Responsible Parenting

According to the Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, you can become an expert after 10,000 hours of practice. Based on this, I should be an expert at parenting. I do not feel like an expert. Each week and often every day brings me a new situation that causes me to pause and wonder if I am doing the right thing and what the best choice is. Often the decision is easy and instinctive, but somethings require more thought than others.

My oldest son turns ten this year and during my pregnancy with him, I began reading books about parenting and all the things associated with parenting. I still read many books and articles about parenting because I want to be the best parent I can. Some of the latest articles I have read have to do with how today’s parents are ruining their children because they have taken “helicopter parent” to the extreme. They do everything for their children and don’t give them a chance to become independent.

Last night a friend told us a story about a friend of hers who was trying to hire a recent college graduate for a job. On the day of the job interview, the mother of the applicant called to say that her daughter was not feeling well and would not be able to attend the interview. Since her daughter couldn’t attend, the mother would be happy to go to the interview and tell all about her daughter and why she should be hired. This friend of my friend agreed to let the mother do the interview because she was curious about what would happen. The mother arrived for her daughter’s interview dressed in a business suit with her daughter’s resume and proceeded to tell why her responsible daughter should be hired. Needless to say the daughter was no offered a job, but the mother was because she seemed professional and responsible unlike her child. I thought this was ridiculous but it really was a true story. This is extreme but it illustrates just how much some people hover and fail to teach their children responsibility.

My main job as a parent apart from loving and caring for my children is to teach them to become independent productive members of society. This means I don’t do their homework or projects (shocking), I don’t explain to their teachers why they didn’t get their homework done unless it truly was my fault (rare) and I don’t tell their coaches why they can’t practice because they don’t feel like it.  Just yesterday two of my boys did not feel like practicing for swimming because they have been at Cub Scout camp all week and were tired. One of them didn’t practice because he truly has been working hard swimming at practice and his meet the night before while the other one did practice because he has been taking it easy due to an ear infection. They had to talk to the coach about this because they are the ones on the team.

My kids are spoiled and have many luxuries that I did not have as a child, but they also have chores around the house. They help with meals, cleaning, taking out trash, doing laundry and they take care of their pets. They have consequences for their actions. If they hit someone or say something mean or offensive they will apologize and have a consequence. They get grounded, lose privileges and have time outs even at the age of almost 10 and it started before they could walk. This growing up is a journey and they need to learn that they are not entitled to walk all over others along the way. The worst offenses in our family are lying or trying to get something from one parent when the other parent has already said no. My husband and I may not always agree, but we parent as a team and if he says no, the same goes for me. Children will always try to divide and conquer and that doesn’t work for us.

I see many children who get their way every time they throw a tantrum just because it is easier for the parents. If someone said something mean to them it might be ok to hit someone else. I think that is wrong. We all make mistakes along the way, but it is important to take responsibility. I see a culture of permissiveness and entitlement and I think it is going to end badly. What is going to happen when these children realize they really can’t have whatever they want?

Another thing that we try to instill in our children is personal responsibility. That includes being on time. As a child, we were always late for every family gathering and it became a joke that we were on “Forsythe time”. I probably overcompensate for that by being early and it really does stress me out to be late for something. If I am going to be late, I make a habit of calling to let the person know because I value their time as much as my own. People have better things to do than sit and twiddle their thumbs waiting for others. I realize that things happen and there are isolated incidents, but when it is a habit, it is rude and disrespectful. It seems to say that your time is more important than others.

Parenting and responsibility have been on my mind a great deal lately as I struggle with making decisions that I believe are in the best interest of my children and our family. My children are not always happy with my choices but they would also eat candy all day long if I let them.

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