Louisa Claire

Opinion

The Modern Parent: A Question Of Obedience

There’s a recurring theme that I’ve encountered in my (still limited number of) parenting days; its the idea that anything that imposes our will as parents onto our children ought to be banished. It says that reward charts are bad because they stop a child from being self motivated, that we mustn’t discipline our children because then they won’t feel loved; we must let our children develop their own sense of themselves and forge their own paths.

Does this backlash about obedience stem from our own days of childhood where we were expected to “just do it”, “because I said so”? Is it that we vowed never to be like that when we were parents and so, now we strive to parent our children differently, aiming to develop an internal monologue that guides them?

And yet, the rate of body image disorders and self harm rise every day. Children are lost and hurting…and it gets worse almost by the minute. I can’t help but feel that the more parents have lost the sense that they are the authority, the guiding light – loving and firm – in their children’s lives, that children have lost a sense of security that even impinges on their sense of being loved and worthy.

It’s not that I don’t desire my children to be self-motivated people, it is that I believe that being a disciplined person is a good thing and something being lost in modern parenting.

The other day I came across an article in The Telegraph about Amy Chua, author of the infamous book Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother. I’ve read the hype surrounding the book, but not the book itself and so I was more than a little intrigued when the author said this

No wonder Tiger Mother gets lost in translation. It uses a vocabulary of self-discipline, striving and excellence that would have been utterly familiar to the wartime generation, but which, in two generations, has become politically incorrect.

What I’m wondering as I parent my ever vocal almost 4 is can obedience go hand in hand with being a person who can think for themselves?

I sure hope so (and really do think so) because I do expect my children to be obedient.

I believe that boundaries are good for children and that obeying their parents is a good discipline that will benefit them later in life.

Some people may interpret this to mean blind obedience, that I am going to raise children who a) can’t think for themselves or b) will rebel drastically in their teen years. I don’t think that’s it.

What does obedience look like (for me)? It means respecting me as the parent and as a person of authority (yes, authority) in their lives. I welcome their questioning and challenges however I expect them to be made respectfully, and if the answer is still no then I expect that to be accepted. It means not arguing at everything I say, every time I say it. I suspect my definition will grow and change as my children grow and change.

Of course all of this is a work in progress, I certainly don’t expect my 3 year old not to argue – however when she speaks rudely to me, I correct her and teach her a better way to speak. She is mostly a very polite little girl, saying please, thank you and finally(!!) learning to say “excuse me!” I don’t see teaching her these things as a form of tyrannical parenting but as a gift to her. A little girl with lovely manners is going to go further than a little girl who pushes, shoves and yells all the time. More than that, these are values that we hold as important in our family and so we expect our children to learn.

Does it mean doing what I say just because I say it? Sometimes, yes it does. However, I also believe that obedience is not just one sided. If I ask and expect my children to obey me, then I am greatly responsible for the way I speak to them and what I ask of them.

We want our kids to be able to make good decisions that embrace who they are – but how can they do that if they’re don’t have a model of it. A model of making and sticking to decisions, of taking responsibility for their choices and following through? If we don’t stick to our guns as parents, how can we expect that our children will?

If there’s one thing I am certain of its that my kids will be presented with,nor even seek out experiences that I would prefer they don’t have. In those moments, I won’t be there to guide them so I need to make sure I’ve prepared them in other ways for that time – to keep them safe, both physically and emotionally.

This year I have resolved to cultivate discipline in my own life and when it comes to the kids I don’t need to worry so much about whether my kids know they are loved – we are effusive in our language and behaviour, we actively listen and positively discipline. What I need to be sure about is that we don’t let our kids down by not helping them to be the best version of themselves; by not teaching them to be respectful, to be considerate and empathetic, to not teach them that they need to give their best to life – all of it.

I believe that children are not mini adults, nor are they just trying to “push my buttons” when they behave badly. Often they just want to understand - so yes, if I say they need to do x then that what’s I expect them to do, but I am conscious to explain to them the “why”.  It’s my responsibility to treat them with respect, to really listen to them and to apologisie when I am wrong. They are their own people, with their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, passions and gift. A big part of my job is to see them for who they are and help them learn to deal with and navigate those things…with grace.

When I am met with strong resistance, in my better parenting moments, I will stop and think “is there something I could do or explain to help Bliss understand or accept my decision? Am I making the wrong decision here and do I need to change my mind and let her have her way?”  I don’t always get this right and I do expect that Bliss will accept my decision, even if it’s not the best one I could have made. She is only 3 after all.

This probably sounds really hardline, and it’s true that I do expect a lot of my children. I also shower them with love, heap on them words of affirmation and encouragement and fail every. single. day. at being the parent I dream of. Don’t we all? 

The language of obedience doesn’t sit well, it smacks of heavy handed parenting that stagnated children’s sense of self worth and zest for life. I hope you understand that the type of obedience I am talking about here is intended to help my children soar in life, to live fully the huge enthusiasm for life that they both have in a way that both brings them a sense of fulfilment and contributes to the community they are part of.

I believe learning obedience is a good thing, do you?

Just to prove I'm not an ogre - check out the fun Miss Bliss had painting herself and house purple!


 


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A Guest Post: Parenting Styles – What’s Yours?

This is a guest post from the ever lovely, insightful and gorgeous Nathalie Brown from Easy Peasy Kids. Nathalie is a Child Behaviour Consultant, Teen Mentor and Parent Counsellor. Having watched her son and my daughter play together, I can say that she walks the talk! He is a delightful, generous and fun little boy. I’m thrilled to have Nathalie on the blog today talking about parenting styles.



Being a parent changes your life in so many ways, that there really is no genuine preparation we can do. Yes, we can read all about it, there are certainly plenty of books, experts and opinions on parenting. But until you are living in the world of parenthood, nothing can really prepare you 100 % for the ups and the downs and the emotional ride we step on once we become a parent. As a parent we are also bombarded with what we should be doing, how we should be doing it and how often we should do it and what style of parenting is the best and right way.

These are just some parenting styles:

Parenting Styles
Authoritarian Parenting
Permissive Parenting
Tiger Parenting
Uninvolved Parenting
Authoritative Parenting
Equalitarian Parenting
Attachment Parenting
Helicopter Parenting
Positive Parenting

Through my behavioural studies, research and work on behaviour, I have to read what feels like every book out there on parenting and child behaviour, on this book shelf alone there are over fifty books on this topic, not counting the pile by my bed, the dining table and yes the bathroom too.

Yet, all these books and all my studying has taught me one thing and helped me to answer one question that I am asked daily by parents “What type of parenting style should I use?” My answer is simple “Each child is an individual, there is no fool proof parenting style”.

I am sure we all as parents know this, but we still search for the illusive answer that doesn’t really exist in just one simple style or technique.

Parenting is as individual as you are, and as unique as your child. There will be times when you feel that it is all too much, and this is totally normal. I can assure you that all other parents feel this too. Even the most perfect family imaginable feels this way at times. We all have moments which a great and not so great. We can have off days where everything is just too overwhelming, and so can our children.

Yes, you are the biggest influence in your child’s life, you are helping create who they will be as an adult. That alone is a lot of pressure! But, as long as there are more ups than downs, you are on the right path. Loving your child, with all your heart is what parenting is. Being prepared to bring up your child to the best of your ability that is what parenting is.

Parenting styles and child behaviour are interlinked in that again, there is no guaranteed formula that works. Parenting styles are not the latest fashion on the catwalk –‘this is the newest style of parenting.’ Parenting is a continuous learning curve, we learn from our children and they learn from us.

Parents with more than one child, will freely admit that what worked for one child, does not work for the other due to different personalities, likes and dislikes, it is human nature.

One child’s behaviour will thrive with a reward chart; another will not give two hoots about a reward chart.

One child will eat whatever is served in front of them; another will refuse everything bar milk, cheese and pasta.

This is not dependant on your parenting style, this is a child exerting their choice and of course playing games and causing havoc in their parents’ mind.

This is childhood; children want to be independent, they want to know what everything does, they want to touch everything, they want to see what happens if they pour paint on the cat, shove a button up their nose and laugh hilariously at the words poo and fart. This is what children do.

Parents are becoming inundated with styles and techniques, adding yet more pressures to parenting. Our parents and grandparents parented their way, whether it was the best way, I do not know the answer to that, but I know my parents did quite a good job, without any particular parenting style label or specific techniques.

As a child behaviour consultant, I am an avid observer of children and of course their parents. I have been observing and studying children for years, from their developmental stages through to their behaviour, which has enabled me to learn from them, how they see the world and why they behave like they do.

This is what I have learnt about parenting and children

• Parents, and I really mean Mothers, need to stop stressing, drop the guilt and anxiety; this has a detrimental affect on you and your child.

• Parents, don’t read too many parenting books; there is no parenting style that offers a guaranteed happy well – rounded child.

• Children need to understand what you are saying at a level they can comprehend. Do not expect young children to internalize everything you say.

• Children respond amazingly well to visual aids: books, posters, drawings, and puppets.

• Parenting does have so many fantastic moments; try not to miss them, worrying because you have not folded the laundry.

• Children rarely do anything with thought-out intention or malice.

• Parents are as unique as their children. There is no style involved in teaching life skills and values: respect, trust and honesty. Throw in kindness and manners and love them to bits.

• Do not let the bad days make you feel like it’s the end of the world – it’s day that will pass and your children love you, you are their world.

Parenting styles? I’m over them, to me parenting is being a parent. Doing the best you can, accepting the bad bits and moving on. Giving your child unconditional love with hugs and kisses and teaching them that life has lots of ups and some downs.

 

You can find Nathalie blogging over at Easy Peasy Kids and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Letting Your Kids Just Be

Ballet shoes

This week I took Bliss off to our first mummy-and-me dance class. We sat in on a class last year and Bliss loved it. She couldn’t wait to join in and I was so proud of her happy twirling as she looked on from the back of the class.

Given this, and her general love of music and movement I was really excited about getting started, sure she was going to love it!

I was wrong.

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Nudity Is Good For You.

I mentioned a week or so ago that I was at a local public pool and there was a boy about 10 years old in the women’s change room with his mother who was applying sunscreen to him. In other words, he wasn’t getting dressed, his mother wasn’t getting dressed – he was just standing there in the middle of the room looking around while his Mum lathered him up. I felt uncomfortable getting changed with him there – not because I am prude, but because it seemed to me that a boy of that age wouldn’t be able to help but stare. Looking at his mother, I found myself wondering what she was thinking. Was she so naive as to think he wouldn’t notice, or did she just think it was appropriate?

My sister agreed with me.

My husband did not.

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On drinking, at home, alone, with kids.

Right now I’m home alone, the Happy Husband having been caught up in the storm in the city. I’ve gotten the kiddos down, had a glass of wine and am making my dinner.

It’s occured to me that should an emergency take place right now I probably shouldn’t drive.

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Sleeping Like A Baby

For those seasoned mothers amongst you, this will be one of those posts in which it is abundantly obvious that I am very ‘green’. I am only 7.5 weeks into this journey and this is merely a record and reflection on parenting as I am finding it. No doubt I will look back on these posts in the months and perhaps years to come and laugh! Perhaps I will look back with embarrassment at my naivety and even for exposing myself in such a way. Again I ask for your grace and patience towards this new mum! :)

I love sleep. I used to be a 8-10hours a night girl who could happily have a nana nap in the afternoon and still sleep soundly at night. Ever heard or used the term “I slept like a baby”? This expression always conjured up such a relaxing, cosy scene in my mind and I was someone who had mastered this art as an adult! Since LP’s arrival I’ve learnt a lot about sleep, how to function on a limited amount of it but mostly how the whole experience can challenge you in unexpected ways.

In many senses when I watch my darling girl sleep it’s everything I’ve always thought of when using this phrase. What I didn’t realise was how interrupted and loud a baby’s sleep can be. The beautiful, docile moments are just that – moments. Most of the sleep is noisy and broken. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that everyone talks about news mums and the lack of sleep that comes with the job. It’s true; as far as I can tell pretty much all babies do wake in the night and need to be fed. I say ‘pretty much all’ because I am sure that there are the odd few who sleep through right from the beginning…not that I have ever met them, or their mothers! Babies wake to be fed and sometimes, if you are really lucky, they also need to be burped, changed and cuddled. Sometimes they don’t want to go back to sleep but decide it’s play time with mummy. I am sure this is not a new concept for you, it wasn’t for me.

What has taken my by surprise are two things. First, my inability to go to sleep if LP is awake. Second, the sheer frustration and exasperation I can feel towards a small, smiling, beautiful little baby. When I started thinking about this post I had forgotten about this second thing. We’d had two quite good nights where I had been able to settle her back to sleep when she awoke in the night (using our new miracle-parenting-tool, the dummy!) and she had not fully woken to be fed until 7am. Last night was a different story with her waking up at 4.30am and not wanting to go back to sleep. She fussed and whinged and while the dummy pacified her for short bursts I was basically up and about from that point on. Enter the frustration. It took me by surprise. I had to take a deep breath and have a bit of a giggle. I thought of mothers who are up with their babies every 2hours during the night and got some perspective.

This frustration can be magnified when she won’t go back to sleep after a feed. Seeing as I can’t get back to sleep until she is asleep I am always very keen for this to happen quickly! I’d like to say that my sleepless is a result of my desire to return a docile, quiet, sleeping baby back to our bedroom so that my dear husband can get a good nights rest and be bright-eyed for work. The Architect doesn’t sleep well at the best of times so I want to do all I can to help him get good sleep wherever and whenever possible (and as you will know from a previous post, he returns the favour on the weekends!) However, my efforts are not purely noble. The truth is, I worry about what might happen to her while I am asleep.

I’ve prayed long and hard for my dear little girl. When I found out about her I became abundantly aware of the fact that she wasn’t mine. I had done nothing to earn her or deserve her, she was a gift for The Architect and I. She has been entrusted to us, but she belongs to the Lord. When I was pregnant there was nothing I could do to protect her and so I had to trust in God’s will for her and His protection of her. Since she has been born there are things that I can and should do to protect her and help her grow. I do these things willingly and lovingly but I am not so sure that my constant need to check that she is still breathing fits into this category! I often spend the early hours of the morning oscillating between wanting her to fall into a deep, quiet sleep and wanting her to make noises so that I know she is OK. Letting God look after her in that larger sense is harder now that she is here. Somehow I think I will be able to prevent a disaster that I can’t predict. This is a challenge I didn’t see coming.

My beautiful girl is asleep next to me as I write this. She is the picture of a sleeping baby. I will pray for her tonight as I do every night. I will ask God to watch over her and I will do my job as her mother when she wakes up – feeding her, cuddling her, settling her and praying that she sleeps well. Being a mum is everything I expected and so much more but there’s no manual for the emotion! I thank God that…well, that He is there.


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