“Because I said so” doesn’t work in my house, and I am okay with that (sometimes anyway). There is also a 90% chance that I am going to get an unsolicited opinion from one of my brood every day. And, honestly, sometimes I daydream of parenting Cookie Lyons style, by telling them to “shut up” as I slap them across the head! Fortunately, that has remained only a daydream.
I guess I am what one would describe as a “liberal” mother. Parenting for me is not about having complete control over my children, but raising them in an environment that teaches them to be happy, responsible, and successful adults. By no stretch of the imagination have I figured out the secret to creating this environment. But, I wake up every day and consistently strive toward this goal despite many set-backs.
Over the years, I have learned that there really is no secret to creating this environment because every child is different and, thus, requires a different approach. At least that is the case in my household. My 25-year-old and 7-year-old are incredibly strong-willed and opinionated. They don’t stop and think for one second about how I might react or respond to something they say or do. And, when my daughters get it in their head that they are going to do something, they have to believe I am going to “KILL” them before they switch directions. Quite honestly, sometimes the threat of death doesn’t even work to derail them. Unfortunately for me, my 7 year old became strong-willed and opinionated at a much earlier age than my 25-year-old. My 17-year-old, on the other hand, is more introverted (around me that is) and bases a lot of what she shares on how she thinks I will respond. She is not going to give me a hard time about doing something, and if she gets any hint that I don’t like her idea she generally shuts down before fully explaining.
Academically, all of my girls are very smart, but their style in this area is also very different. My oldest said I “beat them over the head” about the importance of academic success, so she knew she had no choice but to excel and successfully complete at least four years of college. She isn’t really sure what her path would be if I wasn’t breathing down her back. My teenager, on the other hand, is extremely self-disciplined and has made practically all A’s throughout her schooling. I stopped checking her homework assignments in the 6th grade because I saw her getting it done without any pushing or cajoling from me. However, where my 25-year-old is smart and lets the whole world know it, my teenager does not seem to see how truly gifted she is. So, I constantly have to reinforce the gift that she has and how she should not be ashamed to show it. Now, with my 7-year-old, it takes a team effort! She focuses so hard while she is in school that she thinks it is absolutely ridiculous that all of her time at home is not her “free time”. Academic endeavors should be limited to school, in her opinion, which means I have had to come up with creative ways to keep her engaged. And I have had to accept that if I push her too hard, I run the risk of her rejecting all things academic.
Over the years, as I have worked on creating happy, responsible, and successful children, I have learned, and am learning, quite a bit. Here are a few rules that I have adopted in my household to help me keep pushing toward my goal of creating happy, responsible, and successful children:
5. Do not develop rigid rules based on a child’s age. Children mature at different ages, so what may work for one child at 17 may not work for another child at 17.
4. Your parenting style has to be different for each child if you truly want to reach them. I know that I cannot guilt trip or push my 7-year-old too hard when it comes to schoolwork. But, I must make her acutely aware of the consequences that come into play when she chooses not to complete her homework. Usually, the threat of no Xbox makes her get it done at a lightning pace!
3. Don’t beat yourself up too bad when something doesn’t work. Parenting is my #1 priority in life, so I take it very seriously, sometimes too seriously. I have had to learn to relax and stop blaming myself so much for everything that didn’t quite go as I expected.
2. Enjoy your own life outside of your responsibility as a parent. What better example for a child than a parent who is enjoying life.
1. Creating HAPPY children should be your #1 priority. For years raising successful children was #1 on my list. As my focus has shifted and I put more energy into raising happy children, the rest has seemed to fall into place. With a little nudge here and there, of course! 🙂