everyone has different ways of parenting.
i know a lot of people who have read parenting with love and logic and i did and loved it. that book helped me to realize that i was doing more of the "helicopter" parenting with caleb. because i was so afraid of him getting hurt, or sick, or having his feelings hurt by other kids, i was holding him back from learning how to navigate through life as an independent individual. learning consequences for his actions, instead of me protecting him from those consequences.
there's a fine line for me though, when it comes to parenting. making sure there are strong boundaries without being too controlling. (i'm still working on this) i'm a big believer in being strict when the kids are young and then loosening up the reins as they get older.
i remember when caleb was about 18 months to 2 years old, i questioned how strict we were. we were living in spanish fork at the time and we had a lot of kids around his age in our church ward. it seemed like every sunday at about 30 minutes into sacrament meeting, all of the kids would spontaneously combust at the same time. one by one you'd hear some primal toddler scream, and then watch a parent haul their wailing kid out of the chapel. (i'm also a big believer in taking your kids out when they're screaming...but that's another soap box for another day.)
caleb would have those moments too, so either ben or myself would take him out into the hallway. once we walked through the doors though, caleb would immediately stop crying and try to get down. as i looked around i would see all of the kids who had once been screaming now were happy and content to be running around, with their parent following behind them. i thought that it was fine, so i let caleb down to party with the other toddlers.
however, week after week we went through this, and i noticed that caleb's tantrums would start earlier and earlier... soon erupting almost as soon as we sat down. it began getting more and more difficult to keep caleb in the chapel.
it wasn't just that i was no longer getting anything out of the meeting...i realize that during this time of my life with young kids i might not come home completely fulfilled and enriched with all that i had learned at church. however, what bothered me is that i felt like we were totally getting played by an 18 month old kid.
so after ben & i talked about what to do, we decided to change things up. we already were bringing toys & snacks for caleb to keep him entertained, so we didn't have to add that in. but the next week when caleb decided to throw a tantrum, we walked out of the chapel, and took him into one of the sunday school rooms that was empty, pulled out a chair for him, and had him sit in it with his arms folded.
needless to say, he did not like it.
over and over again he'd try to get up. he would cry and become upset. at that point ben or myself would sit down next to him and calmly let him know that he could come inside and play with his toys and books in church, or he could stay out here and sit in this chair with no toys.
it took a couple of weeks, but he quickly learned. he was given choices, and he would make the choice to come back in and sit down. one week though, he was having a tough time so i took him out in the hallway. unfortunately, the class that we usually had him sit in was full for some reason. there was a kid-sized chair already sitting out in the hallway, so i just had him sit in that with his arms folded.
all of his little friends were out in the hallway, and they each walked up to him. i stood there next to him, and realized that all of the parents were looking at me. and i had a moment. where i questioned,
are we being too strict?? is he too young for this??
but. within about 2 minutes, caleb said he wanted to go back inside. and stayed in for the rest of the time with no problem, playing quietly with his toys and books.
and i realized that even though he was young, he was capable of understanding...and also capable of sitting in the chapel and being content. we stayed consistent with what we felt was appropriate for us. it wasn't a perfect ride after that, but it sure became a lot easier.
when elder bednar visited our ward in north carolina, he opened up a meeting for questions. he was asked by one of our ward members how he was able to raise such good and righteous men. and he spoke about how he and his wife set strict boundaries for their children while they were young. that it was especially important while they were young for them to know what the rules of their home were, and that they were to act within those rules or earn a consequence. then as they grew older, they knew what the expectations were and they could be allowed more freedom.
you know, the whole "teach them correct principles and then let them govern themselves" thing.
as we listened i felt that what he was saying was true and so we continued doing what we were doing...even if sometimes to others we might have appeared too strict.
ben and i also felt it was important that our kids will feel safe in our home. so we don't allow physical bullying (funny though, we're having to teach leah this lesson more so than caleb) or saying mean and hurtful things to each other without a consequence.
we do have a lot of open communication with caleb (how can you not? the kid is a chatterbox), and let him contribute not only to making the rules with us, but also picking out consequences that he feels are appropriate for his actions.
so last year for one family home evening lesson we decided to sit down and create a list of our family rules. since caleb is young, we wanted to make sure that he understood what we meant when we said to "obey" or "be kind" or "respect our bodies." we let him explain what he thought it meant and then we would add in anything we thought he had missed.
my sister asked for a copy of them (she & her family were going to make their own rules) so i wrote them down here.
we decided to come up with 5 major rules. and here they are. again, the explanations for our rules are a combination of caleb's thoughts and ours:
#1 BE KIND
- be nice
- stop yelling
- don't say mean things
- when you're mad, go to your room quietly without yelling
- don't let others pick on our brother/sister/friends
- tell the truth, even if we're afraid of having a consequence
- do what we're asked to do when we're asked to do them
- don't hit, bite, kick or punch
- don't let others hit, bite, kick or punch you
- don't let others touch your private parts-or show them to others-
- respect each other's privacy-knock before you open a closed door
- eat healthy. exercise. get a good amount of rest.
- when asked by mom or dad, just say "okay" and then if you need to, come and talk about it after you have finished what you've been asked to do
- make sure our chores have been done first thing in the morning
- dad & mom are the boss, you can share your ideas, but we make the final decision
- when we say prayers, we say them reverently
- say you are sorry/forgive one another
- say and think good things to each other
- go to church every sunday (unless you are sick)
- Love One Another
we wrote these last year, and so far they are working out really well. i'm thinking that we need to come up with a new one about safety...and include talking to strangers and that sort of thing.
i have them hanging up on a wall, and hopefully someday will display them in a fancier way then just written with marker on a piece of paper.
we're not perfect parents and we don't have perfect kids. and i don't really expect any of us to be.
and what works for our family may not works for another.
i'd love to hear some ideas of what works for you...do you have any tips for what helps your family run smoother? (specifically when it comes to a strong-headed 13 month old? :)
***here's a link for a talk i liked about this subject.