Annoying parenting advice May 16, 2016Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, societal commentary, younger son.
Tags: children, discipline, parenting
A couple days ago, for some odd reason, I came across a LOT of parenting advice online. The funny thing was, so much of it was contradictory. Half of it was, “pay attention to your kids and have rules and structure,” and the other half was, “Let your kids make mistakes and learn from them.”
I have to laugh because I think the approach you use as a parent is probably somewhere between these two extremes…or maybe sometimes one extreme is appropriate and, at other times, you want to swing to the other extreme. There is no ‘one size fits all’ style of parenting: our parenting has to be as unique as our kids and, as the adult, we need to be the ones who adapt to the situation.
Let’s take an example: my younger son was a climber. Within about a week of learning to walk, he was climbing. At 13 months, the kid could kick my ass at climbing anything, due in part to the fact that he hadn’t developed a healthy fear of heights, and I have an overdeveloped one. I’m seriously in awe of his climbing skills, especially now that he’s gotten into a bit of rock climbing. How much climbing I let him do when he was younger depended on where he was doing it. If he was climbing on my exercise bike to sit down, I didn’t worry about it. However, sometimes he liked to stand up and try climbing the handle bars. In that situation, I would hover so that I could catch him if he fell, and if he got too high and/or unstable, I’d take him off and say he’d gone past his limit. If he was climbing a very low rock wall at the local shopping mall with big pads underneath to cushion any falls, I’d sit back and do some reading. If he was climbing the 8-foot wall and the playground surrounded by pea gravel, you better believe I was standing there so that I could catch him if he did lose his grip (which never happened, though there was once a bad incident with a trampoline).
Another thing I learned was to try to mute my own reactions to situations and watch the kids reactions when they got hurt. I basically would ask if they were okay and then let them tell me how they felt about it. Sometimes they would get up and dust themselves off while other times they would grab on to me and start sobbing. If they were crying, I let them cry. Maybe they weren’t physically hurt, but they will cry if they get very scared as a reaction to something bad happening, just like most adults do. It’s perfectly okay for a kid to cry and ask a parent for reassurance in that situation: emotional hurts are just as real as physical ones. Of course, you also need to get them to learn to talk, even if they are upset, and explain what’s wrong. (If the event was particularly stressful, after things were done, I would need to take break and have a good cry myself just to get it out of my system. Sometimes parents do it, too.)
I don’t believe in letting kids do things completely independently so that they can “learn from their mistakes.” Sometimes kids DON’T learn from their mistakes, or the path they choose ends up resulting in just as bad an outcome. I do think it’s reasonable to let them fail, though, and then let them know that if they’d like some ideas on how to handle it better, you’re always there for advice. People in general are good at realizing they’ve made a mistake but they’re not always so good at figuring how to do better next time, and I think it’s unrealistic to expect kids to figure it out without a little guidance from people with a bit more life experience. (Of course, they have to be open to hearing about that experience.)
The gist of this is that you have to do what works for you and your kid and there’s no “right way” to parent. One tactic that works one time may not work another, and you’ve got to learn how much space to give your kids. It’s a balancing act that takes practice, and you’re going to make mistakes yourself. Any article that tells you that they’ve discovered the best way to deal with their kids is taking all the nuance out of parenting.