I woke this morning and something I heard on the radio got my mind racing about a subject I’ve thought a lot about over the years -parenting. So in honour of the questions buzzing around my brain today I’ve created a new category. You see I have a 16 month old who thinks she’s 12 and an almost 11 year old who is just happy being her age, but we are on the cusp of the two hardest and most dreaded parenting phases of them all The Toddler Stage and The Teenage Years and silly me, with a 9.5 year gap between the girls, I will suffer through them both at the same time.
H has got a head start on the toddler thing, she started throwing tantrums or ‘chucking a tanty’ as her sister calls it, at 14 months. Unfortunately for Miss H she’s the 4th child her father and I have raised between us. So as any experienced, older parent would, we handled it in the most laid back of fashions. We each scored her a high 8 for the full belly flop with a half twist onto the floor boards and then went about our business without so much as raising an eyebrow in her direction.
The second time she did it, I was evaluating her tantrum out of the corner of my left eye and realised her performance lacked some depth, so I laid down on the floor next to her and showed her how to do it properly. I taught her to bang her fists and kick her legs whilst screeching and shaking her head which she copied straight away and HUZZAH, SUCCESS, Daddy promptly lifted her score into the mid 9’s. Not bad I thought, my girl’s a fast learner. Truly this is what happened and she laughed herself silly at Mummy chucking a wobbly on the floor and promptly forgot about whatever it was that caused the communication/frustration junction to blow. She’s tried a few other classic tantrum moves like stomping on the spot and a move we like to call Angry Hulk Hands, but for the most part they went as fast as they came and I am saddened to say I didn’t manage to catch any on film 😦 I’m sure she would get much joy in later years watching herself throw a tantrum as a toddler.
So by now you’re probably wondering what was said on the radio today that prompted this post, to be honest I’ve forgotten (that happens a lot) what I am left with though is my thoughts and feelings that the lovey dovey baby parents are about to step aside. Miss H has taken to whacking her sister at random and engaging in other non pleasing activities such as drawing on the walls and then exclaiming in surprise “who did it?” and then in a deeper disapproving voice “Daddy did it!” (Yeah I taught her that and it makes me laugh every time – we have to take the small joys where we can!) it’s time we started saying no more often and following through with consequences when she doesn’t behave.
It got me thinking about my family and friends and the way they parent their kids, particularly those people in my past who seem to have struggled with every step and phase. I say in my past not because I’m avoiding finger pointing anyone, but because getting my diagnosis was a breath of fresh air in some respects, and I shed anyone and everyone who created drama in my life. It gave us the freedom to live our best life now and forget everyone else and you know what, it has been amazing. Anyway back to the subject, the radio ad (I’ve remember now) was for one of those fluffy, let’s pretend to be real journalists, news shows. They were carrying on as if they had just unearthed one of life’s mysteries, ‘What if bad parenting is learned behaviour?, we investigate tonight!’
Well DUH isn’t that just plain obvious?
If your parents never learned how to drive a car, they wouldn’t be able to teach you, right? You would have to go to someone else like a close friend or a professional instructor to learn, true? So if your parents never figured out toilet training or tantrum taming how could they pass those skills on to you? Why is it so taboo to ask others for help with our kids? Is is ‘Super Mum’ syndrome? We hear stories about American ‘Moms’ addicted to ADD medication so they can keep up with their kids and the proverbial Joneses, it seems a bit farcical out here in the country by the most amazing stretch of sea that anyone would even contemplate such a ludicrous thing. Don’t get me wrong, these Mums are everywhere, doing everything, looking fabulous all the time – except when they’re hyperventilating into their ninth glass of Chardonnay about how unfair it is that the custom label making company can’t print little Johnny’s iron on labels in the exact same blue as his school shirt. Anyway I’m getting off track, will definitely do a Super Mum post later because I have much to say on the subject.
Why is it so taboo to admit that you have no idea what to do with a particular phase your child’s going through? I do it all the time, I’m happy to say to teachers or other parents that I’ve tried all the tricks in my book and ask if they have any suggestions. Does it make me look incompetent? No, in fact I think it has the opposite effect; it lets them know that not only am I aware of the problem my kid is having but I am working on it and open to suggestions. I’m definitely not that Mum who insists her children are perfect angels that never put a foot wrong – example: E says ‘so and so hit me at school’ I reply ‘what did you do to upset them’. It’s not rocket science, kids are just little people, they don’t (often) go around randomly hitting each other without being prompted first, 9/10 if your kid cops one in the playground it’s because they mouthed off first. Not that I’m saying it’s ok to smack someone if they say something you don’t like, I’m not. I don’t condone violence unless its self defence (jeebers another passionate subject to post about) but most times if your child has been hit it’s because they provoked someone and they are not 100% innocent. These parents of ‘innocent’ children are raising a generation of whingers, dobbers and liars who expect everyone to bow down to them regardless of their own behaviour. These kids fail at recognising their own part in situations so therefore are incapable of evaluating and concluding that if I keep calling Johnny a douche, Johnny will hit me, perhaps I should stop calling Johnny a douche. Basic problem solving skills begin at an early age and over protective super image conscious mothers are not giving their kids room to be kids, they want them to be perfect and in the process of creating this illusion of perfection are robbing their children of basic survival skills.
This failure to pass on skills applies elsewhere too, in kids of all ages. Recently my husband had a health check-up and his blood results showed a few minor issues, the same issues his mother and sister have. I won’t spill about my husband’s health so I’ll use another health issue as an analogy because it did raise a few questions that apply to parenting. If you come from an overweight family, do you have a genetic predisposition to being overweight or are you emulating the same bad behaviours and eating habits that your overweight parents have taught you to become overweight? I was lucky enough to come from a family of upwardly mobile, self educated, self auditing parents. Sure there was a lot of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ and ‘clear your plate’ (another post) going on, but they didn’t just parent us any old way because that was how it had always been done. They genuinely recognised their ability to provide and parent was vastly different to both sets of my grandparents due to a completely different set of circumstances which included a different country to that which they were raised. My husband on the other hand was not so lucky, in his childhood home self evaluation was something sexual to be done in private and never discussed, basically they had no idea what it was or any desire to participate no matter what they called it. So my in laws passed on every bit of 1950’s parenting and dysfunction they were raised with to their children in the 80’s & 90’s – they didn’t weed their garden (see quote below) and now half has died off and the other half is surviving because he is lucky enough to have a ‘horticultural advisor’ (me) suggesting he prune some of the weeds himself.
Well that’s enough rambling for me today, did I get around to making a point in there at all? Not sure.
Quote – you have to weed your garden for the flowers to flourish!
Thanks to Katie Potter for the image above which I nicked from her blog, which you can read HERE
PS Hubby just reminded me of a term I love – helicopter parents, you know the ones that are always hovering!