Last week, I began reading a book I've heard a lot about, and it has certainly made me think.
First of all, I have to warn all my readers because I wish I had been warned before I read it. The woman writing the book uses some very foul language in places and definitely has very different morals values than I or my readers would have.
So I actually do NOT recommend the book. But I read enough of the book to ponder on my own parenting style and consider where my parenting philosophies and techniques come from.
I am the daughter of two very different people. My mother was born and raised in the Intermountain West of the U.S., and is descended from Scandinavian-born pioneers who left their homelands to join other LDS members in Utah. These pioneers were hard workers, and raised their children with strong values and a firm foundation of religious faith. They carved new lives for themselves in the Western United States despite religious persecution, toil and hardship, drought and frontier.
My father was born and raised in the deep South of the U.S.. His father had a very rough childhood, and joined the LDS Church long after marrying his mother. His mother was raised in a family of LDS members-- something VERY rare in the South at the time. His grand mother used to feed and house the LDS missionaries, and before that his great-grandmother hid the missionaries from angry mobs who wanted to kill them. They were farmers and entrepreneurs, teaching their children how to work by example and by training.
My mother is one of eight children, and my dad is one of two living children. (His twin died when he was only a few days old.)
And as my readers know, I have ELEVEN children of my own that I am nurturing, training and teaching.
So much of the parenting I see today puzzles me. So many children run the show in their homes! I am grateful that I was not raised that way, and you can trust me when I say that that's not how I parent my children.
In fact, I'm pretty sure my grandmothers and great-grandmothers would heartily disagree with most of the theories put forth in both these popular parenting books.
I'm happy to report that I feel the same. There are few things both theories have which are admirable. There are too many things wrong with both to adopt either theory in my home.
So, if I disagree with the hottest parenting techniques of our day, what do I define as "Old-Fashioned Parenting?"
Here are a few of my personal, old-fashioned parenting philosophies.
1. Setting an Adult Example
Children have valid ideas and needs, but
I do not allow my children to interrupt adult conversations, unless it is an emergency.
I don't play on the floor with my kids because I have adult
work to do. (They don't expect me to get down and play with them-- that's what they have siblings for!)
I feel it is my job to show my children how to be an adult. They know how to be children-- I don't need to model that for them.
(Of course, when a child has special needs and needs physical or sensory therapy, it's a completely different story.)
This does not mean that I ignore my children or always leave them to their own devices. No! They know I'm the one who will read to them, help them, hug them, comfort them, doctor them, tuck them in at night.
But I am not a play-thing or a friend; I am their MOTHER.
2. Training is Important
If we want our children to behave at home and in public, we need to take the time to train and teach them. This is often a very involved process when they are younger, but the time spent while they're children will pay big dividends when they are older.
This training goes far beyond toilet training. It includes teaching children how to sit quietly in public places, how to patiently wait for their turn, how to not ask for things in the store.
This is about parents being firm, yet loving. Children CAN learn to wait, to be quiet and to be satisfied with what they are given.
But it takes resolve and CONSISTENCY.
A parent has to be willing to immediately remove a misbehaving child to teach a lesson, even if that means the shopping doesn't get finished, or if the child must stay on the parents' lap in a foyer during church services.
This should be done with lots of love, but with a firm resolve that the child will NOT get their way because it will be BAD FOR THEM to get everything they want!
We are training our children to be useful, contributing adults. We should begin that training from the beginning of their lives.
3. Teach Manners
Children need to learn how to say "Please," "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "I'm sorry." Teaching manners is simply an extension of training our children to behave. It is a skill they can learn early and easily, especially if we set the example.
4. Rejecting Consumerism or "How to NOT Spoil a Child"
My children know that they will not EVER get everything they want. They are not entitled to their every wish and desire, any more than I am entitled to all of mine. I teach my children from an early age that everything has a price, whether in time, resources, or money.
My mother once told me a story about my Grandmother that has always stuck with me. It is a perfect illustration of how my busy, matter-of-fact grandmother parented her children.
Mom was a little girl and asked my grandma why Santa never brought each of the eight children in their family every single thing they asked for on Christmas morning.
My grandmother's answer was simple, "We can't afford it. We have to pay Santa Claus for your gifts and we can't afford everything everybody wants."
Christmas was the time when they got new socks, new underwear, and anything else they needed. They got some fun things, toys and frivolous items, too. But they did not get every item on their Christmas lists.
I am happy to report that it is the same for OUR family. Our children know that toys, candy, movies, and clothes do not fall from the sky. (We actually circumvented the Santa dilemma by never playing the Santa game. But that's another post for another day.)
If our kids want to go somewhere on their own or with friends that costs money, they know that they will have to come up with the money on their own. If they want a toy or a game or anything else that is "extra" beyond food, clothing, and shelter, they must find a way to earn the money themselves to pay for it.
This has always been the case in our family culture, and they have always accepted it. I think it helps that they are not constantly around peers that have more than them, or that value designer brand clothes, electronics, or entertainment so highly. (Another benefit of homeschooling.)
We also will not be paying for any of children's college educations. It has always been understood in our home that each person's education belongs to them alone, and my husband and I have always made it clear that while we expect our children to get all the education they can, we do not dictate where they go or what they do to get that education.
Once our children leave our home, we want them to have the strengthening experiences that come from working and struggling to become an independent adult in the world.
5. Hard Work
As I said in the previous paragraph, I WANT my kids to have difficult experiences in their lives. I believe, as did my ancestors, that struggles, trials, and old-fashioned hard work build men and women of GOOD CHARACTER.
If I make the lives of my children too easy, they will expect life to be sunshine and rainbows all the time-- and no one, be they king, senator, heiress, or little child has a life like that.
But that doesn't mean that there isn't JOY, happiness, and infinite hopes and dreams! No! It simply means that hard work is required of all of us to get what we want in life.
I believe that so many of our societal problems with young people (and old) who expect to be given their every desire of their hearts with no cost or effort on their part is a DIRECT result of indulgent parenting.
How did YOUR Ancestors Parent?
We can learn so much from those who have gone before us! What if we all looked to our ancestors for parenting help, instead of to the latest bestseller or magazine article written by people whose values and ideals are so far removed from our own?
Would our society, our economies, or values and our morals look differently than they do today?
I'm betting that Grandma would think so.
And so do I.