Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tough Lessons in Parenting...and Tough Love

Which teachers did you like the best growing up?  Those who let the whole class get away with everything, had no boundaries, and never were able to get much accomplished? Or those who had strict rules, which they enforced, and had high expectations of your behavior and output? What about the teacher who let you know the boundaries, and let a little bit of his/her spunky/sweet personality shine through--the teacher you hated to disappoint?
I think my favorite teachers were the latter two.  I needed a little bit of both in my life as a student or an athlete and while at first I may have despised the super strict teacher--once I figured him/her out, we often worked well together.  (I am thinking of a particular cross-country & track coach in this scenario.)

When it comes to parenting, there can be quite the number of differences between what you would do as a parent and what you would do as a teacher, but the similarities can also be astounding.  Having only ever taught one freshmen-level college class, and doing guidance lessons here & there as a counselor, I would say my teaching skills are mostly limited to the kindergarten Sunday school class I've participated in over the past 5-ish years so I don't have the most experience in this arena.

However, sometimes I wish I had stepped into the foray of teaching for just a little bit longer so that I would have a few more tools in my arsenal for how to appropriately set limits for a young one.
How much you change...and teach us
within such a short period of time!
(June 2010)
Without realizing it, I had unintentionally made our home a battle zone for Mia.  I let her choose and dictate many trivial choices--things that didn't seem like they mattered--until it was time for me to make certain decisions for her and I realized she "wasn't having it," i.e., throwing a major tantrum.  Of course, this is flustering and beyond irritating when the wee one strikes out, but it's also a personal blow when you realize you are mostly to blame for the outcome. I should add at this point that both Greg & I parent a little bit differently, and it's usually me she pushes the most (so it seems).

Sleep always has been a war zone for her and us. We've drawn lines many times before, and found success, only to let something creep in that sets us back several stages.  Especially at naptime.  As I said before, she puts up more of a fight with me at naptime than she does with Greg at bedtime.  Now that I'm pregnant, however, and due within the next three months(!), it is imperative that we press the "reset" button on a few of these areas so that life for everyone in our household will hopefully be a bit easier to manage especially when there's one more added to the mix.

I was on the verge of desperation yesterday, and posted for some advice in a Christian moms group I'm apart of on Facebook.  The responses I received were humbling...and encouraging.  It was the type of tough love I didn't want to but needed to hear (and had heard before -- you were right, Mommo)!  Oh, won't that be satisfaction when your child is old enough to tell you that you were right about something? In due time, methinks.

It's only been ONE day, and lest I get ahead of myself I know that all we can work with is today and I shan't set myself up for unlikely expectations, but Mia is getting a dose of tough love, and it's doing something!  And I'm gaining the confidence that this is the right thing for her. The simple things of choosing which cups, or what outfits, or how many options she has at nap time are dwindling.  It appears that by loosening the reins with her--which as I said, seemed okay at first--has really backfired on our locus of control and stability in the home.  And who doesn't need some shalom in the home?  How many times have I actually wished for SuperNanny or a parenting expert to be able to step in and give me real-time advice.  Now I have it and we're moving forward.

Summer 2011
If there's one piece of advice I could give to mommies with babes younger than mine, it is to hold your ground and set boundaries early on, even if they seem unnecessary at the time.  It's easier to give in or tweak a boundary than it is to try take something back.  I would say thus far I've been pretty nonchalant about various aspects of parenting, save a few areas.  It fits me and I like to be easy-going.  However, I have realized for a young child, boundaries and limits are what set the stage for feeling secure and confident and knowing who is in charge.  Knowing "Who's the Boss" is not just 80s TV should be a life lesson.  There may be those who respectfully disagree; it doesn't fit your parenting or child development philosophy and you and your child are succeeding just fine as is, and that's wonderful.  But I have learned that for our tough cookie, this is what we all need.

If I could, I wish I could download to my brain, Matrix-style, the parenting skills from the following books, among others:

The Strong Willed Child
Raising Girls
Parenting by the Book
Love & Logic

There's quite a lot going on in my brain right now: personal work I need to attend to; home projects; setting up Mia's bedroom and continuing to prepare for a new baby; considering potty-training(?), etc.,  that reading parenting books feels like extra work.  I'd honestly rather surf the internet or read birth stories than do that.  Or take a nap, let's be honest.  But I need it.  So, if you think of it, share any encouragement you've had with your own children or others about setting limits and being firm, and how that worked out for you.  Knowing others have done it and that I can do it--is truly half the battle in my mind.

Thank ye.  We're much obliged to your kindnesses.

1 comment:

Malone Mama said...

Oh, the similarity! I had a tough time with Chloe for a bit, just after she turned 2 (and we had a new baby). I grew lax in my discipline as tired one with a newborn might. We ended up having to break out the wooden spoon, eventually changing to the switch. It was a rough month or so, but oh, the CHANGE! (I recommend To Train Up a Child...though harsh and condescending at times, it was the pat on the bottom I needed)She is much more obedient towards me now. It was a lesson we both needed. Chloe is stubborn, but Autumn (our second) is going to be MUCH more so. So, boundaries come early and at 10 months old Autumn is much more obedient than Chloe was at that age.