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Teach Your Children Well … Words to Parent By

April 10, 2015

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood lately (the status of being a parent, not the television show). Even though I’ve had so many things to write about, I haven’t been writing about the parenting journey has much as I used to do on this blog. It’s not that I don’t want to share my thoughts, or worry that Sophie will read this one day (she probably will and that’s fine with me). I think the reason is because as Sophie gets older, it’s harder to put some of these parenting struggles and thoughts into words.

The milestone moments Sophie had in her early years were easy to capture: putting away the baby monitors, moving to a “big girl” bed, finally becoming potty-trained, and entering kindergarten. Those things were universal, easy to articulate and joyous celebrations, if you will.

My parenthood struggles of late are not as simple. As Sophie gets older (7-years-old now!), the issue constantly on my mind is whether I’m raising a good human being. Things like making sure my daughter is respectful, isn’t absorbing attitudes she sees on the playground on on television, and has the life skills necessary to survive in this world. These are not subjects taught in the Common Core curriculum. And they are not milestones like losing the first tooth. These are ongoing struggles that are exhausting and often leave me feeling like I’m failing as a parent.

no moms allowed

The biggest struggle for me lately revolves around issues of respect and listening. More specifically, being assertive is a great skill to have (and Sophie certainly has it). But there’s a line between assertive and continually asking for things from other people (especially after mom has said no). What I mean by this is Sophie asking another parent for a playdate when I’ve already said five minutes before the playdate can’t happen that day. Or asking a relative for money or things when I’ve already told her not to ask for that. This is something that really bothers me. I find it rude to others, and I feel like I’m not being listened to or respected. We seem to have these issues on a regular basis; and when it’s really bad, she loses a privilege.

I try to be proactive and talk about expectations and being really clear before we get into the situation. And that does work occasionally. But I guess with kids (this one in particular), emotion overpowers logic. She does recognize her behavior and knows why she’s getting the consequence she does. So I guess that’s a good step, right?

Sophie and I are very close, which is probably why these struggles are so hard for me. It truly breaks my heart when a conflict arises between us, or the time she told me she doesn’t want our relationship to be like Merida and her mother from the Disney movie, Brave.

sophie and butterflies

I can already hear the voices of the dissenters:

But they’re just kids!

They don’t know better.

Don’t be so rigid!

If that’s all she does, you should be grateful for what you have.

And yes, they are kids and sometimes they don’t know. But that’s exactly why it’s up to us as parents to teach them what’s appropriate and what’s not.

I want Sophie to know she can always be honest with me. I tell her it’s okay for her to be angry at me, and that it’s normal for her to feel like she hates me at times. What matter to me is treating people respectfully. Listening to our words, and acknowledging our hurt or anger. I truly feel if you don’t set boundaries and expectations now, it will only get worse as they grow older.

I do feel like Sophie is a good person, has a heart of gold and values honesty. She cares for a backyard pillbug with as much tenderness as she does our cat. And I’m so grateful for that. But the respect and listening is an ongoing struggle, and it’s something we’re working on. Some days it’s really hard for me. But all I can do is appreciate all her wonderful qualities and hope I’m doing something right.

Leah and Sophie

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisakwinkler@gmail.com permalink
    April 10, 2015 4:05 am

    It’s very hard. Especially with girls I think.You need to brace yourself — it will get worse I’m afraid as she gets older.. and then, suddenly, they become human again. I used to take great pride though when I heard from others how delightful and polite my kids were outside the home. They need somewhere to vent, and often it’s the mother that takes it.

    • Leah permalink*
      April 10, 2015 8:28 am

      Thanks, Lisa! I do think us moms have it tougher than most!

  2. Amber Highburger permalink
    April 10, 2015 8:26 am

    Leah,

    Respecting parents and their word is a REAL issue. It is not just with girls. My oldest son, who is 10 going on 16, is at that point. He crosses the line of respect, argues with me on my decisions and has the attitude that he is embarrassed with me around. I NEVER would have thought it would start this young or with a boy, but here we are. I pray it ends soon. I agree with you, character is so important. Keep doing what your doing, even though it seems like you’re not getting through, you are. As parents we have to stick together and encourage each other to keep going because it’s the right path.
    I am so glad you shared your struggles, you are not alone!

    • Leah permalink*
      April 10, 2015 8:29 am

      Thanks so much, Amber! Like you, I too believe that respect and courtesy have become lost in this world, and I want the people in my family to have those values. I’m so glad to hear I’m not alone in this and you struggle with it too!

  3. April 10, 2015 8:46 am

    Most parents I meet aren’t as conscientious as you Leah! You are keenly aware of how those “soft skills” are really VERY important in life and work. I see parents not requiring their children to be a good listener, respect others, nor how to communicate assertively. It makes me so sad, since I know how critical these skills are for being a stand-up human being in the world, not just someone who lives, but thrives.
    It sounds like Sophie is doing some “exploring” of her independence and choices, and you’re there to support her with shaping her understanding f right and wrong. You are doing a great job (even though you weren’t asking for compliments) and Sophie is blessed to have you as her Mom!

    • Leah permalink*
      April 10, 2015 8:49 am

      Thank you so much, Sara! It’s funny you mention that about parents not teaching their kids these skills. When I wrote the first draft, I actually had a whole paragraph speaking exactly to that point. But I decided to delete it because I didn’t want to make the post about other parents and their choices, and chose to focus on me. But I agree, and that also makes it tough because I feel like I hold Sophie to a higher standard when many (not all) parents don’t do the same.

  4. April 10, 2015 3:19 pm

    We’re very much in the same season of life right now. I feel like I am raising a good kid. She’s kind and sweet, very inclusive and intuitive. But also sneaky and stubborn. I find myself being very hard on her – especially when we’re in group settings where other kids are completely off the rails. I have high expectations of her behavior — in public. I often let it slide a little at home. Mostly because I feel like I am always being mean to her. I’m not sure if I’m doing it right or completely wrong. Lately you can find me searching Amazon for parenting books because I think the next ten years are going to be tough.

    • Leah permalink*
      April 10, 2015 5:15 pm

      It’s so hard, Wendy! I do feel like I have expectations of her that other parents don’t have of their own kids. There have been so many times when I would not allow her to run amok in public in an in appropriate setting. Yet she she sees other kids doing that and doesn’t understand why I won’t allow it. I think you’re right — we’re in for a touch road!

  5. April 10, 2015 5:26 pm

    I found 7 to be a tough age to parent. Lots of defiance, trouble making, and independence. We are just coming through the woods as we approach 8.

    One helpful thing for me is to trust in the foundation that I’ve laid as a parent. Sometimes I think we allow our children’s behavior to reflect TO much back on us (this is not to say I am unaccountable for my parenting shortcomings).

    Our children do make their own decisions. And the sooner they learn that each decision has a consequence, the sooner they learn to make better choices. Each failure (no judgement behind this word) is a true lesson.

    I have taken a new approach now that my third child is entering the 2’s. I am much calmer and less strict. And more suggestive than forceful. It has served me well. And I feel way less guilty about each misstep my kids make.

    • Leah permalink*
      April 13, 2015 10:24 pm

      I like what you said about trusting in the foundation that we’ve laid as a parent. That resonates with me a lot. I do hope that if we are consistent and true, that perhaps things will work out eventually. Glad to hear 8-years-old is looking brighter!

  6. Megan permalink
    April 10, 2015 6:31 pm

    Leah, this really resonates with me. As a stepmom to an eight year old girl, I often wonder if her behavior is normal or if we are doing something wrong. Thanks for sharing your experience with Sophie. I see a difficult road ahead too, but it’s reassuring to know we’re not the only ones having this experience.

    • Leah permalink*
      April 13, 2015 10:25 pm

      Thank you so much for saying that, Megan! I’m glad my thoughts can help you. From what I’m reading from others and all these wonderful comments, it sounds like this is pretty normal behavior for young girls. Good luck to you in your parenting too!

  7. April 11, 2015 6:26 am

    Mom always told me that kids are supposed to test us – that’s a sign we’re teaching them to think for themselves. Our oldest boy challenged us far more than the youngest one and we just tried to love him through it. There were some tough times in the high school years – he even moved out for a while – but he came back around and has since apologized for being (his words) “a little jerk.” Youngest one had the advantage of watching the fallout and making the decision to not follow in older brother’s behavioral footsteps.

    I found the hardest lesson to learn as a parent is that we’re not our kids friends, we’re their parents first and always. We are the ones whose job it is to love them enough to say no .. and mean it. Having done that the friendship – and respect – comes .. .

    Hang in there. You’re doing more right than you know 🙂

    MJ

    • Leah permalink*
      April 13, 2015 10:27 pm

      “Kids are supposed to test us – that’s a sign we’re teaching them to think for themselves.” — Love that MJ! And you are so right about us not being friends but parents. I constantly remind myself of that when I feel like I was the “bad mom” or had to discipline Sophie. I so appreciate your kind words and encouragement! 🙂

  8. April 13, 2015 8:08 am

    This post really touched me. You’re so sincere and heartfelt, I’m sure Sophie will turn out beautifully. They do what we do. xox

    • Leah permalink*
      April 13, 2015 10:27 pm

      Thank you so much, Allison! I truly appreciate your kind words!

  9. Tammy C. permalink
    April 13, 2015 10:20 am

    We celebrated Easter at my in-laws house this year. After having one dessert, my lovely Zoe asked for another. I told her no. About 15 minutes later, I overheard her asking her dad for that same desert! Not knowing that she already had one — and that I said “No” to dessert #2 — he said “Yes!”

    I marched right over and called her on it.

    My brother-in-law, who has 5 kids (range 12-21) laughed. He said that all 5 of his kids did the same thing, and you just have to be vigilant, show your kids (over and over and over) that you and the other parent are working together.

    So… That’s a long way of saying that this is a very common developmental phase. Try not to take it personally.

    It sure is hard work though. Parenting is not for the faint-hearted.

    • Leah permalink*
      April 13, 2015 10:30 pm

      Thanks, Tammy! And if you’re parenting and kids are any indication, it’s definitely true since I’ve always thought you’re an amazing mom (and have great kids to show for it!). It’s nice to know it’s not just me who struggles. Guess it’s part of being a kid and parent. You’re right, it’s not easy! But hearing all these wonderful comments has already changed my perspective. Thanks!

  10. April 23, 2015 4:53 am

    Oh, Leah, I feel for you. My oldest is 42 now, and my granddaughters are 13 and 17. When Emily calls me and tells me the latest issues she’s having, I remember what it was like raising her. She turned out great, but getting there was a struggle for both of us. I cannot say enough how much your words show you are on the right track. The thing that stands out the most is your insistence that your daughter always be honest with you. That’s huge!

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