Here’s the thing about parenting: it’s hard. You have this person/persons that you are responsible for, and you have no idea what to do. When they’re little they mainly listen to you and do what you ask…but as they get older…
Here’s the other thing: they are supposed to become more independent as they get older. They are supposed to start thinking for themselves. Which often comes at odds with what our rules and expectations are as parents. And yesterday I clearly stated that we are parents, not friends and we have to respect the parent/child relationship as such.
You have to be logical.
Which means that while you have and should have rules (kids need boundaries) you also have to figure out what to push and what to pull back from. You must choose which battles are the ones you really want to fight.
Example: the hills I will die on are drinking, smoking and drugs. I will not tolerate any of these while she is a teenager living in my house and I am financially supporting her. End of discussion. My family has issues with addictive behavior, and if there is a genetic component to addiction (which I firmly believe there is) I want her to be aware of it, and I want to go to whatever length possible to make sure she doesn’t go down this road. These are the battles I will fight and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.
Since I really hold the line on these things, I loosen up on others. My daughter doesn’t eat beef, pork or poultry, and hasn’t since fifth grade. I have had people tell me I’m crazy to “allow” this. My feeling is as long as she’s healthy and makes healthy food choices and the Doctor says she’s OK, then I’m OK with that. My daughter is often up till 2am studying- and then up at 6:30 (you do the math on how much sleep she isn’t getting) I have learned to lighten up on this. (Of course- at her 9th grade physical I told the Doctor my concern at her lack of sleep and the Doctor said not to worry- high achievers don’t sleep much) I don’t blink when she leaves the house with midriff bearing shirts. I wince at high heels but only because I fear she will break a leg because she is not always gazelle like. And I could go on.
I choose battles because I know that I can’t fight with her all the time. This does not make me her friend. This makes me someone who knows that she has to learn what choices to make. And to be fair, we don’t fight about clothing or curfews or any of these things because if there’s an issue I’m worried about we sit down and discuss it rationally. We’ve talked about how, like it or not, people will judge you by your clothes, and while wearing a belly shirt to Gov Ball is totally appropriate, is it the right thing to wear to school? Being up late studying is fine, assuming she has spent her other hours productively and hasn’t started her homework at 11pm.
Discuss the things that concern you, behaviors that you have problems with. Discuss actions and their consequences, if/then statements. If you rationally present things, your kids might not listen, but they might learn. They might learn how to think for themselves. And that’s the ultimate goal: to raise rational, logical adults who think about what they are doing.
Pick the things that are most important to you and hold to them. Lighten up on the ones that don’t matter as much. FYI- this works in partner relationships as well.
Which battles are most important to you?