Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Are We Raising Our Children Again?

When I was growing up, I made lots of mistakes.  My parent's may have warned me about certain situations, or give me advice (mostly of the unwanted kind).  But they did not hover, they did not fix my problems for me, nor did they excuse me when I did  something wrong.  Why are today's parents so different?  As a mom, parenting books, magazines, websites, blogs...well, they all tell me to hover!  They tell me that I need to help my kids make friends, that by helping them with their arguments with their friends I'll be a better parent, and that they'll see me as a "friend" if I help them solve all their problems.  Why have things changed so much?

Today, we care a lot about each other's feelings...and not just the people close to us.  There are people who look at a criminal and say, "I feel sorry for them."  There are people who say, "We just need to understand them more."  That's what parents are teaching their kids...intentionally or unintentionally, it's happening more and more.  I do this very thing...telling your kids during a playdate to give up one of their favorite toys to their friends..  "They're the guest, so you need to give it to them."  Or what about when your child is throwing a tantrum and instead of jumping into action to discipline you say, "Well they're tired....they're hungry...they're just having a bad day, " etc.  It's not that it's bad to be compassionate or to show empathy.  It's when it's expected that I have a problem...when the child EXPECTS to be excused or allowed to behave like that.
So what now?  How do we get back to valuing ourselves?  We have to teach our kids to look after themselves.  Mom and Dad are not always going to be there to fix their problems, to solve their relationship issues and not everyone is as forgiving as parents.  How do our kids benefit from us hiding these facts from them?  They will go off into the world, with a naive impression of the world, and seeing everything through their rose-colored glasses.  They need to be able to make decisions...important decisions that could possibly impact their future.

Our children are our future, but yet their success or failure does not always define who we are as parents.  It's ok to let them experience failure.  We can love them, want the best for them, but we can't live their lives for them.  And I think it makes them stronger and more able to adapt by giving them the skills they need...the responsibility then does and should lie on their shoulders, not ours.

Lindsey is 12, and she knows everything about everything.  And like most kids her age, she thinks the world revolves around her and if life doesn't go her way...well, she has what we call a "teen tantrum."  I was a single mom with Lindsey until she was 2 and although I thought I was really helping her to become independent and self-sufficient I look back now and see the hovering.  I remember not just telling her, but showing her by my own actions that other people were more important that myself.  Rarely did I ever show her that I felt like I was important enough to put myself before anyone!  It has taken me a long time to even see my own value and self-worth.  But how could I teach her to value herself when I couldn't do the same?!!  I hope that Lindsey will learn, despite her naive views and willingness to believe any and everything that there are some things worth fighting for...most of all, that SHE is worth fighting for!!

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