I wish I had a dollar every time I wondered if I am too hard on my kids. Yet, when I look around, I see so many wussy adults who never grew up, are largely self-centered, and who never left home. I don’t want my kids to be like that, so I do – or don’t do – things that foster independence. (Even though a huge part of me likes being the one they come to – I love being the ‘hero.’)
We don’t protect them from every fall.
When my daughter was a toddler, I didn’t keep her from falling. I cannot count the nasty looks I got when I didn’t rush to protect her from a two inch drop. Now I kept her from braking something, or from being a bloody mess, but I didn’t protect her from every bump and bruise – on purpose. The truth of the matter is this – I will not always be around to catch my children when they fall.
We teach them to get back up.
We learn a lot from falling. We learn that small falls will not kill us. We learn about what to do, or what not to do, to keep from falling again. We learn to pick ourselves up and try again.
We even teach my kids how to celebrate their falls.
When they fell, I often exclaimed, “Wow! That was the awesomest fall ever!” A couple of days ago my son ran down the hall, tripped, and basically belly-flopped on the floor. When he caught his breath, I heard him say, “That was awesome!” Then he got back up and continued running.
We teach them to not whine.
My parents had a unbreakable and unbendable rule: If you cry about it, you won’t get it. We adopted this rule for our house as well. Consequently, it forces my children to choke back their tears and frustration and talk with us. This year I watched both my children choke back tears and negotiate for alternatives like, “Mom, I was in the middle of the show. Can I finish and then get my bath?” I am much more inclined to bend a bit when they talk with me. Whining, though, gets them nowhere.
We teach them to talk about their feelings.
“In this house hitting is not allowed. You can say you are angry. You can say you are frustrated. But hitting is not acceptable.” I cannot tell you how many times I have to tell my kids that! Especially my son! But the other day it paid off when I heard my son say, “I don’t like that! That’s not right and makes me mad!” He even did it without hitting his sister! Sweet!
My daughter is really good at this, “Daddy, you know when you yelled at me for disobeying you really broke my heart and made me sad.” Of course, I feel like a pill, but at least she is talking. If we talk, we can work things out. If we sulk, nothing happens.
Most of the time I have no idea if all the little things I do will help my children work hard, be happy, and have families of their own. I hope, but I don’t know. There are many times I talk with God about my kids and parenting. The conversation goes something like this, “Please don’t let me screw up my kids! Help me to love them and show my love everyday. Help them to be independent. To know You. To turn to You when I’m not there. Help them have families of their own some day. Help them understand that I did my best.”
I love being a parent. But parenting…parenting is hard work. Especially if you want to raise your children to be independent adults.