Slave To The Children

ParentingAnyone of us who has children has lived through this (or a similar enough) scene: our children are sitting on the sofa (your favorite sofa …. the comfortable one….the one you used to be able to relax on….) completely engrossed in their tablets or busy with their consoles or texting on their cell phones. You are busy with other “mom/dad” stuff – cleaning, cooking, vacuuming etc. At some point you head for the kitchen to make a coffee and you address your kids:

” I am heading for the kitchen. Do you guys want anything?” First of all: you don’t get an answer. Thats hardly surprising. Your precious little ones either wear headphones with the volume turned up so high they don’t hear you; or they simply ignore you, so completely into what they are doing that listening to their parents is really the last thing on their minds. The second thing that may happen is that they DO hear you and glance at you quickly, just to directly focus their attention back on their electronic device. Feel disrespected yet? Wait for door number three: they DO hear you, they DO look at you and their answer is – annoyed. Annoyed, that you DARE disturb them. Annoyance might just be in their tone of (nooooo-oooohhhh, not now! Mom! ), or worse, they may even tell you to not disturb them. Yep, my fellow parents, thats pretty much the epitome of disrespect and yet we have all seen it happening in our homes, haven’t we? So, now what? Do you get upset? Do you just ignore them as they ignore you? Do you take away their electronic priviledges and read them the Revised Miranda? 😉 Are you a slave to the children – or not?

 

Say you ignore them for the time being. You make a coffee, come back – you actually have to shove their little butts so you have some small space to sit on the couch as well –  and just as you take your first sip of coffee and open the daily paper you hear an almost disembodied voice saying: “I’m hungry. I want a sandwich. And a coke”.

Look, people, this could be funny, actually, if it didn’t happen in real life but on your favorite comedy show. However, this is YOUR living room. Your kid doesn’t even glance at you when he or she orders his or her snack. And you know what? They actually EXPECT you to jump up, drop everything you were busy with, run into the kitchen and serve them. I would even go so far as to say that they’d actually be really surprised if not shocked if this scene played out any other way.

So.

What the hell has gone wrong here?

You are at a loss. I will admit, occassionally, I have been, too. I try to think back to the time I was a kid and if I ever – ever – ever dared to behave in such a way toward any elder, parents or grandparents or teacher or whatever. OMG. No. I wouldn’t. Why? Did I fear the punishment which in our day and age more often than not wasn’t just being send to our rooms? Did I really respect my parents more? Did they do a better job as parents, brought me up better? Phew. Thats a tough one to consider!

I think we are ok parents; we have taught our kids right from wrong and in any social setting they can be perfectly polite little angels. So what the hell is going on that makes them think that this behavior toward their parents is anywhere in the vicinity of acceptable? Why have we become our kids’ slaves??? Lets take a look!

Pecking Order Gone Wrong

Let me be clear on one thing from the get-go: the fact that things are the way they are and your kids think its ok to behave this way isn’t their fault. Its ours as parents, and ours alone. We set ourselves up to be their servants, their slaves. We live in a society where, at least in the civilized western world, the only “right” way to live is if your kids come first. If you dare say or act otherwise, you’re likely to get stoned by your peers. So yeah, it is true : we do everything for our children. We put them first. Before ourselves. Before our spouses. Before our relationships. Our days are devoted to making their lives easier and happier. And if our child has special needs or we are separated we feel even more that we should do things for them ‘after all the difficulties they have been through’. Guilt plays its part – and we let it.

And look – this is exactly how your children perceive you: as their servant. As the ones that will do anything for them, anytime, anywhere. I would like for you to be careful not to confuse this blind slavery with providing a loving and safe family home – for one has precious little to do with the other. Doing EVERYTHING for them doesn’t make you a good parent. If anything it makes you give them a pretty bad example that its perfectly okay to jump at someone else’s every beck and call. Just think for a second, will you? If you had a servant (and remember, thats how your kids perceive you!), would you expect your servant to suddenly start giving you instructions and telling you what to do? If they did, you would soon become annoyed and wonder what had got into them. You may challenge them or just ignore them until everything settles back down. Well that is what our children think when we start telling them what to do. There is a clear expectation that we will clear up, clean, cook, shop, play with them, hang with them, entertain them and give them lifts to wherever they want to go. All of a sudden – in their eyes – and without actual “motive”  we start giving them orders. They may think something along the lines of: what the f***?! They are bemused and slightly concerned that we do not seem to understand the pecking order. They may do a bit of clearing up to ‘keep the peace’ and then things settle down again –and we carry on doing what we have always done, being the same old slaves. Remember: this is the habits that we have allowed them to get into! So WE are the only ones who can actually change and put a stop to those habits. After all, part of our role as parents is to help our children become pleasant people to live with, and more responsible adults who can take care of themselves. Ask yourselves honestly that if you keep on letting the above happen – is this really what you are doing???

I really think that as parents of today’s society we need a wake-up call. We need to stop being scared of the peer pressure – just because every other parent in our circle of friends and acquaintances is OK with being their childrens’ slave doesn’t mean we need to follow suit. We need to beome resistant to our kids’ guilt-tripping – they are in essence selfish little humans. If something works in their favor, they will just keep on doing it. Of course they will, after all, they are only human! I would like for all of you parents out there to take a step back and think honestly about all the things that you do for your kids that they have long since been able to do for themselves…. whether thats because deep in our hearts we don’t want them to grow up so fast or because it makes us feel good to be needed, whether thats because we feel guilty or because we simply haven’t noticed the nasty habits: I don’t care what the reason is! And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter either. What matters is that you fall into the trap EVERY DAY. So. Honest look.

  • is your kid able to grab something to drink or a snack?
  • is your kid able to clean up after her/himself?
  • is your kid able to brush his / her teeth and clean their bodies under the shower or in the bath?
  • is your kid able to be given a responsible household chore like taking out the trash or cleaning up the dishes after dinner?
  • is your kid able to take on shared responsibility for the pets?
  • is your kid able to help with other household chores like folding the laundry or making the beds?

These are just some questions that I hope you have been able to answer honestly. Now – lets take a look at AGE APPROPRIATE CHORES as defined by the American Association for Pediatrics and Pediatric Psychology, shall we?

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away
  • Fill pet’s food dish
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Bring in mail or newspaper
  • Clear table
  • Pull weeds, if you have a garden
  • Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Water flowers
  • Unload utensils from dishwasher
  • Wash plastic dishes at sink
  • Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear table
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Weed and rake leaves
  • Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load dishwasher
  • Put away groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Help make dinner
  • Make own snacks
  • Wash table after meals
  • Put away own laundry
  • Sew buttons
  • Make own breakfast
  • Peel vegetables
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast
  • Mop floor
  • Take pet for a walk

Chores for children ages 10 and older.

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wash windows
  • Wash car
  • Cook simple meal with supervision
  • Iron clothes
  • Do laundry
  • Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Change their bed sheets

Funny, isn’t it, how your children are much more capable than you may have thought? It may also surprise you that giving your children chores isn’t a punishment and in no way does it mean that you don’t care for them properly. Quite the contrary. Giving your children chores is a great way to teach them responsibility, to make them an integral part of a small “society” – your family –  in which everyone has their role to play and feel important and worthy for doing so. Your children need to grow –  and preferably into something other than little tyrants ;-). Let them!

Assigning Chores – How To Do It Right

Remember – we all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution to “society”, even the kids. Chores are a great way of giving them that feeling. In theory, that sounds really great. But how do you get your children to participate? Here are a few things that you should be keeping in mind to make the process an easier one for everyone:

 

  • Kids aren’t trained monkeys or little soldiers; no one is perfect – and the more relaxed you are about how they do their chores (as long as you know they are not lazily sloppy) the better they will do them. And whatever you do – NEVER jump in and do it for them just because the result isn’t as perfect as you may like. You would hurt and undermine them – so don’t.
  • Don’t make your kid younger than he / she is: they are more capable than you think, see above.  Kids can do a lot of chores at an early stage. We hold back too long because we think they ought to be ready first. But that puts the cart before the horse. Ever heard of “learning by doing”? Well, thats a case of that right here!
  • Compliment them. Tell them you are proud of them. Let them know what they do is appreciated and that they are doing a great job! That way you link the chore to a positive emotion.
  • Be consistent. If  your kids aren’t expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting chores off in the hope that someone else will do them for them.

So. The bad news is that we are all in the process of raising little tyrants. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Start making your children happier and more content by trusting them to shoulder their “weight”. You, as a family, will eventually be happier and more content for it! And if they really annoy you? 😉 Maybe you should try this approach:

 

I would love to hear how you approach this part of bringing your children up! Does the above sound familiar? Or are your kids completely different? Please share your experiences 🙂

Thanks for reading, as always

Deb

 

Am I A Good Parent

Am I a good parent? Are you a good parent? What is a good parent? How do you classify? And why the hell does nobody ever ask: do I have “good” children? 🙂 Today, let’s talk about parenthood and it’s many myths.

I Love My Children BUT …

Have you ever uttered that sentence? And finished it with anything random like: I love my children – but they drive me up the wall sometimes. I love my children – but sometimes I just want to hide from them. I love my children – but if I hear the word “mom” or “dad” just ONE MORE TIME in the following 5 minutes I will blow a fuse! 😉 Sounds familiar? I just bet it does. Does that make you, me, or any of us a bad parent? In a world designed around and about our kids I believe and promote quite the opposite: no, our children aren’t perfect. Yes, we should look at them honestly and critically. They are neither the rosy cheeked cherubs we like to portray in their first baby pictures we send to family and friends (filled with pride and naively thinking looking at our children will always fill us with a sense of peace and deep love (LOL)), nor are they miniature sized  PTT’s  – parent targeting terrorists, who find a myriad of ways to terrorize us and blow up even the best thought out plans. Let’s face it people – our children are a bit of both of that, and then some.

angel and devil

As parents we go through such opposing emotions that the up’s and down’s involved in that are likely to drive us all a little bit insane. If you are a parent, you will know exactly what I am talking about. If you are planning a family …. kudos! You are in for a wild ride 😉pregnant belly

What Is A Parent?

A parent, by dictionary definition, is “a father or mother; one who begets or one who gives birth to or nurtures and raises a child; a relative who plays the role of guardian”

parenting

That doesn’t sound too complicated, does it? Hmmmm. I personally believe that the “simple” process of having children – pregnancy, giving birth – really isn’t what its all about;  in other words: putting children into this world doesn’t make us parents. It makes us biological creators, willingly or unwillingly, by choice or not, in a setting of planned parenthood or even as a sperm donor. The wild ride of becomming a parent may start once you learn of pregnancy, but in all honesty, it really begins to take form the moment there is a living, breathing tiny human who is completely and fully dependant on you in all aspects of it’s being. A lot of women may argue that parenthood means something different for them because of the hormonal desasters they (have to ) go through during and after pregnancy. Again, I disagree. The hormonal clusterfuck a woman is biologically exposed to during these times has a lot of purpose and can be explained when looking at it from an evolutionary standpoint. Pregnancy changes hormones and chemical receptors in the brain. However, we also know that neural changes do occur in the maternal behaviour of humans and certain non-human primates that enable mother–child bonding to occur outside the context of pregnancy and parturition and in the absence of lactation (breast feading). Basically that means that the hormones of pregnancy, parturition and lactation are not necessary for maternal or alloparental care – pregnancy doesn’t make a woman a mother / parent!

Why do women that have given birth tend to somehow feel superior to non-biological moms or dads in general? It’s all got to do with the endogenous opioid system.

Indeed, it has been suggested that the activation of this system at parturition and during suckling promotes the positive effect arising from maternal behavior and thus should support the process of bonding. During the early post-partum period, shortly after giving birth, a mother’s social interactions are almost exclusively with her infant, she is protective and caring toward her child; chemically the opiate receptors in the mother are blocked due to her hormonal state. If those young mothers are given medication to unblock those receptors, the protective and care responses are reduced. In other words: a mother’s possessive preoccupation with her infant child is nothing more than certain chemicals in her bloodstream causing that reaction. Its not an instinct or anything happening on an emotional or transcendental, even magical level. Its basic biology and could be artificially reproduced in ANYONE, regardless of gender or biological genetic link to the child. Biology gets more crafty even. The action of the endogenous opioid system after giving birth has influence on a part of the brain where our “reward system” is localized. We bond, it makes us feel good. Simple as that. So we bond more to make us feel better and eventually many of us fall into the trap of needing that bond in order to feel good and getting overwhelmed by the constant care of our children. Mothers – biological ones at that – experience preoccupations and rituals in the context of maternal care, and even before the birth of their baby they are obsessive with cleaning and creating a safe environment. After birth, safety is the major concern and mothers frequently check on their baby even at times when they know the baby is fine. Primates do the same, girls. What we are prone to do any monkey does – because their hormones dictate it, just as they do with us. Again, no magic involved. It is noteworthy that we see similar hormonal/chemical activity in psychopathological diseases such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance abuse as well as mild forms of addictive behaviour (gambling, video games, internet use, and consumption of caffeine and chocolate).

In essence: chemistry doesn’t make a parent a parent. Pregnancy or giving birth doesn’t make a parent a parent. I believe we will all come up with different definitions. I personally believe it is in many small things (like not being disgusted to whipe your own kids’ snotnose but in other kids it makes you cringe) and a few major ones. Lets look at the common conceptions/misconeceptions, shall we?

Good Parent / Bad Parent

  • safety. Thats non-negotiable. Your children should always, always, always feel that they are safe with you and that you are their safe haven.
  • provide home, nutrition, care – sure. Thats part of the “job description” also non-negotiable
  • now, the bummer: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ……..

Unconditional Love

The basic idea behind unconditional love seems quite reasonable. You should love your children just for who they are, regardless of what they do. Children shouldn’t have to worry whether their actions will cause you to love them less. They should be able to count on your love no matter what.

unconditional parental love

But unconditional love is a rather new phenomenon. As recently as the 1950s, conditional love was the dominant parenting approach. It was a way to maintain control, foster conformity, and instill certain values and beliefs held by parents and society at large. Then the Sixties came along and with them a sort anti-reaction to the rigidity of the post-World-War-II era. People decided to raise their children with unconditional love. Within a short time, America went from “Love if you obey and behave” to “Love without limits.” And that, boys and girls, backfired big time. By taking away conditional love, parents lost their ability to influence their children. Parents gave their children carte blanche in the misguided belief that this freedom would build their self-esteem, foster maturity and independence, and allow them to become successful and happy people. The truth however was that what it actually did was hurt self-esteem, encourage immaturity, and ill prepare children for life in the adult world. What is the answer then, what is the solution, how do we become better parents who love their children not too much and not too little? Lets have an honest look at reality. Love, my dear fellow parents, is really the ultimate form of reward. Our children have to learn – and it is our job to teach them – that their actions have consequences. What more powerful inducement to good action is there for your child than the threat of losing your love? I know I know. A lot of you will almost recoil from that notion. But listen: we all do that EVERY DAY we just don’t realize it…..

I think we should give up on our belief that unconditional love exists. Most things in life have strings attached and love is no different. In reality, you constantly use love to reward or punish your children’s behavior. When you show disapproval toward your children, you are actually showing them that your love can be momentarily withheld, that your love is, in fact, conditional. For example, you probably do not act lovingly when your children are disobedient, selfish, whiny, or are cruel to their siblings. Are you truly withholding your love in these situations? Probably not; you still love them. But children are not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between “We disapprove of your behavior” and “Because of what you did, we are taking away our love.” Your child’s perception is that love has been temporarily suspended. To your child, it feels like, “I did something wrong and my parents don’t love me now.” Why do you think parenting experts tell you that, after you have given your children a time-out, you must tell them how much you love them? So don’t recoil. Instead, learn how to do it right. There are many books out there for you to read if you are interested – check this out: Parenthood

How To Do It Right

After the reversal of the Sixties and Seventies many children were lazy, disinterested, and out of control. These children weren’t good people and they weren’t successful or happy. Clearly, a change needed to be made and many did; the wrong one. Again 🙁  Perhaps because of the economic uncertainty in recent decades, parents decided to direct their conditional love toward their children’s achievement activities, believing that this approach would motivate their children to work hard, become successful, and overcome the difficult economic times. Parents began to make their love conditional on how their children performed in school. If Johnny got an A, his parents heaped love, attention, and gifts on him. When he received a D, they withdrew their love by expressing disappointment, hurt, embarrasment or anger. As a result, children’s self-esteem became overly connected to their achievement efforts. This conditional love caused achievement to become threatening to children because success and failure was too intimately linked with whether their parents would love them.

At the same time, parents maintained their unconditional love for their children’s behavior. Parents gave their children unfettered freedom, few responsibilities, didn’t hold them accountable for their actions, provided no consequences, and continued to love them not matter how they behaved – as long as they did well in school, it didn’t matter if the children were spoiled brats!

WE as parents must reverse our use of unconditional and conditional love. You need to give your children unconditional love for their achievements so that they will be free from the fear that you will not love them if they fail to meet your expectations. This unconditional love will liberate your children from the specter of lost love and encourage them to give their best effort and achieve the highest level of which they are capable.

At the same time, you can encourage your children’s achievement efforts by using conditional love for the values and attributes that will help them succeed, for example, in school, sports, and the performing arts. When you use conditional love to instill essential qualities, such as hard work, discipline, patience, persistence, and perseverance, you then give them the tools to achieve their goals.

 

 

 

 

Similarly, you should make your love conditional on whether your children behave like decent human beings, namely, they act on healthy values such as honesty, kindness, respect, and responsibility. If your children behave poorly, they know that you will withdraw your love-at least temporarily. If they behave well, they know that you will give your love. In time, your children will learn to internalize this healthy conditional love and it will guide them in acting in ethical ways.

Love, be a guide, a good example, a pillar of safety and strength …. but is that what our children would experience as us being “good parents” ?

I asked my daughter today what makes or doesn’t make us good mothers. These were her somewhat surprising answers:

  • to do a lot of really nice things with them
  • to allow them a lot of “electricity” – meaning tablets, television, smart phones etc
  • to allow them to have pets, preferably many
  • to laugh a lot with your children and make jokes with them
  • to cook a lot of tasty stuff, preferably with your kids helping you
  • to give them pocket money
  • to go shopping with your daughter
  • give them the space they need (she meant their own rooms)
  • don’t be too strict with your children
  • sit down with your daughter and together with her think of nice stories to tell to other children
  • play nice games with each other
  • she claimed that other stuff would be more important to our son or boys in general 😉 :  give them great weapons (toys), let them climb trees, let them fight with other boys because they really love that. And finally if your kid has pain you should take care of him/her straight away instead of just ignoring him/her or tell him/her to man up!

She did assure me that we provide all of that so I guess we’re doing an OK job 🙂

Look, to conclude this long post I can give you one piece of advice: look to your kids for the answer to the question whether you are a good parent or not. Our kids are not the center of my universe. I don’t put their needs before ours and neither do we put them before our relationship as a couple because we strongly believe that we can be better parents if we are happy, content people who get to have adult time, who get to have ME time, who get to have uniterrupted US time as a couple. We love our kids. I would go to any lengths to protect them and keep them safe and happy. I spoil them way too much and I give in way too often 😉 but I also correct them, keep them in check and occassionally yell at them when they go past every single limit. I clean their butts if they don’t manage themselves, no probs; and occassionally they are allowed in the shower with me or the bath; but I don’t want them using my towel or my toiletries, and rooms like our bedroom or dressing room or OFF LIMITS to them (except for the Weekend Mornings cuddling ritual). They don’t ever sleep in our bed. I love them but I am and will always be an individual with individual needs that I am neither willing nor able to give up for my kids.  Our children know without a single inkling of a doubt that they are loved and protected. And yeah, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world if they hug me and tell me that they love me. I didn’t have to sacrifice myself for that. So my advice is: love them but more than that, love yourself  and your partner. Love being a parent and devote yourself to it but never at the cost of yourself or your marriage. And never ever feel guilty about that!  You will be “better” parents for it!

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. Happy parenting and thanks for reading!