I’m a tough love kind of mama. I never liked childhood hissy fits and teenage theatrics, so they were not allowed in my house. Every time I hear a young mom make an excuse, “Well, you know how thirteen-year-olds (or two-year-olds) are . . .” I want so badly to share, “No. I don’t. It’s not how they are. It’s how they are allowed to be.”
Don’t get me wrong. Our household was not perfect. Four very stubborn and independent people lived within these walls. Discussions could get heated, but it wasn’t whining to get their way or sibling squabbles; it was a difference of opinion on a topic of discussion (how should we solve the federal debt) or how to coordinate a huge project.
Our home provided an atmosphere of mutual respect and quick forgiveness. It offered a platform where everyone was treated as an adult, even the ones in diapers. I absolutely disciplined my kids: quickly, privately and painfully. After age 4, I hardly ever had to take those kinds of measures again. I worked very hard to treat my children as I would want to be treated and I think that explains their unusual maturity in many areas. Interested? Here is a list of “Nevers” that can make your life easier.
1. Never talk about them to others (especially in their hearing). Frankly, I am appalled at the large number of parents who talk about their kids (positively or negatively) in a public forum with the kid right there. That would embarrass me to death and infuriate me. It does the same to kids and will destroy your relationship with them.
2. Never correct them in public. Everyone messes up, but I appreciate it when it is brought to my attention in private. It is important to correct errant behavior, but leave your child’s dignity in tact and talk to them calmly later.
3. Never promise something you can’t deliver. If you say you’ll quit at 2:00 p.m. and have a family read-a-loud, don’t pick up the ringing phone at 1:55 p.m. and get sidetracked. If you say you’ll let them do something, don’t pull the plug because of an unrelated event. Your word needs to be trustworthy. As they see you example, they learn to become trustworthy themselves.
4. Never argue with their decision after giving them a clear choice that you can live with. Most parents give kids choices that are too wide or have an unacceptable range. That’s your fault, not theirs. Teach them to make good decisions, by giving them good choices. They gain confidence after years of deciding things for themselves and don’t realize that you are guiding them.
5. Never protect them from the consequences of a stupid action. If they mess up, don’t rush in to fix it. Let them live with the results and learn a lesson.
6. Never take their time or wishes for granted. I saw my kids’ time as more valuable than my own and didn’t interrupt them for my projects. They did more work around the house and farm than most, but it was scheduled and expected. When they were studying or practicing their music or just reading, I treated their time as I wanted them to treat mine. As a result, they would often look up, see what I was doing, and would come to help without being asked. They knew I protected their time and they were very happy to protect mine as well. Kids will act like they are treated. If they’ve had years of training in inappropriate behavior, it can take awhile to get things on even keel, but it can be done!
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