I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was not only doled out at home, but at school, too. There were harsh realities dished out for disrespect, back talking and disobedience. And for those children brave enough to threaten the parents with calling the police or children’s services, the parents gladly dialed the phone and handed it to them!
Boy has times changed. Instead of the children being concerned or even afraid of the parents’ reaction to an infraction, the parents cower to the children. “Oh hell no” is my response. Yes, I am a parent. I am even a grandparent. My views on parenting have changed very little in my almost 28 years of being one.
Most will find that amazing considering I have been a parent since I was 15 years old. Yes, you read that correctly. Fifteen! Am I proud of that factoid? Absolutely not and let me assure you – in no way was I the ‘stereotypical’ teen parent most people have a prejudice against. What did I know as a child myself about parenting? The most definite answer I can give you is this: I knew what I would NOT be or do as a parent. Am I proud of the type of mother I was and still am as well as the way my four children have matured into the adults they are today? You can count on it. I guarantee when I get around to writing my autobiography, it will be a best seller. I could not for the life of me make up the stories of my life. Seriously.
My daughters are 27, 24, and 20 years old, respectively. They are beautiful, smart, educated and very funny. I have told them since they were old enough to understand to not be dependent on ANY man. That is not a male bashing issue, it is truth. I wanted them to grow into educated and confident young women able to take care of themselves so they would not make my mistake entering into a long term marriage (20+ years) that was unhealthy and leaving me scared that I couldn’t leave (that certainly changed more than a few years ago!) and survive with my children. They have done what I did not and I am very proud of their accomplishments.
My son is 18 years old and has started his freshman year of college with a bang! Less than a week after moving into his dorm room and attending his first college classes he became a very proud member of our U.S. Armed Forces. With his college commitments including ROTC, his military obligations, and his fraternity he is one very busy young man. I am a firm believer the values and discipline instilled in him as a young child is what is helping him today to be the successful man he is becoming.
Our children today need structure. They need guidance. They need encouragement. They need discipline. They need nurturing and love. You cannot be your child’s friend. That will come when they have children of their own (or greatly mature) and finally admit that their parents were not idiots. Until then, be prepared to still be an idiot.
My husband and I are re-entering the full time parent mode with the recent change in custody of his 14-year old son. It is a challenge. There are changes. Some not too comfortable for any of us. We are establishing boundaries and structure that has not been there before. Education is a priority in our home. It’s not a “maybe I’ll do it” but a “you WILL do it.” And with no excuses. If there is extra help needed, we are there. If study habits need to be established for the first time, we are there. If there are accountability issues that need to be addressed, we are there. Are we popular right now? Probably not. Will we win the parent/step-parent of the year award? That would be a negative. Yes, we are strict, but we are not abusive. Yes, we expect you to do the best that you can. That’s not unreasonable. We are above all else – fair. The expectations have been discussed and the consequences of not meeting those expectations explained. Communication is a huge part of our family life – a firm foundation cannot be built without it. With communication comes respect, trust and accountability to name just a few. That is not to say our communication has never broken down or suffered a misunderstanding. We are not perfect after all.
While I understand there are many challenges to parenting today – divorced parents, bonus(step)parents, single parents, deployments, living apart due to circumstances beyond your control – there still needs to be consistency for your children and that comes from structure, discipline, a great big heap of love and encouragement. No, I am not perfect and poised like June Cleaver, but there is no doubt I love my children fiercely and am incredibly proud of them. This is one mama bear you do not want to provoke.
You will be better off letting your children fall and scrape their knees while they are under your care and control versus the world’s. Don’t be afraid to be tough. And as my drill sergeant husband says, “Don’t make me put the (drill sergeant) hat on!”
*Picture at the top is of me and my oldest daughter, Ryann Lee then and now.