into their bodies overseeing food intake, medications and immunizations. We monitor their every move. And then, at some point, which is different with every parent, we tell them that they are on their own and pray, beg, cry, scream until they do it “right”, a.k.a. Our Way.

And then the strangest thing happens…they don’t always do it Our Way. So we are left questioning our parenting skills and feeling guilty and looking to the professionals for solid advice, which is never realistically solid, because here it comes…effective parenting is not one size fits all!!

Here’s the real issue: before our children were even born we had expectations for them. We dreamed what they’d look like, how they’d act, the occupations they might try, the ways we’d love them and teach them to explore the world. When they don’t meet our expectations, we start to question what we are doing wrong and try to regroup. We never want them to hurt or feel pain, but we know they have to learn from their mistakes. And when they do start to hurt, we start to scramble to make it better.

We promote dependence on us, the parents. We tell our children to follow our lead and do as we say, but to think on their feet and make good decisions for themselves. It can almost be as confusing as saying don’t talk to or trust strangers, but be respectful and listen to your teacher on the first day of school when you don’t know them at all. We are teaching our children to TRUST and in turn, must learn to TRUST ourselves and the skills we have taught them. This insight is what will teach them independence. Learning to trust in oneself and the decisions you make, but also the importance of asking for help when you need it.

In order to build trust and confidence, the base building block of independence, we must allow our children to make decisions and live with them. We should continue to offer advice and support, but ultimately let them decide. When your child wants to sit up and read at night instead of sleeping, they will then experience the natural consequence of being tired the next morning and not wanting to get up. If your child will not eat their dinner, they will experience the natural consequence of being hungry when the food is no longer available. When your older child does not do their homework, they will experience the discomfort of a poor grade or repeating a subject. It is not your role to ignore, but to encourage their positive choices and offer suggestions when they make the ones that don’t work for them. Our sense of control over our child’s behavior is our most common misperception. The control we have is to support and love in whatever form that fits. We can not control their behavior, but we can control how we respond to it.

If anyone tells you this part of parenting is easy, it’s because they no doubt, do not have children. The transition of letting go of perceived control may be the hardest part of effective parenting, yet the most beneficial for both you and your child. Just ask the professionals.

Comment