I’m a child’s worst nightmare. I’m the “No Mom”. I’m not the “Middle-of-the-Road Mom. And I’m definitely not the cool “Yes Mom”! I am the spoilsport, the fun killer and the hard, cold, “No Mom”.
I say no to playing in the sand before midday because you will make your bed dirty at rest time. I’m the “don’t touch that” and the “don’t play with that” mom. I’m the mom who won’t let you stay up late. I’m the mom who insists on a rest time. I’m the mom who punishes her children for defiant behaviour. I am the mom who shoots an icy look if my children dare speak to me with disrespect. I am the mom who doesn’t let her children drink bath water nor throw sand for fun. I’m the mom who has a rule for everything and says no to anything. I’m the mom who hates dirt, who likes clean and who expects toddlers to feel the same.
I say “don’t”. I say “no”. And I seldom say “yes”.
Welcome to my mind!
I discipline, punish and reprimand because I am afraid. I don’t want words like “ill-mannered”, “obnoxious” and “defiant” to be words others use to describe my children. I have been in children’s ministry and in teaching and have been exposed to children who just do not seem to have a sense of respect for anyone older than them. Some seem to think that no instruction is worth heeding the first time, if ever. And I cringe when they speak with disrespect not only to their parents but to any adult or argue, negotiate and refuse. I was too familiar and addressed adults inappropriately when I was young. It got me into sticky situations as a child and as an adult.
I am troubled when a child’s naturally egocentric nature is fed and he/she is allowed free choice, the ‘right’ to negotiate everything and the license to express strong emotions in, what I believe, to be an unhealthy way. I really don’t want my child to be ‘that child’ – the one whom teachers talk about in the staff room or parents talk about over coffee. I don’t want parents not wanting their children to associate with mine nor do I want to lose friends because my children are just ‘too much’ to be around.
But…I cannot parent in fear. I cannot let my reactions be based on how I’ll be perceived or how my daughter will be perceived if I let certain behaviour slip. I will react harshly or impulsively too often in that case. I already do! Rather, I need to give careful consideration to how I handle situations, and ask whether they are worth the fight or not. I need to have the right motive for parenting the way I do – and I need to realise that I cannot completely control every single aspect of my child. She will mess up because she is a sinner just like me! There will be people she comes across in her life who won’t like her and won’t get along with her. And, as tough as that is for me to accept, I cannot allow fear to govern the way I parent. I need to entrust my daughters into the Lord’s hands while doing my best to parent them in a way that I believe to be pleasing in His sight. And I need to not care as much as I do about what others think if I believe in my parenting style and prayerfully consider it to be godly.
I think I know more than many out there because this is my soap box. Millennial parenting, both Christian and secular, seems to encourage parents to “accept a child for who he/she is” and to “allow children to express themselves freely” in any situation. I am immediately on the defensive and take everything that follows with a cup of salt regardless of how credible the speaker or how good the advice is that comes follows that statement. Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong. It’s not to say that I don’t accept my child or that I don’t allow her to express herself. Of course I will love my child regardless of how she behaves. Of course I will allow her to express herself, within reason. And of course I don’t want to crush her spirit. But there seems to be a lot of secular, liberal, psychological ideas that, I believe, have infiltrated Christian parenting and – rather than the Bible being the place where people start – many evangelical households now seem to default to secular psychology. That worries me.
I really struggle with disobedience or disrespect. I might be way too conservative and I definitely am very “old-school”. I expect obedience; I don’t tolerate a “no” or “I don’t want to.” I confess defiance makes me angry. I am not my child’s friend; I am her parent and because of age and life-experience, I generally do know better. I (and my husband) have been given guardianship over her to raise her, guide her and equip her to live in a fallen world. We have been entrusted with the responsibility of feeding her and protecting her. Out there, it’s not hunky dory. Life is hard and can be unkind. I almost want to say to her, “My child, you are not yet ready to face the world on your own. You might not realise it now, but you are not ‘it’; you are not the centre of the world. You do not always know what is best. You are not always right. You will fail at some point – and I must allow you to fail, and feel the consequences. And when you cannot do something, I want you to learn to ask for help. And there are others who share this world with you. You have to consider them too. Out there you will realise that there is a pecking order; you will have to accept the authority of people over you throughout life and I want you to learn that lesson now, when you are 2, so you won’t be forced to learn it painfully later.” And it is God who has set authority structures in place.
But I know I cannot just write off other points of view, without even hearing them. I am not perfect and my parenting is certainly far from any form of perfection. We grow and learn by being teachable, willing to learn and by being able to take positive criticism on the chin. Despite my stubbornness and loud self-righteousness at times, I confess I do not know how to parent. I thought I would. But my pride came before my fall. I was told all my life I was good with kids so I thought I was a born parent! Not so. I needed to be knocked down a peg or two. All my theory sounded good before the children arrived.
I have never been more unsure about anything than I am about my parenting!
Truth be told, I’m scared of how my child will make me look if she is ill-mannered, obnoxious and defiant. I am scared that others will judge me. I’m scared that I will fail the parent test. Will they think I can’t control her or rather don’t have the will to control her? Will they think that I am passive and accepting of bad behaviour? How will my child make me look?
But guess what? I’ve had to climb down from my soap box from time to time to take a reality check. You need to know that I have had to eat my words on many parenting issues. Though on some issues, I haven’t changed, I have realised it’s not as black and white or as cut and dried as I had it in my head.
Where I Won’t Change (for the moment)
- I will still not let her think disobedience and disrespect is acceptable.
But the way I handle it when it comes is important. I tend to ‘see red’ and fly off the handle easily because I am horrified that I see these things in my child! Defiance, disobedience and disrespect need to be nipped in the bud but there is no need for me to lose my temper. Frankly, it just shows my lack of control – the very thing that distresses me in my children. This is something I am working on.
- I believe I am parenting ‘for the long-term’. The podcast that introduced me to the Yes Mom/No Mom idea seems to suggest that at the tender age of 2 (and yes, I think toddlers understand and are capable of a lot more than adults give them credit for), you can expect certain behaviours from your children and train them to respond in certain ways even if they don’t yet understand. The speaker suggested that later on, understanding and morals will follow learnt behaviour. I believe this to be true because I’ve seen this happen.
- I maintain that my child’s will – not her spirit – needs to be broken. Children are naturally egocentric. They need to be taught to have a regard for the needs and feelings of others. By saying ‘no’ to some things or telling my child to ‘use words’ (which she is perfectly capable of doing and has proved it), instead of whine or throw a tantrum, is not ‘crushing her spirit’. There are times when I allow an ‘all-fall-down’. If her sister tips out her Duplo that she has spent the last ten minutes painstakingly tidying and she has a meltdown, I get it. I cry too when what I’ve just finished tidying gets overturned! When one parent promises something – unbeknownst to the other – and she is denied what she’s just been promised, the disappointment is real. If she hurts herself and it’s really sore, she is allowed to wail. But she needs training in what is appropriate and what is inappropriate expression.
- As far as accepting my children for who they are, I am on board. My child might not be an academic. She may not be able to do 50 piece puzzles at the age of 2. She might be a shocker at sports. I accept that and encourage her God-given talents. But, she may also be prone to losing her temper like her mommy. Or be a master at procrastination just like her mommy. And some of her natural tendencies are sinful. But rather than justifying her behaviour and mine, and saying “That’s just who I am,” (which may well be true), it isn’t godly or positive behaviour and it needs correcting! Do I love my child in spite of her behaviour? Absolutely! Do I tell her that? Of course!
- My child is my child. I love both my girls dearly. They are sweet-natured and downright cute. I love chatting to them and hearing my toddler’s musings on life. But I do not play a “friend” role in her life. I am her guardian, her steward and her parent first and foremost, and she is my child, not my friend. And what better place to allow a child to fail, learn the hard lessons and learn to consider others than in the security of a loving home? I don’t want my bubble-wrapped child to walk out into a world where people have little regard for her and only then for her to realise that she suddenly has to fall into someone else’s way of doing things or to consider others who don’t consider her. Do I want to put her through negative experiences? Do I want her to fail? Absolutely not! Will it break my heart when she does fail, when things are hard for her? Yes! But I do want to give her skills to cope with failure, with disappointment, with delayed gratification and with a respect for authority so that when it comes she can grow through the experiences rather than have fall apart or respond in arrogance.
What I Need to Change
- Be more of a Yes Mom.
So with all my parenting opinions, it has finally got through my thick skull (my mom has gently been suggesting this for ages as have a number of people) that I should say “yes” to as much as possible and “no” only when I have to. So, in many areas, I need to.
I have conditioned myself to say “no” to the things that were rules at school because other kids were around, like climbing up a slide or throwing rocks down a bank or playing in muddy puddles when it wasn’t a planned part of a winter day. I have said “no” because I don’t feel like cleaning up the mess it would make, the time it would take to organise, the emotional energy it would require, the productive time it would sap. (Yes, I know I should enjoy her because time is short and believe me, I wish I could programme that response into my selfish, thick head!) I say “no” because I am lazy, or selfish, or scared of what others will think if my child bounces on her bed or wakes the baby because she’s too loud.
I need to say yes when it’s non-essential. I need to say yes to Easter eggs before breakfast; I need to say yes to mud before 9am; I need to say yes to tickling games past bedtime; I need to say yes to one more story; I need to say yes to puddles and mismatched clothing. I need to stop being a control-freak and a stiff, highly-strung mom and live a little!
- Be Less Judgemental
What do I know about parenting? Very little. I have been a parent for less than three years. Maybe my thoughts will change. In all likelihood, I will be humbled on this journey, time and time again. I have already been humbled! There are some things I have been exposed to outside of the position of a parent for many, many years which have led me to have certain opinions on certain issues. That said, if I am arrogant in my approach and “know-it-all” I won’t get far and my children will suffer for it. I need to be open to the thoughts of others, be humble instead of proud and be prepared to continue to grow so that I can better guide my children in God’s way and not in mine!
Just because I’ve identified two ways doesn’t mean that there are only two! There are more but maybe I’m being dealt with gently. Are you a “Yes Mom” or a “No Mom”? What things will stay the same and what things need to change?Tags: afraid, anger, angry, child, children, defiance, defiant, discipline, fear, hard, kid, kids, mom, motherhood, no, parent, parenthood, parents, pride, proud, scared, self, selfish, strict, stubborn, yes