Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Practical Parenting

"I know you love them but sometimes you find them so entertaining that you forget to parent them. This is important. When they were little and they would act out and we would say, 'Relax, they're young. When they're older, they'll get it'...?

"Well, Tom, they're 16 now... and not getting it.

"We have a lot of work to do in a very short time and if you and I are not in synch, then I am afraid it is not going to happen."

Lynette Scarvo 'Desperate Housewives'

If only I could persuade my Husband to watch the scene that preceded this, where Tom said he would deal with the delinquency of their twin boys because he felt his wife was being 'too hard'. This involved sitting down with them and laughing about their exploits as if he was their friend and then rescinding the grounding and giving them permission to go to the School Prom.

Lynette's response was to agree with her husband and give the boys the keys to the convertible that he had spent the last five years restoring so they could 'arrive at the Prom in style'.

Tom started to get the message after that and learned that you cannot always be both parent and friend during their teenage years. There are times when you have to draw the line in the sand and say that enough is enough and such behaviour will not be tolerated.

Sadly, my best efforts have not borne such fruit.

I wish I hadn't had to be angry all the time.

I wish I hadn't always had to be the bad cop.

But, by leaving, I have now become a neutral.

Because I am not involved in the disputes from the beginning, I can enter the fray and help my children to talk through their issues calmly rather than exploding and, thereby, setting off their reciprocal fireworks. And, more than anything, I can explain to them the consequences of their actions upon each other and the people around them in a way that I could not when I lived under the all powerful shadow of their father who would neither complain to them nor support me when I did.

I truly believe that in attempting to be the perfect 'Brady Bunch' family, we have all lost the ability to teach our children how to behave. We are too close to the epicentre of the resulting tantrums and no one wants to be unpopular.

But our failure to set proper boundaries and enforce good behaviour is producing a generation of disrespectful selfish monsters who think only of themselves and the immediate gratification of their desires with no thought of how that might affect the other people around them.

The time has come to face up to our responsibilities and understand that to be a good parent is not always to be a popular one in their teenage years but, as they mature, they will respect in retrospect all the boundaries and the lessons that were given.

And, if two people cannot parent properly in unison, then it must be done separately by one to achieve the goal of producing responsible, caring and considerate members of society. You only need to look around you to see how important this is and that consistent and continual failure to address these issues with our youngsters is no longer an option if we all want to live happily ever after.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

In time I hope your children will thank you for all this. BG Xx

Clare said...

Wise words Joanna. I'm not a parent, but I am a teacher so I do see this on a daily basis.

from my point of view, parents and teachers need to work together and consistency is essential. There's nothing more frustrating than speaking to a parent about their child's inappropriate behaviour, only to have that parent tell their child, "Don't do that again. Let's go and buy you some sweets now". Aaargh!

Rant over!

Polar said...

As always, Joanna, you are so Very Wise....
As we embark on this next segment of life, it will be much as you have described, for you, only the Roles at this moment are reversed. She knows so much better Exactly WHAT they need!
But you showed me the Bright Spot, in that I can be the Neutral, and still get them to talk it through.
Thank You!

Gorilla Bananas said...

Yeah, it's counterproductive to lose your temper with the young 'uns. I think Spock would have made a good father. Infallible logic is what they need.

Joanna Cake said...

BG - I think they're starting to see the benefits already.

Clare - Thank you x I dont envy you your job. Some of the parents of my acquaintance are no better than children in terms of their acceptance of authority. In the course of my job, I sometimes have to admonish kids about their behaviour and guide them to do better. Most parents welcome the intervention of another adult authority figure but others actively excuse their kids' actions and make it sound as if I am in the wrong for guiding them away from danger.

As my counsellor would have said: 'Parents are disempowering their children by not allowing them to face the consquences of their actions and take reprimands for that behaviour in the same way as they would allow them to accept compliments'

Polar - Too many divorced parents become 'weekend parents' and only step up for the good stuff, leaving the parent in situ to deal with all the day to day crap.

Mr B - Sometimes you have to give them a good shout and slap the backs of their legs to bring them up short and make them think. Then you have their attention and can reason with them later. Is that not the same with baby gorillas?

The Birdwatcher said...

My daughter is just 17 and now sleep overs have become sleeps withs. There is no right answer and the boundaries are difficult so at my bidding we have relaxed the rules. (My wife was not really happy about this as she felt we were giving way, but I was more concerned about her disappearing in the early hours) As long as we know where she will be spending the night and she agrees a time to be home the next day and she answers her mobile if we phone her (promised to be on rare occasions or if she does not stick to the return time)then she can stay at her boyfriends. To learn and develop she has to make decisions and deal with them if they go wrong. We have to make sure that as far as possible she can do it safely. Doesn't stop me staying awake at night worrying about her though!

Joanna Cake said...

Hello Birdwatcher!
Oh, I hear you on this one. As you said, sometimes it's better to know they're bonking in their own bedroom rather than in an alley or field somewhere with no access to condoms.
I think you're a very enlightened dad to make this decision. The ex Mr Cake just pretends that it isnt happening and does his normal ostrich impression about his daughter and, I fear, his son too. I have made sure that both have access to condoms... and try to make it possible for them to ask any questions in this field without embarrassment.

The truth is that our children are far more sexually aware than we ever were. Most of them dont seem to be repressed in any way and all you can do is guide them and give them the best information to counteract any falsehoods that they hear amongst their mates.

The Birdwatcher said...

Spot on. Sometimes hard to let go though, but much harder if you don't. Have a great Christmas with your kids.