Feb. 15, 2016

Engage In Raising Your Child(ren)

I could write a book about raising my children. It would be a best seller. Likely I would get a huge influx of e-mails on how I came up with ideas on how to reach my children. I’d likely also have a lot of naysayers accusing me of abuse, neglect, uncaring and downright cruel punishments and behavior. I frankly don’t care what anyone has to say about that topic other than my own kids. I love them unconditionally. Was I perfect? Heck no! I would be the first to admit that I was quite flawed as a parent. For the most part, my kids turned out pretty good. Did they always get it right? No. Do I still worry about them and pray for them constantly? Absolutely! As we speak my eldest is going through some trying and challenging times and my heart goes out to him. He has distanced himself from his family which is something I never thought he would do. I just pray all the love, training, heart-to-heart talks, being involved in the church, and those hard lessons eventually will pay off and he will get his life together and back on track to serve God in a mighty way. Living 20 hours away by plane doesn’t help me as a mother, by the way.

Being a mother was/has been such a blessing to me and it still is even though my children are now in their twenties. Contrary to popular belief, parenting doesn’t end when they graduate from high school and college. It continues long past that, but your role as a parent changes as your kids grow and mature. You becomes more like an advisor to them. You can give them advice, but they ultimately choose their own path and make their own decisions. It is painful to watch them make mistakes. As a parent it is challenging and difficult NOT to rescue them when they are in trouble or need help. Absolutely I will step in when the situation becomes critical, but I have to give them the chance to figure things out first. I have to give them the opportunity to either fail or succeed. I have to let them try which is very important in their knowledge in how the real world operates.

I see kids around me all the time, whether it be at the medical clinic, the grocery store, in the mall, restaurants, and movie theaters. Who can relate to crying children on an airplane? They are everywhere! The problem is that there are spoiled and unruly kids everywhere!! I have little tolerance for parents who can’t control their kids. Sorry, that is just me. I purposely look for vacations that are not kid friendly. I don’t enjoy kids running up and down the hallway of my hotel in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t enjoy eating at restaurants and having my head being constantly hit by a toddler in the table behind me. The parents kept apologizing, but never reprimanded the little girl or had her sit down as she should have. In case you’re wondering, yes, I highly support restaurants that have adult only dining. Parents who can’t control their children should not ruin it for the rest of us humans.

Kids are going to be kids. That is their nature. The fine line is when we do not correct them or we try to act like their friend instead of their parent.

I know some parents that have nobody to talk to, so they unload their adult business onto their child which has to be daunting for child. How can you remain a child and have to deal with your parent’s adult mess? One friend of mine, who is a single mother, talks about her sexual conquests, her friends, her job, and family problems to her kids because she has very few friends. One of her children suffers from stomach ulcers (3 of them) at the age of nine. You have to find another outlet and let your kids be kids for as long as possible. Let them enjoy their innocence and you, as their parent, should celebrate that innocence with them. Engage with them daily and show them you remember how to be a kid from time to time. Relate to them on their level and you will be amazed at how much they enjoy you, even when they are being reprimanded because they know you love them.

Other parents must take their kids with them everywhere they go, to include weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, shopping just to name a few. Find a sitter, family member, or close friend that you trust that you can leave the kiddos with. Children should not expect or demand to go out with Mommy and Daddy as they have to learn how to be by themselves sometimes so that they can cope in the real world. Teach your children how to entertain yourself at a young age and suddenly doing things on your own doesn’t seem so bad.  You must learn not to be dependent on anyone else for your happiness, but teach them to rely on themselves. It is okay to be alone and do things by yourself. I love going to movies, and occasionally I go alone. I get to eat all the popcorn and drink my unhealthy soda all by myself and not have to worry about bathroom trips that I would have had to make if my children had gone with me to the movies.

 

When my kids were much younger, they would come talk to me and tell me how their friends would talk back and yell at their parents when they didn’t get their way. These kids were not required to do any household chores. My kids were appalled at their friends’ behavior which made me quite proud. I was glad to see my children were noticing the differences in how they were raised compared to their friends. My kids had age appropriate chores beginning at the age of 5 when they had to make their bed. Then came washing dishes, then their own clothes, cleaning their room and their bathroom. They are self-sufficient and can do things for themselves. I am not sexist either. All my kids had to learn to cook and clean as well as do yard work. I remember one of my friends who had a teenaged daughter who told my friend, “It is your job as my Mother to buy me anything I want and let me do anything because you love me”. She really believed this because her circle of friends believed the same thing. My friend thought I was too hard on children, but began to see that I was right. By then it was too late. The precedent had been set and this child became quite rebellious. Eventually this child had to go live with her father because she was uncontrollable and unruly at school and at home.

I know cultural backgrounds has a lot to do with how we raise our children as well. It used to be that some cultures tend to be a little harder on their children than others. I can start with my husband and his daughters/my step daughters. I love them to pieces, as if they were my very own. However, when we became a blended family, I noticed they felt a sense of entitlement and commanded so much from him. The girls were much older when we married: two were in high school and the other was in her freshman year at college. It is still an uphill battle, but things have gotten better. He still spoils them to some degree, but nowhere near what it used to be. I, on the other hand, have three of my own children, all in their twenties. They are all out on their own doing their own thing, and I sit back and watch them as they progress through life. I try not to meddle, but I’m still Mom. I am still there for them and sometimes have to bail them out from a jam from time to time.

I was very strict on my kids when they were growing up, but I also had fun with them. I would turn the stereo on full blast each morning and play old school music. I would go into each bedroom singing at the top of my lungs waking each child up. They hated it! Within a few minutes, they were up and singing, had a positive attitude and ready to face their day at school.

My eldest son has the hardest time waking up in the morning and it became worse in high school and beyond. I would keep a spray bottle filled with water. On the days where he could not get up on his own to go to school, I would come in and attempt to wake him nicely. Twice. Two times. That is all you get with me. The third time, I added ice to the spray bottle, pulled back the covers and sprayed him thoroughly until he awoke. Needless to say, he was very upset with me, but my method worked. He was up and moving. I didn’t have to do that very often, and his younger two siblings always learned by example and did not repeat this mistake in my house.

I also see children controlling their parents or blaming their parents because their childhood was not satisfactory to them. Life may not always be peaches and cream. Your parents split up and divorced. Maybe you didn’t live the lifestyle that your friends had. Maybe your parents didn’t spoil you like you wanted. Again, you as the parent, are not there to be their friends, but to prepare them for life. Life is not fair and the sooner they accept there will be challenges as well as moments of extreme joy and happiness, the more rounded they will be.

You may think that I do not like children, which is an untrue statement. The truth is I love children as long as they are behaved and the parents have them under control. I used to be the Director of Sunday School for my church in San Antonio for 0-5 age range. I loved what I did and loved seeing the children learn. However, I expected them behave while in my care and that of the other teachers. If they misbehaved and continued to misbehave after redirection, I did not hesitate to find the parent and drop the child off with that parent in the adult Sunday School class. The parent was informed their child could not return to my class that day, but more than welcome to return next week if they were able to behave properly. Yes, the parents would be embarrassed and most would take little Johnny or little Susie to the restroom to have a private conversation with them.

At the beginning of each school year, I would go WITH each of my children to Meet the Teacher Night. I made it a point to speak with each and every teacher my child interacted with. I let them know up front that if my child was rude, disrespectful, disobedient or not doing their work, please let me know and I would handle it. I meant every single word that I said and over the course of the year, the teachers knew it too. How many of you would show up in your child’s class and spend the entire day with them to ensure your child knew you meant business when it came to their education? Would you show up purposely in a tattered pink robe and fuzzy pink slippers and pink hair rollers and spend the day with your sophomore student and shadow their every move? I know someone who did (smile).

Would you be willing to go to such extremes for your children? How many of you blame the teacher when it is really your job to raise your child? The adage it takes a village to raise a child is very true, but no longer popular. Parents are quick to defend their children rather than correcting them. Be their parent!

Wake up call! God did not bless us with children so that we could be their friend. In actuality, God blessed us with children so that we could raise future wives and husbands. Isn’t that a scary thought? They weren’t put on this Earth to cater to us, but so that we may raise them so that God would be pleased with them. If your child were to get married tomorrow, would their future wife or husband be pleased with how you raised them or prepared them for marriage? Have you made excuses for them so often that they don’t know how to cope in life? Can they function as an adult without your assistance? When they interview for jobs, do they tell the interviewer to call my parents to discuss my salary and benefits (true story)? When they are having difficulty in a college course, can they talk to the professor or does Mommy and Daddy have to step in for them because they can’t function without their helicopter parent?

My youngest son is the only one that is married at the time that I write this. It was the ultimate compliment when his wife, my daughter-in-law, sent me a Mother’s Day card this year thanking me for raising such a wonderful son and she loves the man he grew up to be. Isn’t that awesome? Would your future son-in-law and daughter-in-law say the same about your children when they get married?

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. You have to raise your children when they are young and impressionable. They are able to learn so much and seem like sponges – they seem to just soak it all up with little effort. You have to do your part as their parent.  Also Proverbs 13:25 says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly”. Absolutely I spanked my children, but as they grew older, I found other ways to reprimand them. I would ground them and take away things that meant the most to them. For example, my boys hated not going outside and play so their punishment would likely be do inside chores or some manual labor outside. My daughter, however, was a control freak and had to be in charge of everything. I would restrict her from touching the television remote and she had to watch whatever the rest of the family watched and could not change the channel. Each child is different and you have to learn who they are in order for this work.

I highly encourage you to use a practice I used to have with my kids called Amnesty Hour. It had to be one of me most trying times that challenged me on every level possible. I learned this from Military Basic Training when the trainees would talk about things that occurred during their stint there. I adopted it as I wanted to ensure my kids had an open forum to talk to me about anything without any repercussion, punishment, anger or retaliation. At first it was hard for the kids to open up, but soon they were telling me things that I really didn’t want to hear. Once they knew for certain they could not be punished in any way, and I kept my word to them, they relaxed and began to talk. I will be the first to tell you some of the things they confessed to me made me cringe or made my skin crawl. Other times I wanted to drop my mouth because I was shocked MY CHILD would do some of the things they shared with me. A time or two I had to take a shot of some hard liquor after our meeting was over to calm my nerves.  One time I had to get in my car and drive 3 hours each way and cry out to God because I felt like a failure as a parent. I was thankful they were honest with me, but hearing some of the things they did would not be easy on anyone. I never let on that I was upset in front of them while they were admitting their sins and wrongdoings. I just listened and calmly told them how it affected me, but I never lost my temper. I was calm through each meeting. We would then talk about possible repercussions, what they learned from each incident, and if they could do it again, what would they do differently. They began to like it so much, THEY began requesting Amnesty Hour. Those often caught me off guard and I wasn’t as prepared as I would normally be, but I was determined to keep that channel of communication open so that we could establish both trust and honesty.

Some of my girlfriends were single parents and whenever their children would misbehave to the point where my friends were pulling their hair out, they would send their child to stay with me for the weekend. Needless to say, I never had a child to have to stay with me more than once. I really could write a book on the antics I used with all the children I interacted with, to include my very own ankle biters.

The only piece of advice I can offer you is that your job as a parent can be rewarding, but it is so much more when you put it into the proper perspective. Pray with your child each night and ask a special blessing on their future spouse. It may not make sense to them at that time, but once they get married and have children of their own, they will appreciate all that you have done for them.