Thursday, May 24, 2007

Respectful Parenting

I've just been noticing lately how unconventional we really are. We have chosen our life, rather than let society choose it for us and I'm noticing more and more how different it really is. On the surface we don't look that different but if you do even shallow digging you will see!

As Kev gets more into his teen years and I hear the clucking around me from other parents with teens I really notice. It amazes me the methods of punishment and coercion that adults use to control their kids. They expect their kids to act like grown ups without treating them like grown ups. Because we hear the voices of society around us that tell us how awful teens are we begin to believe it..............SADLY! Our society really doesn't respect children in general, sometimes it is very subtle but sometimes it is very obvious.

I like to treat my relationship with my children the same I treat any relationship in my life. I wouldn't dream of trying to control my husband and make him into something I want him to be (okay not entirely true, sometimes I am guilty of this :)). The same applies to my children, I let them be who they are, when they need my help I'm ready and willing to give it and when they don't ask for it I try to stay backed off. I'm here to help them work through their own decision making, giving them full control over their bodies and lives. I will step in if it is a safety issue, which usually applies to sibling rivalry and in our house this is definitely an issue. When I feel anger or frustration rising up I try to stop and ask myself, "If this were my husband how would I treat this situation?" If I wouldn't say it or do it to my husband or best friend than I better darn not do it to my children.

If they are behaving in a way that is disrespectful, anger filled, etc. I really TRY to find out what is behind that behavior because there is always a reason, sometimes hidden, for behaving the way they do. Kids don't behave badly just to behave badly, there is something they need that they aren't getting and it is our job as parents to find out what that is. I hate it when I hear parents say that you can't be your children's best friend- that is hogwash!! My whole entire goal is to be my children's best friend, to be their soft place to land, to be the person that they can totally, unbashedly trust.

Are we the perfect family? Absolutely not! Do situations rise up where I don't handle things like I preach? Absolutely! There are times when that voice in my head, from my own childhood, rises up and gets really loud. There are times when I am frustrated with the sibling rivalry and I yank out those tools that were given to me by my own parents. There are times when I am certainly not very respectful towards them. But I am CONSTANTLY doing a check and balance to see where my relationship stands with my children and how I can make it better. So far, so good. Sure we have moments and days that I would like to do over, days where I'm ready to throw in the towel, so to speak, but I always catch my breath and back up - the same way I would if it were my husband or my best friend having a little trouble.

My kids enjoy being around me, they like the person I am and we like to spend time together. Kev doesn't have a problem sharing his life with me and he isn't ashamed of me because I have never given him a reason to. He doesn't rebel because he doesn't have anything to rebel against. Teens rebel because control of their bodies and lives have been stripped from them. If something comes up that I have a concern about we sit and talk about it like civilized adults and share each others opinions on the subject. If I do something that seems arbitrary and unfair I expect the kids to say, "That doesn't make sense to me, can we talk about it?", the same way that they and I would do with any relationship. I don't want my children to blindly obey- that doesn't allow them to learn to think for themselves. I expect them to question, question, question.

It is so sad to me when the kids' friends share things with me and then tell me what they can't tell their mom and dad about it because they would freak out. When they are bringing boyfriends over to meet me because they are too ashamed for them to meet their parents. When they are asking me to do things for them that their parents wouldn't do. I wish that their parents could share those things with them and they didn't feel the need to only share them with me. That their parents could trust them. That they could allow them to BE without judgement or pushing their own agenda on their children.

I think it is really important to support the things they are interested in, passionate about or just plain curious about without any judgement placed. There are things that Kev is interested in, things he does and places he goes that I would not choose for myself but he will figure those things out for himself - that is what childhood is about. I don't expect him to be just like me or have the same belief system that I have. That is not to say that I don't tell him how I feel about certain things but he chooses on his own. But I try to be there with them, walk beside them, lend a helping hand when they need it, and let them be.

Being a mom is awesome, rewarding, and so much fun!!! I wish every parent could have the kind of experience with their child where instead of feeling like, "I can't wait until they start school, etc!!", that they would be saying, "I'm NOT looking forward to the day when they aren't around as much." Kev has decided to go to school full-time this year and I'm sad that I won't see him and be around him every day. I love to hang out with him!! I also realize that this is his life, he is growing into a man, and there might be a day when I hardly see him at all- which is the exact reason that I want to enjoy, REALLY ENJOY, every little moment that I have with them. They are amazing human beings and I have learned WAY more from them than they have from me. They have and are making me a better person.

Anne Ohman said that her son, Jake, demanded that she be the kind of mom that he needed her to be and that she listened. I told her that certainly Tristan was demanding that from me but that I maybe didn't listen as well as she did with Jake. It is my intention to REALLY and TRULY listen to what my kids are telling me, with their words and actions, even sometimes the thoughts that they share with me, and to be the kind of mom that they NEED me to be.


tribalmama said...

Wow. Divine Timing here, Heidi! Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to read this post...
You are incredible! Now, just gotta keep on practicing!
Hugs and love,

kelli said...

Great post Heidi. You don't know how often so many of those thoughts are going through my head.

Heather said...

Great timing for me too Heidi...I have been such a BUTT lately to my kids...just grumpy...we've had way too much going on lately and I am glad things are slowing down.

Great reminders to constantly practice...

You're such an awesome mom...