I continue to be a sucker for reading good parenting commentaries.
Some of the columns I sluff off as inapplicable to what’s happening in my world, but there are many articles that cover germane topics to what Pam and I think about on a daily basis. I find these stories therapeutic to a degree.
In general, I think most parents carry a tremendous amount of guilt and self-doubt around as we wade through our respective parenting journeys. I know I do because it’s important to me to raise good humans who make responsible decisions, represent our family well and lead healthy and happy lives.
One of my favorite online sites for parenting topics is monicaswanson.com. There are hundreds of these types of websites, but I find Swanson’s perspective to jive the most with my household because she writes about raising boys a lot. One recent article, “What Elementary Age Boys Need Most From Their Parents,” was quite interesting.
The article begins with, “If parenting in the teenage years bring to my mind thoughts of mutual respect, shared humor, and expanding freedoms, I would have to define parenting in the elementary years with things like teaching respect, training in character, and not giving a whole heck of a lot of freedom. … But the point I want to make is: The reason parenting in the teenage years CAN BE so much fun, is because we have trained up boys in the younger years who are now truly pleasant to live with. We have done the work. Sure, there are personalities to take into consideration, and there is never a guarantee with kids, but I think as a general rule: If you put in the work when they are young, you’ll reap the rewards as they grow up.”
I often consider the current period of my life with earlier days with my kids, who are 10 and 9, respectively. At the time, when the kids are younger, life seems overwhelming because it’s all so new. The reality is it’s all small things in the grand scheme. The impact of an unusually short 30-minute nap, compared to the typical two-hour slumber, on laundry, cleaning and rest really is nothing when weighed against the more complicated social challenges that arise when kids get older. Life was so much simpler then, but it didn’t seem that way at the time.
The difference is those younger years were physically demanding. There were sleepless nights, random illnesses that came out of nowhere, constant lifting and carrying and just general physical fatigue from playground visits, stroller walks and repeated toddler tosses in the air.
Nowadays, it’s much more mental and psychological. Why does he continue to do the same wrong thing? How come the values we have taught him don’t remind him to make better decisions? What are we doing wrong?
The reality is it’s complicated raising kids. There’s a certain amount of trust required, but the fact is there’s a lot of unfortunate social interactions that take place among kids. I don’t think fifth graders intend to be rude and mean with their actions and words but that’s exactly what these kids are at times. When Beckett tells me stories from school or I overhear interactions at sports practices and sleepovers among these kids, I am often disgusted by how they treat each other. Although it’s not the norm, there are instances when they are mean and show poor character. Being impulsive and tending to model behavior around him, our son joins in all too often.
There have been times when Beckett has been disciplined for not being nice to friends. It’s almost always a result of his impulsivity and not thinking before he speaks. He is learning words hurt. Each time something unfortunate happens we talk to him about it and impose a consequence. He usually explains the story and refers to others acting in equally unkind ways but under the radar of adults around at the time. He points out that so and so never gets in trouble at school for doing something similar.
When these sorts of conversations delve into the specifics about classmates, we try to return the talk to him. We aren’t raising the other kids he talks about and we have no control over them.
That brings me back to Swanson’s article, which continued, “the elementary years are the most important years to focus on discipline, character, and instruction. Lots of instruction. In fact, instruction seems to be woven into everything we do when our kids are young. We give instruction on how to speak, how to listen, how to look a person in the eyes, how to answer the phone … It’s all of the stuff of daily life, but if we teach it when they’re young, it will stick.”
There are times when it doesn’t seem like much is sticking these days, so I’m going to just assume she’s right at this point.
“If you put in the work when they are young, you’ll reap the rewards as they grow up.”