Parenting and / or child rearing is tough. There is no right way, but lots of ‘wrong’ ways. There are a lot of opinions though! People always have a simple solution for what ever the current problem or obstacle is too. Even without fully understanding the situation or the dynamic of those involved. I’m sure you’ve heard “well this is what I did with Jimmy and that solved that.”
If you have ever met me you know that making sure I am being the best parent I can be is something I regularly stress over and contemplate. Am I exposing her to too much? Am I not exposing her enough? Should I be having her try this? Is she enrolled in to may things? Many times I feel like I am constantly failing. I wonder if my choices are making our nine-year old into a little she devil or will her strong fiery personality will allow her not to be taken advantage of.
I am sure I have fallen into at least a few parenting traps over the years. I try my best to support all areas of her development. Social development is extremely hard for me, especially when she is having a hard time. Watching her struggle and hurt eats away at me and makes me feel powerless. Specifically, this year with being bullied. I consider it bullying when it is more than being picked on once or twice by the same individuals or group of individuals.
This school year, 3rd grade, has been very trying. Taylor was the target of one girl in particular. She was relentless in her pursuit to make Taylor’s school day miserable. She was very controlling and domineering. Taylor impressed me with her independence and maturity when she wanted to first try to handle it herself with some of her own ideas (that she bounced off me) and the use of the peace table at school. When that didn’t work she asked for advice and suggestions, but still wanted attempt to work through it without my intervention. After three almost four months of struggles and tears she finally decided that she would like to request the help of her teacher with the problem. Taylor requested my assistance with ONLY setting up the meeting for her and the teacher. Once she talked to her teacher on her own, which is wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time, it was decided that they would wait for the next ‘big’ incident and go from there. Taylor had renewed hope and I felt helpless waiting for the other shoe to drop. For better or worse, it was time for winter break.
Once the children returned to school after break her tormentor found a new friend and fresh victims. A part of me was relieved that it was over, temporarily if nothing else. Another part of me was still frustrated because it was happening to another child. I hope that child is comfortable talking to an adult when it becomes too much to bear. I also wonder if the parent of our bully was ever informed of the difficulties that were happening with friends.
All in all this turned out okay. Taylor and I both learned quite a bit. I was rudely reminded that I cannot protect her from emotional pain. I also learned how strong she is and see how her problem solving skills have evolved. I was impressed by her ability to try to see things from the perpetrators perspective too! Taylor learned, or at least I hope so, that she is strong and resilient. She was reminded of the support system she is surrounded by. She got to see how her different ways to try to handle a situation worked – in real life – so valuable.
Many things with parenting revolve around decisions about what to let your child experience or be exposed to. Here is a short list: certain books, movies, music, activities, ect. Deciding when they are mature enough to handle that knowledge, content or choices that come with various situations. Every child is different and there is no rule of thumb per se, however there are always plenty of people ready to judge, critique and offer their two cents about it – specifically when they disagree with your choice. While making these choices you have to weigh the positive and negative effects. There are ramifications to exposing children to certain things too soon as well as leaving them in the dark. Being too naive in today’s world can be very dangerous.
I cannot parent or live in fear of those comments and snide remarks, but sometimes I definitely think or worry about what will be said. I wonder what people think of my parenting choices. Their opinion doesn’t matter, however I am always curious how we are perceived. My husband and I have taken the approach with moderation and full participation. So when a topic comes up, we are present during the learning period so that we can answer questions and make sure that she is understanding what is occurring. There was a book Taylor wanted to read about the life of a child during Holocaust for example. This book was above her age and grade level due to content. Taylor is ahead of the game in reference to her reading and comprehension levels. We decided to read it together and discuss the chapters. This allowed me to provide more general and background information about the war and era; as well as answer her questions relating to the story or things referenced in the story. There were quite a few heavy conversations. I was proud of her ability to digest the information and have questions beyond her grade level.
Another parenting struggle we have has to do with being aware of the messages we send are sending with our body language. How we engage with each other and our daughter, specifically more eye contact and less multitasking. This is something we are very conscious of. The era of smart phones or the black hole of free time can really separate you from your loved ones (spouses included). Making sure our phones are not out at family meals was one of the first ways we started tackling this issue. Not that we never multitask or get distracted, because we do, but we try to do better. We want Taylor to know how to hold a conversation and be comfortable in the silent gaps or pauses that happen. Being able to be present with those around you is a skill that I see slowly drifting away from younger generations.
We have mostly succeeded at eliminating impulse parenting. Otherwise known as making a punishment in the heat of the moment and then later changing punishment to fit the crime. One tactic that has helped immensely with this is by stating there will be a punishment, but we will tell you what it is later after it is discussed with the other parent. Even if no discussion is necessary it let’s her know that there will be a consequence for her actions and buys time for cool down and clear thinking before handing out rash punishments. It came with a second perk too – usually when we are ready to talk she has also calmed down and there can be an actual discussion about what was unacceptable about her behavior and she can help come up with different ways to handle that situation or feeling in the future. This technique has helped us bond more with Taylor and eliminate changes or take-backs on her consequences making us seem like we know what we are doing (even if we don’t).
Parenting is exhausting. It really is. I think the most difficult thing is not knowing if what you are doing is working. This is because you really won’t know until they leave the roost and you see the choices they make on their own when not under your watchful gaze. Then when this happens it is usually too late…and that is my greatest fear.