Alright, let’s be the loving, logical, practical adults we want everyone to believe we are.
You want the best for your child, and you want your child to be the best – in at least one area of achievement. You’d like to help her take the correct path and avoid obstacles. This means a formidable list of Do-s and Don’t-s (creative grammar, I know 🙂 ).
What if you got just one option – your child can go with either the Do-s or the Don’t-s? Hmmm.
Lots of parents would choose the Don’t-s. For instance, if you’re talking about food and nutrition, it is probably easier (and definitely more valuable!) to say “Don’t do drugs, don’t smoke, don’t have more than 2 pegs of alcohol a day (if this is what you want to say)” than it is to say “Be sure to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables (these should include all color families…, eat both raw and cooked vegetables except for … which should not be cooked and … which should not be eaten raw, remember tomato is technically a fruit, avocados can’t be included in greens, and…), 3 servings of dairy,…”.
You know your child won’t remember a tenth of what you’re going to tell him. Might as well make it short, so you decide to stick with the Don’t-s.
Great! Why don’t you begin making a list right now?
If you’re anything like me, you’d probably have 50 things on your list in less than 10 minutes.
My daughter would faint if she read the above sentence. She’d faint, because she and all her friends believe I am one of the most easy-going parents around. I agree with her (and them). 🙂 I can make the list, but I’m also very good at editing this list down to one or two things.
These one or two things are my NO-s. I have them down pat, and every time I’m tempted to say NO (or “Don’t!”), I go back to my list and cross-check:
– Has been eating sugar through the meal, and is looking to overdose on chocolate for dessert. Asking for permission. Say NO? (Does it go against my NO?) No. “Sure – go ahead!”
“Oh, Mom, you’re the best!” (I’m rolling my eyes.)
– Has gone ballistic over some ridiculous detail. Screaming so loudly I can’t hear myself think. Follows me so she can vent fully (and I can’t get away!). Give her a piece of my mind? No point – she ain’t listening anyway. So I duck till the storm has passed. In a bit, she’ll calm down, come over and apologize. And I’ll tell her she doesn’t need to be sorry.
I really think she doesn’t need to apologize, and here’s why I think it:
1. I’m her mom – if she can’t acknowledge and give in to how she’s feeling even when she’s with me, what’s the point of being family? If I don’t give her the space and time to vent, where will she get it? This time and space is what makes a bunch of people in a house a family.
2. Venting is good for health – she’s letting it all out safely and she will feel better after having done so. Suppressing how you really feel creates all kinds of physical and mental problems – simply not worth it. And if I’m listening, I’ll get a chance to understand what she’s thinking and feeling.
3. She learns – each time she blows something out of proportion, I am matter-of-fact about it. I don’t ask her to stop throwing a tantrum, I don’t yell back at her… As a result, when she cools down, she herself thinks about what happened and why it happened. We might talk about it or not. And the next time around, she has more perspective. The result is delightful and twofold: if she freaks about the same thing, the intensity is lower than it was earlier; and she freaks about bigger, more important things. Either way, she’s growing, and growing well. Oh, joy! 🙂
4. Love in action – It’s easy to be loving and accepting when things are going well. If you can be loving and accepting even when your instinct is to run screaming from him, he’s experiencing love in action. He will notice this. And it will give him the confidence to be who he is – assured that he is no less worthy of love because he is not all ‘good’. He will be less vulnerable to manipulation by people and circumstances. That’s what I want for my child. I’m sure that is precisely what you want for your child.
5. Someday, somewhere, it will out – If your child doesn’t vent at home, he will vent somewhere with someone. Who knows what might come of this?
6. Risk avoidance – I have seen so many children – and adults – leading heavily controlled lives: always making the right noises, having the right reaction in the right proportion, doing what is expected of them. Till one day, the smallest trigger completely derails them, and then it takes a good long while for them to get back on track – if at all they do. Better by far to let off steam as one goes along, and chug along the track of your own choice.
So she doesn’t need to apologize for losing her temper. For the longest time, she didn’t believe me when I said it. But over the years, as we’ve lived the reality of it, she’s beginning to get it.
I gain in innumerable ways from having very little on my NO list:
I. The list is easy to remember – and abide by! 🙂
II. She shares freely with me – her thoughts, ideas and what goes on in her life, because she doesn’t need to worry about which NOs she has transgressed. Our communication is based in reality.
III. When I say NO, she listens – no, not obeys, but it’s enough that she listens! 🙂 (She must make her own mistakes and learn from them – one of the hardest lessons for a parent.)
IV. We share a great relationship – both of us actively choosing to spend time with each other. And we enjoy ourselves!
V. I can go up in smoke too! 🙂 And I do.
Well, what are you waiting for? Make your list of NO-s, edit it, communicate it, and then sit back and be a carefree parent…