I went to a baby shower on Sunday, and ran into a lovely girl I haven’t seen or spoken to in ages. Since we’d talked, she had gotten married and now had an 11 month old. As she was showing me pictures on her iPhone, my little ones both ran up to me simultaneously and starting talking a million miles a second…at the same time. (yea, my kiddos were at this shower at the beginning and the end..Ben was shooting it and I was a guest, and my friends husband took all the kiddos to the park for most of our time there. I’ll talk a little bit more about why I love this and why its been important to our parenting a little bit later in this post.)
They hadn’t seen me in a few hours and oddly enough, they do miss me when I’m not around. (glory be!) They had lots to tell me and a few little presents they’d received to show off to me, and as they both chatted away I tried to quiet one and listen to the other…pay close attention to Darby then give Josiah the opportunity to talk, then back and forth again and again. They both asked me for cupcakes and sugar and I quietly and calmly explained why we were not eating cupcakes and sugar. Then back to talking incessantly at the same time…this went on for a few minutes.
The lovely girl I had been talking to watched me and at the end of the exchange said to me, “Wow. I love the way you parent.” I thought…me? this? what?
Ya’ll. Parenting is hard.
There is no other way to say it, it’s just hard.
First off, this little 3 foot tall person talks back at you. Gives you lip. Attitude. And your first reaction is, what the wha? Hey little mini human I am MUCH taller than you…who the heck do you think you are. Try that again. TRY IT. One more time. Watch what happens. I dare you.
Tell me this is not your reaction when your kid acts up and I’ll send you chocolates via snail mail. You deserve medals of gold and honor. And all the chocolates.
I have a few ideas about why people tell me my kids are good. About why my babysitters keep coming back and really truly love being with my kids. About why our kids can come with us wherever we go and be well-behaved for the most part. About why they can accompany us to “adult” places and “adult” activities and still have a good time hanging with all the ‘dults as Josiah calls them.
And hey parents. We all mess up. I mess up parenting every day. I raise my voice with my kids. I get exasperated with my kids. I get so frustrated with my kids that I lock myself in my bedroom, hello. We all mess this up. All I want to do today is talk about parenting and my heart. It weighs heavy on me a lot, seeing kids treated badly and parents looking the other way when misbehavior happens instead of forming who their kids turn out to be. So I’m sharing my heart here, and sharing what works for us and some of the smartest things we did as parents (largely because some other older wiser parents clued us in. so thanks older wiser’s out there.)
When we get attitude, disobedience, name-calling, disrespect
-We give immediate disciplinary face-time; Conversation about what just happened and why we will not tolerate it. We are also really big on eye contact. If we’re talking to them, they need to be looking into our eyes. Honestly, they hear and absorb what we’re saying so much better if they’re looking into our eyes. (that and I’m convinced my ‘do that again and you’re a dead mini-human’ look is pretty spot on. practice makes perfect). Guys, children have short term memory. The reason addressing the misbehavior or what have you IMMEDIATELY is because if you wait and try to punish them later, chances are they’ve forgotten their little episode and it honestly confuses them. Why am I being disciplined? What is this punishment for? The other reason immediate discipline is key is because I want the the next time they misbehave to be an “oh crap” moment for them…and this has happened…they’ll do something they shouldn’t, and immediately have a guilty look on their face and will come out with an “I’m sorry” before I have time to address is. I want them to know from the get go that that, was not ok and will not be tolerated.
-Ya know those keep calm posters you see everywhere? Totally agree, they’re annoying. Experiment though. Speak calmly to your kids…voice under control. Then raise your voice and act erratic. Watch what happens…its kind of amazing. When we’re loud we aren’t exhibiting control. Our kids do not respond to this. They stop listening…because they cannot take you seriously when you act like a crazy person. (do you take some seriously when they’re acting like a crazy person?) Sit down. Take their hands. Make eye contact. Speak calmly. Their entire demeanor will change and they’ll hear what your saying. Also, when I speak calmly to them, they react in a soft calm voice to me. Our children are looking to us to show them how to act. They’ll mimic what you do. (its awesome and also terrifying, this truth.)
-Speaking of speech, a big thing we required from the beginning is that they respond to us and all other adults with yes ma’am and no ma’am, yes sir and no sir. We make sure they say Thank you when its needed. Its especially important to us that they respond this way in the disciplinary moments. “Yea” or “ok fine”, or even just “ok” are not acceptable answers in our house.
-Quality time plays a huge roll in our parenting. We both work from home, so we’re able to give this in large amounts. I know so many of you work full time, your spouse works full time, you’re single moms or dads, you’ve got school and sports and activities and church, the list goes on. I truly feel that if you’re wanting some behaviors to change in your house, you cut some things out and replace those things with one on one time with your kids. They feel important and heard, and you can spend that time instilling good behaviors in them.
-The last thing I will say here, is that consistency works for us. Its incredibly easy to disregard and turn a blind eye to bad behavior when you’re at Publix or Target or out to dinner or at your friends house. Leave me alone kid, I’m trying to do this..i’m trying to relax..I’m trying to hang out..I’m trying to have a conversation here, duh…No. I have to stop what I’m doing every time and address the issue, right then and there wherever we are. I’ve taken my kids clear out of restaurants and down the street, in the middle of a meal, if we need to talk and correct an attitude. We’ve left grocery carts full and gone to the bathroom if a spanking was in order. We’ve left friends houses if attitudes were poor and the kids needed to go straight home and to bed. Stay at it, stay consistent. It works for us.
Two other areas I want to talk about are media and bed time. (#realtalk, #sorrybutidontholdback)
MEDIA – guys and gals. What they see on TV and in Movies directly affects their behavior. We are pretty strict on what they watch and how much time they spend watching a day. No Spongebob. (he shows SUCH DISRESPECT for authority) No Scooby Doo. (ghosts and scary monsters equal bad dreams and my kids believing in things that are not real) I find that PBS kids is probably the safest channel on television, so if we’re on TV thats what they are allowed to see. If we’re tuned to movies, we stick to disney classics, selected pixar, and veggie tales. If I hear them say a word or a phrase that I’ve never heard them say before, I can make an estimated guess that they heard it on TV or a movie, and I can re-evaluate what they’ve watched recently and eliminate. I realize its near impossible to find something that doesn’t say butt, or shut-up, or stupid. My kids hear those things, and knowing they’re not ok will say “Hey we’re not allowed to say that are we?” They know, and they remember what they hear, so we are pretty careful in this area.
BEDTIME – Ahhh, bed time. I know people who’s children don’t really have one. I’ve met people who tell me their kids go to bed “whenever they decide they’re tired”. I’ve come across parents who put their kids to bed at 11pm.
I do not understand this.
From the time my kids were 3-4 months old, they were on a schedule. And not because I’m a crazy person, but because I have a life. Yes, a life….I had one before kids and I continue to have one with them. (keep reading for more on my feelings about this). From early on until last year, bed time was 7pm. That required that I had dinner ready around 5:30p, and they were bathed by 6:30p. It made those hours during my day harried and stressful at times, but then 7pm came around and I knew I had my evening. My time. Our time. Date time. Work time. Free time. Conversation time. Clean time. Create time. Girl time. Read time. BE WITHOUT MY KIDS time.
When they got a bit older, I decided to be super lenient and make bedtime 30 minutes later. (what can I say I’m a drill sergeant). At 7:30p every night, (ya sometimes its 8p, but hey, life happens) its peace out kiddos I love you. Time for us.
When I hear the no bed time thing, I think…when in the world do you talk to your husband? When the heck do you do the laundry? Honestly, WHEN do you take care of yourself and your marriage?
When I hear the no bed time thing, its usually followed by something like “We havent been on a date in 5 months.” Or “I cant find the time to keep my house in order”. Or “shave? when would I have time to shave?”. Or “the last girls night I had was in college.”
Put your kids to bed. You are the parent. You rule their life. You make the rules. Your children do not control you. “I’m an ADULT” as Adam Samberg would say. (ok if you’re tired of reading this, watch this. Omgreatness. Hilariousness. Threw it on the Ground. You cant buy me, hot dog man.) Plus, your kids are tired. They’ve had a packed day. They need their sleep….they’re happier. You’re happier.
There are a few things Ben and I did from the beginning that we have stuck with that have truly helped us parent better and have made our kids pretty well rounded, even as toddlers.
When we were pregnant, we made a decision that we were not going to change how we lived to accommodate our children. We had lives we loved, things we loved to do…passions. Places we went on the regular, adult places. Travel schedules and a job that took us away a lot.
We decided that our children were going to conform to the life we already lived. Yes, things would change a bit…we would have to be more disciplined, and more open to trial and error experimentation and the possibility for an end result we didn’t love or expect. We had a baby to care for and with that come change and sacrifice. But we decided to take all of that responsibility and make it mesh with what we already did and how we already lived.
That meant from the time Josiah was 3 days old, he went everywhere with us. I had him at church when he was 5 days old and I was giving him away to everyone I knew. Yes, please hold him. Yes, take him so I can have a minute. I wanted him to get used to people, being around adults, and being able to be watched so that Ben and I could leave and there would be no separation anxiety.
From day 1, Josiah became acclimated to OUR life. We took the same approach with Darby. And even though I sometimes lost my mind taking a newborn and a 15 month old with me to Target, they learned that this is the life we live and we’re going to be a part of it just like Mommy and Daddy.
Touching on the adult thing for a moment, I am so glad we started out lugging them along with us wherever we went. My children are around adults so much, and have been from the beginning, that they can have legit conversations with them. They can behave and hold themselves together and entertain themselves while we’re at a baby shower with no other children. When we have friends with no kids over to eat or hang out, they’re normal and fun and do their own thing. They’re not hanging out at my heels, shying away from anyone that says hello, refusing to speak to anyone else and clutching my legs for dear life. They can hang. They can have a good time. This is what I always wanted and I’m so glad Ben and I stuck it out and made this a precedent from the beginning.
To end, lets get real about a topic I feel is a sensitive one for lots of mamas out there. We struggle with this. We want to be the only influence on our babies lives and we want to know everything they’re doing at all times and we want to make absolutely sure that they’re safe and sound at every second.
Leave your kids. Get away from your children. Leave them with babysitters. Take trips for days at a time. Leave them for a week. Take them to the grandparents. Go on weekly dates. Take girls nights on the regular.
I think a lot of times we blame our inability to leave our children on them. Oh, they’ll miss us too much or I don’t think its good for them for me to be away for a few days. In reality, its us that are scared to leave.
I know how hard it is. I have to leave my kids all the time, its my job. But leaving them is so good for me, and so good for them!
1) it gives them the opportunity to learn about someone else, to be corrected by someone who is not their parent, to build relationship with someone who they don’t have to live with every day, to do fun things unique to that nanny/babysitter (example: Chloe makes them breadsticks and marinara out of pita bread every time she is here. They look forward to it every time and Ben and I wont do it even when we’re asked, because its a special thing they get to do with Chloe. I LOVE stuff like this)
2) It gives you time to breathe deeply, without spending all of your breath on yes and no and uh-uh and don’t do that. It allows you to have uninterrupted intentional time with your spouse. It teaches you that you don’t have control of your life and that letting go and letting God is a REAL thing and a hard thing but a necessary thing.
I am so thankful for this medium. I am so thankful I can write. I am so thankful that you’re here to read it, and again want to stress that everything you read above is just what has worked for us in this insane parenting journey. I would love to hear your thoughts and things that have worked or not worked for you.
I read something in Jesus Calling today that encouraged me and that I will hold onto when I feel like I’m not cut out for this, like I’m not enough…like this parenting this is too hard and I want to quit.
“Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on Me.”