Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Motherly Advice....Parenting...my thoughts...

 
I am taken by this beautiful piece of art, depicting a family scene. I love that it captures a moment where not all is perfect. The kite needs repair and the boy and his father or grandfather are trying to remedy this situation. The father/grandfather has obviously been working away at his whetstone, perhaps sharpening the tools with which he works his garden plot, seen just behind the fence. There's a watering can there too, as well as a rake, so obviously he's been at toil. The girl looks as if she's been working too, or at least helping, and has either collected the honey from a hive not depicted, or is offering a cool drink, mug of tea, or other refreshment to help Father/Grandpa with his musings. Under her arm is some needlework or mending, and she is wearing an apron, so she's obviously been doing something useful. We see behind her too, that a third sibling, is being disciplined by Mother/Grandma for sins to which we are not privy, so it's probably a more honest depiction of family life than many antique artworks!
 
Why do I love this painting? I guess it's because unlike many typical scenes, it shows a family at work. A family where each is helping the other. Yes even the son being disciplined is being shown that whatever his misdemeanour may have been, it was unacceptable in this family home, and he must mend his wicked ways. There are tools of labour scattered about, and a harmonious feeling of co-operation is evident. The dog looks well loved and well fed. The garden behind the fence is thriving. There is a pot of herbs on the windowsill, so clearly the garden and kitchen are connected. Everyones clothing, though worn in places, is neat, and suggests a family well loved and cared-for. The male figure cares about the children and is wondering how best to repair the kite, thus teaching the children valuable skills. The female figure is acting disciplinarian, but the child to whom the discipline is being metered out, looks well fed and clothed, and only slightly alarmed. Perhaps he ate the cheese meant for dinner. I certainly don't think his misdemeanour was anything more serious.
 
I confess that I have old school ideas on parenting. I have always imagined that parenting was about providing love, a safe home, clothing, nutrition, education, discipline, support, and spiritual guidance.
 
I'm a tad confused these days, because parenting methods seem to be either incredibly lassez-faire (a policy of letting things take their own course rather than intervening to influence the outcome), or one that invites the world at large to comment, give a thumbs up, or inspire millions of views in order to create an income stream for parents.
 
I have personally experienced through nearly 40 years of my own childrens schooling and extra-curricular activities, an increasing attitude of 'I'll pay someone else to do it' or just 'someone else will do it' or just 'I can't be bothered...isn't that the schools job?'. This applies to everything from organising a first birthday party, to teaching children right from wrong.
 
As a good friend of mine so eloquently put it 'Do you pay someone else to have sex with your husband because you can't be bothered too?'
 
Somewhere along the way, if you've chosen to have children, you have to inconvenience yourself for them. Whether that means 3am wakeup calls to someone who has a funny tummy, a 4am alarm to get to a far flung destination for a sports match, trimming the entertainment budget to allow an artistic child to enjoy longed for music or dance lessons, or telling your 16 year old that no, that they (and perhaps you too) cannot go to that party this weekend, because chores and school assignments have to be completed first...it's got to happen.
 
Kids who are left to make their own choices too often and too early, can usually be depended upon to make poor choices sooner or later. That might be as simple as poor dietary choices, poor choices of friends, or other choices that are far more life altering and dangerous.
 
I've always preferred a more proactive approach to parenting. My Mum did too. We turned out okay, so I figured that I'd pretty much follow her example.
 
Socialising
 
We were allowed to have friends over to our home as much as we wanted. The friends had to respect the rules of the home, but they were welcome to stay as often as they liked and for as long as they wished, providing their own parents knew where they were and approved. I did the same for my sons and have done so for my daughter as well. As a consequence, we did not feel the need to socialise away from home much, if ever. My sons and daughter were also happy to socialise at home. I knew where they were, friends parents knew where their children were. Win-win. Yes it meant some late nights with sons playing computer games, or daughter and friends giggling and eating popcorn. But if that's the worst of it, I'll take it every day.
 
Studying
 
Mum made it clear to us that we were expected to do our best at school to prepare us for the real world. She didn't expect us all to be straight A students, unless we were capable of straight As of course, but trying your best was a given. If you hadn't done your homework, or completed your assignments, you didn't get to watch TV, go out, or have friends over. She knew, because she remained informed about our educational commitments. She knew, because she'd not only ask if work was in progress, she'd ask to see it for herself. There were a few occasions as a teen, when I was made to stay home while everyone else went out and did fun stuff, because my work wasn't as well progressed as she thought it should be. She was involved. I enforced this with my sons with varying degrees of success (I'm not perfect either!), and my daughter has been expected to follow suit. It worked for us. Yes, sometimes it meant that we as a family, stayed home from a social event, to support the student who needed supporting or supervision, as the case may have been. So be it. There were plenty of other social occasions. A missed one here and there is not the end of the world. For any of us. Education is important. Mum always said 'Do well at school and you'll do well in life. Fail at school and life will be so much harder'. She was right.
 
Discipline
 
Granted, discipline is a bit of a minefield these days. Discipline in the form of removal of privileges, is the norm and that too can be a battlefield, but there are ways, and the obvious one is isolating your children from their techno devices. A reluctance to limit the entire families access to technology, is no excuse. Like I said, maybe if the situation warrants, you have to inconvenience yourself too. Pull the plug, literally. Unplug the computer and put it in the garage. Confiscate hand held devices and phones. And yes, tell your teen that no, they cannot go to that party this weekend, unless schoolwork and chores are completed. They won't like it. They'll sulk and pout and likely yell a lot. I've had a few yelling matches in my lifetime, both as a teen, and as a parent parenting a teen. I survived. So did my teens. Watch them get their schoolwork done when there's no Facebook for 24 hours. You'll be amazed.
 
Saying No and meaning it
 
I know, I know. Saying no to your children can be really hard. But that IS part of parenting. The learning to say no, and really meaning it, sets boundaries. And believe it or not, kids can and do, thrive with boundaries. Not in the short term, admittedly. The weathering of the inevitable shouting and cussing when you finally put your foot down can be harrowing. Although the sooner you do it, the less shouting and cussing there will be. But boundaries, and rules, are part of life. Yes, they'll learn this at school. But teaching your children that rules and boundaries are important, is your role, as much as it is the schools.
 
You are the Parent. You are NOT the Friend. I don't know what's with this 'oh but my child is my best buddy'. That's not it. You can be best buddies when they grow up into responsible adults with a good heart, a valuable education, and a great work ethic. Being friends with your growing child is a lovely idea in books, but doesn't necessarily work well in real life. As my Mum used to say 'Yes I know you don't like me right now, but you will thank me for it later. I make the rules and enforce them because I love you'. I didn't understand it then. I do now.
 
Making compromises for the Greater Good
 
We were expected to make compromises and sacrifices for the greater good of the family sometimes too. That meant NOT always getting your own way, and often experiencing yourself, the satisfaction in delayed gratification and the genuine appreciation that it brings.
 
I remember one of the funniest conversations I ever had with my teenaged sons, was when my disabled son Mr A, had the opportunity to attend a course that would help him develop his speech and control of his body, skills denied to him due to his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. The course was going to cost thousands, and I had no idea how, as a single parent, I was going to come up with that money. My middle son wanted a new pair of Michael Jordan Air basketball boots. He wanted them very desperately. As desperately as only a person of 14 can want something.
 
I said to him 'what's more important...your basketball boots or your brother having the chance to walk?'. His response? 'But James (the older, able bodied brother), can already walk!'. It was a smart alec throwaway comment that was part hilarious and part infuriating at the time, but at least he and we, saw the humour in it and had a good laugh. Mr A got to go to the course thanks to the generosity of some unknown benefactors, and Mr Middle Son did indeed get his Michael Jordan Air basketball boots, so clearly the Universe was looking out for us! My point is, that Middle Son appreciated his basketball boots all the more, knowing that I had made special concessions to acquire them for him. It wasn't just a case of 'I want, so I get', that seems the norm these days thanks to easy credit and payday loans. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Use it to your own and your childrens, ultimate advantage.
 
Don't make excuses for your kids
 
 One of the most valuable lessons my Mum taught us, was that she would fight tooth and nail for us as long as we did the right thing. But heaven forbid. If we did the wrong thing, we would wear the consequences. She wouldn't abandon us, and wouldn't hesitate to accompany us to whatever disciplinary action was necessary, for our schoolyard indiscretions. But never ever, did she try to blame somebody else, when she knew we were out of line. Consequently, we grew into adult life, accepting responsibility for our actions, but knowing to stand our ground if we were in the right. That has stood us all in good stead.
 
 Share your knowledge
 
 Mum taught us so many things I don't know where Mums teaching ends, and my formal education begins. She taught us financial responsibility, how to be a good worker and a good boss, how to grow things, mend things, make do, and make hay while the sun shines. She taught us to weather the tough times and celebrate the good times, always keeping an eye on what might be around the corner, be it good, bad or indifferent. She set our expectations for future relationships and made sure that we valued our loved ones above financial gain. We learned that trying to impress people is a fools game and that the only people that you need to impress, are your family. She showed us by her example that people are important, not possessions.
 
Be Glad
 
Glad: adjective
meaning: happy, pleased, grateful, delighted, thrilled, gleeful
 
Glad is such an old fashioned word, isn't it? It means so many little emotions all at once. It seems odd for kids, but we learned to appreciate the small things in life. We didn't demand too many material things. Mum took us on an annual beach holiday, where we were glad we could swim and have an icy pole from the refrigerator of the houses in which we stayed when we got home all hot and sweaty from our walk back from the beach. We were glad when we had new swimsuits and a new beachtowel for our holiday. We were glad when she'd surprise us with a whole packet of lollies to ourselves instead of having to share one with our siblings. We were glad to have friends come on holiday with us. We were glad that we lived in a loving, peaceful family home where Mum knew how to keep seven kids and their friends happy with next to nothing. Teach your children to value the little things. Teach them to Be Glad.
 
I was not, and still am not, a perfect parent. My kids have their faults. I have always tried though, to make them behave like decent human beings. Ultimately that is the measure I think.
 
What do you think? What are your most valuable parenting tips?
 
...Mimi...
 

28 comments:

  1. My elder daughter (now 35) at age 14 told me that I was the meanest mother in the whole wide world and I responded that one day she would be glad that I was. I thought nothing more of my throwaway line until a few years when my darling child who was now the mother of 2 girls commented that she was glad I was mean and how much it meant to her.

    That meant the world to me.

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    1. Fairy, I think it goes that way. In the heat of the moment, all a 14 year old (or 7 or 17 year old) sees, is that they are being thwarted. They do not see it from the perspective of someone who has lived longer and seen the consequences of their actions. You're just 'Mum', and you're saying no. It does sink in eventually though. Well done you, and well done to your daughter for seeing the truth through her more mature eyes. Mimi xxx

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  2. I thought the girl looked like she was bringing a pot of glue and brush, and had newspaper under her arm for grandfather to fix the kite with. ; )

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    1. Julie, I think you are right! Mimi xxx

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  3. I think it's very important to keep your promises to your children, and be consistent. For example, if I say I will help them with something, talk to someone for them, or protect them, I will do that no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable it is.

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    1. Chipmunk, this is an important one. I know I couldn't always keep my financial promises when my boys were young, but I certainly tried to keep all other promises. And yes, no matter the inconvenience or discomfort, being THERE for them is vital. Love your thoughts. Mimi xxx

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  4. Parenting is not easy but we all do the best we can. I was brought up like you, Mimi and that provided a good foundation for my life. A great post.

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    1. Chel you are right there. Parenting is not easy. Kids think they've got it tough...lol...what about us! Fortunately good parenting, usually yields good parents down the track. I think we are living proof of that. Mimi xxx

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  5. Beautiful post Mimi
    Such valuable information and it seems to not be the way anymore
    It's such a shame xx

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    1. Dear Jacqui, I think it is in most circles. Always though, we can improve and be better. Mimi xxx

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  6. I have tried to teach my children that if a chosen pathway closes, find another. Both have had to do this in their adult lives. Both have said that they knew there was another pathway and that the world didn't end because one direction was closed to them. Resilience is something that I think we need to foster in our babes.
    In my parenting, and my teaching career, I always believed in finding the children's trigger point. What got them interested and wanting to know more, do more.
    My son hated reading novels. He loved all things mechanical and finding out how they worked. We bought him workshop manuals and motorbike and 4WD magazines. He still says he hates reading but he always has a magazine or a manual that he is working through. His trigger point and now his career.
    Our daughter loved calisthenics. On one occasion she had been an unholy terror. She had to ring Miss Barbara and tell her that she couldn't go to Calisthenics as she had been very rude to Mummy. For our daughter her dancing was her passion, her trigger point.
    Parenting is not easy and does not end simply because your child is now an adult. It is a lifelong commitment. A child is not a fashion accessory to be put aside when the novelty wears off.

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    1. Dear Jane, indeed. One door closes, another one opens...one of my favourite mantras. Resilience is so important, and I am not at all sure we are raising resilient children these days. I love what you said about finding the students trigger point. Any young person I've ever met, who has found their passion (whether or not they pursue it as a career) has a sense of self and value that is lacking sometimes in the general student population. You were clever with your children. Finding the means by which to help them succeed is a true skill. And yes, parenting is lifelong. Who says the worry stops when they become adults! Never! Mimi xxx

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    2. Dear Jane and Mimi,

      I like what Jane has done, and appreciate the quote, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." I am grateful that this applies to animals and plants, too!!
      Regards,
      Rachel

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  7. great post Mimi. Like Fairy both my daughters have thanked me for being "mean". They didn't get everything they asked for, and they did not get the same things as each other due to age and personality differences.
    Margaret

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    1. Margaret yes. Oh that more parents were 'mean' these days. Meanness born out of love and concern is a wonderful attribute. I like what you said too, about treating your daughters as individuals. What suits one child, may be counterproductive for another. Good thoughts. Mimi xxx

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  8. Thank you for this! Everything you said is so true. God bless you.

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    1. Dear Melissa, I appreciate that. Thankyou. Mimi xxx

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  9. Thankyou for a life saving post. I had recently enforced some consequences on my teenage son as a result of not studying or putting in effort. His comments to me implied it was all my fault and I was too old fashioned. etc etc. I have done much soul searching wondering if I had done the right thing and do other parents do this as well. Well so glad to see my ideals are others as well.
    Thankyou.

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    1. Oh Barb! I'm so glad this came at a good time for you. Teenagers can be challenging, but know that you are setting your son up for a responsible adult life. Mimi xxx

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  10. Wonderful post Mimi xx

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  11. Wonderful post, Mimi! Yes, parenting is so challenging......We can only do our best and hope it turns out good citizens of this world. There are so many challenges and distractions in this modern world for raising children these days. My solution was to always keep the lines of communication open and to remember my feelings when I was young. I must have done something right because I think my children all turned out to be good and kind people with a willingness to work hard for whatever they want. I have compassion for all parents in this modern world. Now my children are becoming parents and I am having a wonderful time being a grandparent. I only offer encouragement, never criticism or advice (unless asked). I want to always be welcome :) Sending hugs xo Karen

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  12. what a load of crap. Bragging about being mean? Really? Home is supposed to be a safe haven. We teach by example and by encouraging trust and nurturing the hunger for closeness and knowledge. Home is not a training camp for stoic, Stalinlike creatures that can't relate to real people.

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    1. Ah Anonymous-not-too-scared-to-be-rude-but-too-scared-to-put-your-cowardly-name-to-it. So we meet again. Clearly you have Mummy issues to make such an ill informed comment on a post about rearing children responsibly, and bringing Stalin into the conversation. You poor pathetic creature. My blog, my views, my right to publish comments or not. Excuse my French but sod off. Your inflammatory comments do not get a second airing here.

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  13. I'm not a parent, but one of my friends said something once that I thought was great. She said that they always allowed themselves to be an excuse when there was something her kids were afraid of or didn't want to do...involving peer pressure. Say they were invited to a party where no parents were going to be there and they didn't want to be accused of being "chicken." They could simply say that their parents said no or had other plans. While my friend said she'd prefer them to just say no, she understood the pressures and wanted to make sure her kids always had an out. I immediately thought of a dozen times as a teen that I would've loved to have had that rule. And I was a really good and strong kid about saying no to all kinds of things...smoking, drugs, etc. I just spoke right up most of the time. But there were still those times.....

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    1. Dear Debby, I agree, this is a great strategy. Funnily enough, I had my faith to call upon. Many things were 'against my religion' when I was a teen...lol! It worked for me. I like this idea though. Far better for the friends to believe the Parents are ogres, than to have your children harassed for being chicken or not being 'cool'. Mimi xxx

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  14. I totally agree with your formula for parenting and have exercised it myself. 2 out of 3 have thrived but one hasn't. If you keep doing the same thing, you keep getting the same result so the foundation stays the same with some variations. A close friend said that my kids provide an interesting study on nature -v- nurture. I'm a great believer in things happening for a reason so I figure that this particular child is my challenge and if his oppositional defiance doesn't kill me then I may live to see him mature and have his own child or children who give it to him in equal measure...although I'm not that mean..lol.
    Janiebabe

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    1. Dear Janiebabe, I could say the same of my siblings and I. I guess mostly you accept that life is not always smooth sailing. I do recall some fiery moments with my sons, for sure. Not so much with my daughter. My brothers were the same. Mostly good, but occasionally right stinkers. I hope you survive your sons defiance issues. And yes, it will come back to haunt him. These things always do! Mimi xxx

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx