Sitting in a cafe for a good part of a day, I worked remotely as I waited for my husband. We had traveled to a conference for his continuing education in law enforcement. The aroma of coffee filled the air, and I was more than content to take a break from the hectic daily life of kids, dog, busy schedules, and the demands of cooking and cleaning.
On the third day of this wonderful break, a gal from Canada sat down next to me. Her husband was also at the conference, and we began chatting. We both were business owners, had daughters in their early adult years, and had a love for that wonderful coffee.
Through casual conversation, (remember, we were surrounded by hundreds of law enforcement officers), the subject shifted to the latest in active shooters, school shootings, and a bit of politics. I treaded lightly because my goal in new interactions is to befriend another human, not to be right on any certain topic.
Canadians have very different rules and laws when it comes to many topics in our world today, so the chance to ask questions and engage was informative. Some made sense and some didn’t, but isn’t that the way it is? But with the topic of gun control, in relation to school shootings, I was surprised by this gal’s response. So level headed, she simply said, “The problem isn’t any device or instrument; the problem is people.”
Now, this article isn’t about what rights we should or should not have. Rather, I’d like to affirm this new friend’s statement and talk about what we can do as parents. Our children are facing cultural problems we can barely wrap our heads around, yet it’s our duty to prevent them, the best we can, from becoming the problem while helping them understand how to deal with the problems.
It starts at a very young age.
Let me say that again. It doesn’t start at fifteen when you begin to set firm rules and get tough and hard; it starts at a very young age. As a grandmother, I’m watching my daughter begin dealing with what has been coined “the terrible twos.” My grandson is not terrible, but he’s at a point in his life when his emotions vacillate from one extreme to the other, he easily tires himself out in the excitement of exploring each day, and he’s on sensory overload as he begins to understand new things moment by moment. I’m delighted at the priority my daughter and her husband have made of training and directing my precious grandson, and I and know the work they put into him today will pay off in the long run for them, for him, and for society at large.
Counter this with what I come across on Facebook from time to time. A young, twenty-something mother makes a selfie video on how her children’s public meltdowns are justifiable and how on a deep, psychological level, these displays allow her to see the deep empathy her children have. Yeah, I know – I’m scratching my head at that one. When I see a kid having a meltdown – and let’s go back to what it really is, a temper tantrum – the last thing I’m thinking, and the last thing anyone else is thinking, is that the child has some extra dose of empathy for others and is developmentally on the right track.
Can we just take a moment, please?!
Raising and Training Well
Raising kids is hard. I did it five times. I’m not completely done, but I’m about to cross the proverbial finish line. When my kids were young, they had their moments. It’s natural, but it’s also my job to use these moments as a teaching tool, both for the kids and for myself! Let me share with you a few tips I have shared with my daughter on raising little ones.
Take the Time
When I had little ones, the first thing I recognized was my need to put myself on the back burner. My time was no longer mine, but ours. The biggest change came when I decided it was best to stay home. I don’t mean that I didn’t work; I mean, I stayed at home. I only left the house once a week to run errands and grocery shop. Other than that, I made home a haven and training ground.
I had five kids in seven years, so it was nearly impossible to schedule naps, feeding, cleaning, and endless laundry if I was going here and there. A big problem I see in the younger generation is the drive to have a playdate a few times a week, be involved in multiple extracurricular activities, and embark on endless errand running. When children are young, they are developing at rapid speeds. They need the time to nap appropriately, explore their surroundings, and learn how to integrate into society.
Training doesn’t happen between the front and back seat of a car. I like to encourage young moms to learn the beauty of making their home a haven and thrive there. It’s not a pit stop or a hotel; it’s home.
Be the Boss
I’m not smart enough to discern where this idea came from, but somewhere along the way, we began thinking that it’s more important to be our children’s friend rather than their parent. Ultimately it is my desire to be my children’s friend – when they are adults. But while they are little, and even until they are eighteen, I am the boss. With this job comes the responsibility to make the decisions they might not like. But I will go further than that. When you make a decision, the way your child responds to the directive is JUST as important as obedience.
We are all familiar with the Walmart scenarios of parents saying no to children who are pulling down candy or other items, only to be followed with the child’s wailing and screaming. I’m pleased as pie when I see moms swoop up the young children and take them to the car for a come-to-Jesus meeting. That’s how you deal with a temper tantrum. You choose to be the boss. You train your children that it’s not right nor acceptable to behave that way. You don’t allow it to continue for the rest of your shopping experience. I do understand that there are times when you can’t walk out, but you can – and must – still be the boss.
And please, refrain from making a Facebook video on how hard your life is because you deal with this. You make your life hard when you do not play the part of the parent. I’ll say it again, raising kids is hard, but it’s also a ton of fun when the ground rules have been laid and time has been taken to enforce the rules. Be the boss.
Stop Making Excuses
Guess what? No matter how perfectly you parent, how much time you devote, kids are kids and will have moments of meltdowns, temper tantrums, and downright defiance. It can be embarrassing and frustrating, especially when it’s in public. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making an excuse because Johnny or Sally is tired or hungry. Yes, they may feel tired or hungry, or have a boo boo, but it’s in these times we can train them that although life is a bit uncomfortable right now, we are still expected to behave. (I also understand that there are legitimate issues that keep some children from being able to handle discomfort, but there are far fewer instances of that than some parents want to admit.)
I had many conversations with my little ones at times like this. I would listen and affirm that I understood why they felt this way or that, but in my firm mommy tone, I instructed them that they still had to obey. It is vital to teach your children how to recognize and deal with emotions at a young age. Most of what we are seeing in today’s culture comes from a lack of skills in dealing with disappointments, feelings, and emotions.
There are times when I look back and wonder if I was too stern and required too much from my children. Then I look around and take note that my adult children are hard-working, kind, and loving members of society. Yes, my expectations were high, my rules strict, and I was a no-nonsense kind of momma. But that’s what the position of parenting calls for. Let’s give it all we can.