Despite not always liking children, and having spent very little time with young children growing up, I somehow managed very early in my marriage to create the perfect, no-fail plan for raising mine into to well-behaved geniuses. For example:
- Blatant disobedience? There would be a warning but also the threat of a swift smack on the butt. I was not going to be some softy or friend to my child. I couldn’t stand kids who refused to do as they were told and I was prepared to take unpopular steps to bring mine in line.
- Reading by age five? Certainly! With my devoted attention, there’s no reason that all my children couldn’t be early readers. Moms who said “their kids weren’t ready” or “boys are different” were just lazy.
- Favorites? No way! All my children would be loved in the same way and raised the exact. same. way. My youngest would do everything that was expected of the oldest; no spoiled baby syndrome in this house! Consistency in all things! I would be fair! Parents who let their younger children get away with more than their older kids were probably the same lazy parents not shoving phonics down their reluctant four-year old’s throats.
And so on. I didn’t read many parenting books, I just assumed I knew the best way to raise my kids from birth to age 18 and you could keep your advice to yourself thankyouverymuch. Admittedly, I really did dislike ill-behaved children and most of these strongly held beliefs covered my fear of producing children that were little terrors that no one wanted to be around.
My oldest was a very good child and tolerated my parenting style well; listened when she was told, potty trained at 2, started reading by age 4 1/2, acted responsible beyond her years. But imagine my surprise when it didn’t work out exactly the same way with my oldest son. He would purposely pee on the floor in front of me to get my attention and laugh if I tried to smack his butt as if it tickled. I was floored! I had these methods and ideas that I had to follow! Why did they work with one child and not the other?? Cue lightbulb moment:
Because each child is different, parenting does not come in one size fits all.
I feel like it should have been more obvious, but sadly it took a long time for me to realize that I needed to change my parenting style and teaching methods to meet the needs of each child. What worked with one child might not work with another, and that’s not a failure in how one parents, but a sign that this child has a personality, a temperament and talents all his own. I learned that I could keep my goals of having well-behaved, well-educated children if I was willing to change the steps I took to get there.
Raising a toddler, or six-year-old or tween, is not a code you crack and then sit back and relax. How you parent is always subject to change. The constants are my love for each of my children and the clear expectations I lay out for each. We have rules that are followed, behaviors that are not allowed, and subjects we must study. It may sound rigid but under these conditions there is a flexibility that gives the physical child plenty of time to run, the snuggly child more time together on the couch and the trying child, less warnings and more immediate repercussions. By forcing them each into my parenting style mold, I tended to overlook, or stifle, some of their natural tendencies rather than bring them to the forefront to shine.
Consequently, by the time siblings three, four and five came along I was much less strict (although Teddy demands quite the iron first some days) because I realized I didn’t have to be so rigid. I learned that even if I didn’t follow my prescribed formula, my kids were still turning out to be pleasant and enjoyable. It was such a relief. Plus, the kids hold one another accountable for their behavior which was a completely foreign idea to me when I started this parenthood business.
My oldest will be 12 this fall. I’m trying to not formulate a hard and fast plan for how we’ll tackle the rapidly approaching teenage years. I feel bad that she has to always be the guinea pig as I try to figure out how to not screw her up for life. But I’ve accepted that what works for her, may not work for the rest. So, today, this minute, I feel like I’ve figured this parenting business out. The good news is, if tomorrow feels any different, I can always change.
Now see who else is blogging along: