Friday, September 24, 2010

Popcorn's Ready!

My wife and I took a parenting class when our kids were younger, much younger. It was called "Growing Kids God's Way". I have to say, it was a great class. As young parents, we learned a lot. One thing they stressed to us parents was the idea of first time obediance. Their idea was that you shouldn't have to ask a kid twice to do something. There should be no repeating the command or instruction. And without question, you should never say, "I'm going to count to 3 and you'd better start doing what I told you, 1....2.....2 and a half.....".

So needless to say, we've been a little stressed out because you often have to repeat yourself with kids. We never did the counting thing though and we're proud of that one. But we have repeated ourselves on more than one occassion, well make that, on more than a million occassions. Despite this glaring skeleton in our parenting closet, our kids are pretty good at obediance. They understand its meaning and why we do it. In fact, we used to tell them they were lucky to have parents who cared about them so much, that we actually expected obediance. We used to say there were some kids whose parents just didn't care enough about them to correct their mistakes.

Some may view this as a parental ploy or brainwashing, but if you think about it, it's true. We correct our children so they'll learn and not repeat the mistake. Like looking both ways before crossing the street or staying away from the stove when it's turned on. You care, so you correct. However, this idea of first time obediance and quick correction does come with a price. As a parent, you can become inpatient with your children. I just figured this out about a week ago, when our kids were not picking up the playroom in the time I thought it should have taken. As a result, I threw my hands up in disgust and told my kids they shouldn't even bother, because Mom and I would have had it picked up by now.

Pretty embarrassing, I know! Then it hit me. I had become an inpatient parent. Er, let me correct that last statement... I realized that I had been an inpatient parent for a long time. I began to think backwards and it hit me that I was expecting perfection from my children instead of expecting children who needed to be molded and guided through life.

Interestingly, I see this a lot when I look around. Parents going crazy because the child isn't perfect. I think this happens for a couple of reasons which I list in descending order, like Letterman's Top 10.

#3. Kids are influenced to disobediance by music and television

I see this on the Disney channel a lot. Now I don't have the Disney channel, so my sample size is kind of small. But it appears that a lot of the "tween" sitcoms represent the kids as being a lot smarter than their parents. They've always got some great scheme that is at work without their parents knowledge. They then get in and then out of hot water with their dumbed-down parents none the wiser. Now I know that I suffer from "good ole' day syndrome" most of the time, but I think every parent would admit that this trend has been in motion since television first started. It doesn't trend toward family values, but rather becomes more liberal, more cutting edge and tries to push the envelope or redefine normalcy. I remember listening to an actor on one of those entertainment shows 20 years ago. He said something that stuck with me, I'm paraphrasing here. He said, "It's our job to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. We have the opportunity to change what defines society. That's what we do and that should always be our goal."

#2. Parents are unsure of how to respond

Many parents seem to be afraid of what society will think of them. If they are in the grocery store and their kid starts to yell and scream, how does that parent feel? They feel embarrased, they feel the others in the store watching them are judging them, asking "Why can't you control your child?". In our class, we were taught that you do not tolerate temper outbursts. You punish your child because they are not behaving correctly. And the phase your child is going through, doesn't have to last very long.

However, when the tantrum happens in public, we're afraid to punish so we become Monty Hall and start making deals with our kids. If you'll stop crying, Mommy will buy you some M&Ms. Now we are no longer parenting but becoming glorified candy dispensers. With this comes more outbursts and more unhealthy relationships between the parent and child.

#1. The Evolution of the Microwave society

We live in the information age. If we want to learn something, we don't have to wait for the library to open or the class to start. All we have to do is get on the computer and presto - we've got the answer to our question. Are you hungry? No problem, we've got microwave dinners, soups and even dessert. Dinner in a tray in less than 8 minutes. We simply lack the patience to deal with problems. Not convinced, what about road rage? Why do people get angry on the road? Because they want to get there first, or at least a close second.

Families suffer from this same cultural phenomona. We want our children to be perfect and perfect right now. They should be able to read our minds and know what we want them to do. They should be able to anticipate our corrections. But alas, they're just kids. They're thinking about tackling monsters behind sofa cushions, not that they shouldn't have the sofa cushions on the floor. That never even enters the equation. Did it for you when you were a kid?

So we need to cut our kids some slack. Not expect perfection. We also need to be engaged in what they're doing and watching. Don't ignore them because you're exhausted from who knows what. You became a parent, probably because you wanted to be one. Now we need to step up and start acting like one. It's our job to guide our children through life. Love them enough to correct, but do it in a patient and loving way.

That's it for now. Hopefully, we all learned something this week and can become better parents as a result. Good luck and good parenting.

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