Parenting is hard. We all know that. I mean you just have to bumps heads with you seven year-old or try reason with your tantruming two year-old in the middle of a Pick ‘n Pay isle to know that parenting is a lot like producing a movie about zombies or trying to master a subject that doesn’t come with any credit-worthy text books.
Lately we have felt every inch of the way challenged with our approach to parenting and, to be frank have questioned whether we are in fact remotely qualified for the task. I say we, because the hubs and I tend to dissect our feelings on the matter quite a lot. I think we just really feel we are getting it wrong a lot of the time. Of course, we know we love our children and would do anything that has their best interest at heart but lately we have been scrutinising our approach to parenting a little more than usual.
After quite a challenging weekend with our boys it became apparent to us that their main frustration was that we always say NO. I think that can sometimes feel like we are trying to control the fun they have and it often means we are left having to explain ourselves. (Again and again and again) Of course this only ends in tears and the tears? Well the tears cause things to escalate to a point of screaming at them about being entitled brats who need to take no for an answer and then ends with the same stern ” Because I told you so!”
In chatting through things last night, we realised we may need to look at the situation differently. The one thing that hit us in the gut though was hearing our boys say “You always say no. You always telling us not to do something. You always shouting at us”
*Just to put some context to the situation, we live in a shared block where our children are fortunate to have a wonderful group of kids who play together, but often situations arise where our standards are challenged because of other parents not being on the same wave length (for lack of a better word) as we are. Look at me being all diplomatic, if I were with you in person I would call a spade a spade but bear with me here.
At first it made me feel bad because they are right. There are times when it does feel like I’m constantly telling them NO. When almost everything they do is met with resistance and where everything they ask for is questioned.
Brendon looked at me last night and asked me ” Is the way I’m parenting my sons going to scar them? Is the fact that I’m a strict dad going to affect them later in life? I’m so worried they are only going to remember me for the times when I shout at them or discipline them”
For a long time I thought about it because of course I feel the same a lot of the time. I think about the fact that I say no more than I say yes. I make rules about doing homework first before they play. I tell them to take their plates to the sink. I tell them to respect the play area in the community in which we live. I tell them to bring their toys inside. I nag them to tidy their rooms. I tell them no TV until they have picked up all their lego. I tell them to listen first time. I say no to too many sweets. I tell them to eat their healthy food. I tell them to brush their teeth. I say No to sleepovers. I tell them to go thank someone for something if they haven’t done it properly or to look someone in the eye when they say hello. I tell them they can’t have Pokèmon Cards today. I tell them to fix a mess they made and to think about what they have done when they have crossed a line.
And yes for the most part I can be a strict nag of a mom.
But it all hit me in a single moment. I had simple moment of clarity. We do these things and say no because we love them. We say no because we want what’s best for them and we ask them to have respect for people, property and things because we want to teach them the value in it now while they are young. We want them to aim for a certain standard and abide by simple rules that will hopefully teach them to evaluate things for themselves as they get older. We teach them not to make unnecessary mess of our playground now so that they will know not to vandalise public property later.
My reply to Brendon was simple. “Babe we are not called to be our children’s friends. We’re called to parent them and teach them how to be good kids who hopefully grow up to be awesome adults that people and society are going respect too.” I want my children to learn the fundamental laws of the world now so that they don’t land up doing things they are going to regret as they get older. We want to be friends with our kids, sure, but we need to be their parent first and foremost.
The hard part comes in when other parents do not adopt the same strict “code of conduct” and where the lines are somewhat blurred with their own kids. I know that can sound super judgemental and trust me my intention is never to judge another mom because sure, we don’t always know their story but it has to be said. When there are two sets of rules applying to one situation it can be hard to be the strict parent who acts out of conviction, knowing you are doing what you feel is best for your child. Basically it becomes a “Just because Jimmy’s mom says he can do it, doesn’t mean I’m ok with you doing it” situation. This causes bigger issues to arise because now you are also having to cleverly navigate the road of explaining to them why you do what you do and why your rules are different. (Secretively I just wish Jimmy’s mom would just get her shit together and be a mother and stop making me look like a dragon but I’ve been taught by my own mother that that wouldn’t be appropriate)
You see because as much as I may question myself at times and wonder if I’m being too a strict parent, I would much rather be a little too strict at times than let my children do whatever they want and get away with being little horrors.
I ask them to do homework before playing so they can enjoy the rest of the afternoon without that hanging over their head and so that they learn to be disciplined when it comes to the hard stuff. I ask them to take their plates to the sink so that it teaches them then I’m not the only one responsible for cleaning up after them, that they are capable of doing small tasks now that will hopefully become bigger household tasks later as they become teenagers, young adults and grown men (and so that their girlfriends and wives will thank me one day!) I tell them to bring their toys inside and keep the play area clean and tidy to teach them to respect common property and to look after things that have been put there for them to enjoy. I tell them no TV until they have tidied up because they need to learn that good behaviour is sometimes rewarded with good incentives and that if they do as they’re told, those incentives are at arms reach. I also do it so that they learn now that I am not responsible for keeping their rooms tidy. They are.
I say NO to too many sweets because I want their beautiful bodies to thrive and not become toxic with sugar. I tell them to eat their vegetables even when they don’t want to because I want to teach them to adopt healthy food choices from a young age and their bodies to benefit from healthy choices. I say NO to sleepovers (Unless with family) because I am called to protect them and I simply cannot trust everyone in those situations. Their safety is my priority and as long as they are young, I will use my wisdom to navigate those decisions appropriately. I tell them to look people in the eye when they say hello or thank-you and will not make excuses for them being shy. In those situations, at their age, shyness is rudeness. Simple.
I may not be a perfect parent and I’m sure Jimmy’s mom is also doing her best, but I will make no apology for taking the hard way out when it comes to parenting my kids. I hope that one day they will see that every bit of nagging, moaning, begging, pleading, shouting, arguing, time-outing, hair-pulling, knee-bending bit of negotiating I do, is because I love them and want to raise them to be gentle, kind and respectful human beings with a strong moral compass. Because after all, what I do now, sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives and thats one helluva job an done I don’t intend on taking lightly. ♥
Do you struggle too? Do you say no a lot too? Do you struggle to say no no?
Photos : Angela Rea Photography