Friday, September 5, 2008

BUMP: What a Good Boy*

NOTE: I bumped this up because Kate has a great post about it, and there's some great comments to read as well. Enjoy


What is the difference between having expectations of your child and demanding things of him that become a weight around his neck and don’t help him truly grow up? This has been rolling around in my head for a while for a number of reasons. Beyond demanding that he do his best in following a basic set of rules – the way we do things in this family, the rules that keep anarchy at bay and maybe sketch out what our family values most – what can I demand of my child? And what demands will make him less dependent on me, not more so?

Let me give you a concrete example so you know what questions I’m asking:

I have a co-worker with a 20 year old; she lives at home, doesn’t drive, and attends community college. Her parents run her life on the premise that “it’s my house and they’re my rules.” These rules include who she can hang out with after school, who she can have in the house, and her parents’ duties include taking her to and from college every day. In other words, they have constricted her life to the point that she has no sense of personal responsibility. She makes mistakes and breaks the rules all the time, but the rules never change and presumably she never learns from her mistakes.

How do I start treating/teaching my boys now so this situation is avoided in the future? My goal as a parent is to raise adults, not dependent children. I don’t want them tied to my rules as they get older; I want them to make good decisions on their own. How do I teach that skill rather than mindless adherence to the rules?

Additionally, I want them to grow up to be who they are supposed to be. That’s something they need to work out on their own (with God’s help). I don’t want to dictate who they will or should be (especially not professionally). I want to provide them with many different and good examples of how to go about the business of adulthood, give them the skills to discern the best way to get there, and then step back. Again, how do I teach independence, good observation skills, and good decision-making? I’m not satisfied to teach just “how to get good grades, get into a good college and grad school without once thinking for yourself.” That lesson doesn’t make for happy adults – maybe happy sheep, but not happy adults.

What do you think? How do I get from fairly obedient, intelligent, creative and funny elementary students to independent, joyful adults who are doing a job and living a life they love?

*Barenaked Ladies


Anonymous said...

To be blunt?

Let them fuck up.

I have spent the past decade dealing with parents of teenagers who don't want them to fail or feel disappointment - I believe partially because they want to shelter their children, and partially because they feel that failure or screw up would be a negative reflection on THEM.

I have a 3rd grader. His teacher handed out an assignment, and he claims she "didn't give him one" and that he DID "raise his hand" to tell her that he didn't get one, but that she didn't see him. Long story short - he came home without the necessary sheet.

Now, I'll admit, there was a part of me that immediately thought "shit! I need to e-mail the teacher and let her know that he didn't get the sheet, explain the situation, blah blah blah". Instead, I discussed with him how this was HIS fault, that it's HIS responsibility to make sure she saw him or realized that she neglected to give him one, and then he did the assignment to the best of his ability without the sheet.

The next day, he went to talk to her about it, and you know what? She docked him a homework assignment. Was there a part of me that felt it was sort of unfair, given it was the first week of school and he's an 8 year old boy and he didn't get the sheet? Yup. But you know what I did? I told him "hopefully you'll learn from this that YOU need to be responsible about this type of stuff".

Sadly, I think more often than not, parents these days would have jumped in. I know he's 8 and I know he's in 3rd grade, but the enabling is a vicious cycle that starts young.

Let 'em screw up, and (hopefully) learn from it. And if they don't learn from it? Know that there's only so much you can do and control.

My .02, since you asked. :)

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I get you.
That is the whole point of heart based discipline - that you teach them to examine their hearts instead of just blindly obeying - or disobeying - you.

If you listen to podcasts, Ginger Plowman is on my ipod now. she is great about this. email me if you want the link.

michele said...

What minivan mom said.

You let them mess up. Let them make their own mistakes and when they do make those mistakes, let them learn how to rectify the situation on their own and, most importantly, own up to their mistakes. Personal responsibility is a huge thing to learn.

You seem to have the foundation needed to raise your kids in the way you are hoping for. The goals you have are admirable - a lot of parents today are content to raise dependent, immature children. But, as you surely know, those goals take a lot of work on both sides to achieve.

Watching your kids fail is a very hard thing. But watching them brush themselves off and try again is wonderful. From everything from remembering to do their homework to making themselves a meal to standing up for themselves and their beliefs, it's all grounded in teaching them personal responsibility. Demand that much of your children, because it will make them adults you can be proud of.

Tari said...

Y'all are awesome, thanks!