Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts on Parenting

To understand how I think about parenting you have to know that I believe parents need to be on the same team as their children. Maybe coaching, sometimes playing, always on the same side. I've never stepped in line with the advice that says your children don't need to like you, they just need to do what you say or that a parent's job is not to be their child's friend. See, if your children are going to do what you say and live by those things, internalize your advice and make it their own, they pretty much need to like you. ...not that our children don't get angry with us or think we're being unfair sometimes, but that we need to nurture genuine relationship, actual fondness and liking between ourselves and our children in order to have a long term impact on them.

Ok, so that's the background. Here's what I keep running into: How to not feel like a failure when the "team" isn't functioning all that well. If we're a team and there isn't some big authoritative gap between us, how do I not internalize my child's failures? How do I not take it personally when they're angry with me.

...or, um, maybe I need to take it personally, but in a different way. Is this complicated or what? I need to take it personally, in that I need to care how my child is feeling and make an effort to repair the relationship, just as I would with anyone else. But I don't need view myself (or them, either) as a failure when the "team" isn't playing very well.

Maybe I hit on it right there. Having crabby days, complete with that disrespectful voice, foot stomping and eye rolling doesn't make anyone a failure...not me, and not my child. Yeah, it's my job to teach, to help my children learn what's ok and what's not in the way we treat other people and the way we live our lives. But failing to do it right or do it well doesn't make us failures. It makes us humans who are learning and growing every day.

I don't want to parent out of fear...fear that my children won't turn out well if I don't do everything right, fear that I'm a failure if my kids aren't conducting themselves all that well fear of what other people are going to think of me or my children. I think it's when I parent out of those fears, actually, that I make the most mistakes. I react in a way that's intended to get whatever behavior to stop but not in a way that actually teaches anything. When I'm afraid of what other people are going to think, I get controlling, threatening, angry. When I stop and think about what I'm teaching rather than getting all wrapped up in appearances and fears, I gain some patience, humor, and grace.

I want to play on the same team with my kids. Together we can learn what we need to know to get through this life.

5 comments:

  1. i like these thoughts, amy...and feel like i need the reminder lately :/ 4 has been *incredibly difficult* for us, and i've found myself yelling and being authoritarian and impatient in my reponses more often than i'd like to admit. thank you for reminding me of both the long and short term goals of my parenting, and challenging me where i'm faltering...

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  2. Perhaps its when we parent out of fear that we parent like our parents (the parts we never liked anyway and the parts that we're scared of becoming)...

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  3. I think you summed it up perfectly by saying, "But failing to do it right or do it well doesn't make us failures. It makes us humans who are learning and growing every day."

    Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. :) Your blog title reminds me of a place I used to spend a lot of time at when I first moved to Columbus right out of H.S. "Victoria's Midnight Cafe" in Victorian Village. Any connection, by chance? It was such a unique place made up of eclectic people.. I should really take the boys there sometime, I'm sure they would love it!

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  4. Nope, no connection to Victoria's Midnight Cafe. MidnightCafe actually started as the user name I gave myself when I was spending time on a message board nursing late at night. ;)

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  5. I second what you and Erin says especially after some recent events in my own life.

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