MOM, I WISH I WAS A PARENT…
…exclaims my oldest son. “Parents get to do everything they want.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard that phrase. Okay…now that you’re standing there with BOTH of your hands raised, you totally get my drift. When we ask our boys to participate in, um, life, we often get a disgruntled retort about how unfair their lives are and an auditory phrase that sounds something like:
“I can’t wait to be a grown up!”
Well, I CAN wait and I’d prefer to enjoy my boys’ childhood rather than watch them race into adulthood. So when I hear them complain, I explain that being an adult isn’t about getting to do what you want. Being an adult it about looking into the future and making choices that will provide the best possible outcome.
I recently had this conversation with my oldest son.
He was upset because he felt that some kids ganged up on him at the park and he wanted to retaliate. I get it. When we feel belittled or diminished by others, it’s humiliating. When we feel humiliated, we want to lash out in a poor attempt to diminish our anguish.
Retaliation is certainly a strategy, it’s just not a very effective strategy.
So my son and I talked about this.
As an adult, I can see the future effects of retaliation and the future effect is even worse.
Retaliation = short term emotional fix, but it also means living with the guilt of hurting others and also potentially losing friends.
Kids cannot always see that. And it’s our job as parents to help them understand. As my son and I discussed this, I told him this is what it means to be an adult. He can certainly choose to retaliate, but in the long term, he would feel even greater pain for both the hurt he will cause others and the loss of friendships. We then talked about alternate strategies. Like walking away when kids are hurtful. Choosing new friends. Telling the kids that they are hurting his feelings or asking an adult to help mediate. We talked about each of those strategies and what the long term effects might be to really drive home the freedom future-driven actions give us.
He liked what I had to say. Mostly because I didn’t tell him what to do. I helped him navigate a decision that would work best for him and his long-term needs. My son still got to choose which strategy he wanted and gave him full latitude to choose retaliation, if indeed he still wanted to.
My goal as a parent isn’t to train my sons to do as I say. My duty as a parent is to help my sons to learn how to make the most effective decisions possible for their life. Children learn how to become effective decision makers by…well, by making their own decisions.
This means, we also have to stand by and allow our children to make mistakes.
As a parent, that’s hard to do. Yet, it’s critical if our children are to grow into confident, secure, and empathetic adults.
ASPARAGUS IS STUPID…
“Mom, why do I have to eat my asparagus? Why can’t we just eat what we like?”
Ever hear this? I hear it A LOT. Our family eats really clean and that means my boys spend a lot of time jonesing for the junk food snacks they see other kids eat at the park.
Sorry boys. Junk food doesn’t fly in our family.
Yet, rather than just tell my kids “No!” I tell them why.
My job as their parent is to look into the future and prepare my sons for a life of good health. If they grow up on junk food, it’s going to be really hard for them to change their habits as an adult. And if they grow up on junk food, I’m not helping them develop the cells they need for long-term health and longevity.
So instead, I ask my kids to join me in eating healthy (with an occasional sweet splurge) knowing that by eating healthy we are creating the best chance possible to ward off disease, ill health, and poor energy both now and down the road.
My boys aren’t especially fond of this particular long-term strategy, but they at least understand it.
NO, NOT THE GROCERY STORE!
My boys constantly complain about going to the grocery store. I don’t blame them. I hate grocery shopping, too. Yet, here is another great example of the glamorous life of parents. When my boys start to squirm about the grocery trip, we always give them an option to help us choose when, and what time, we go. However, we are quick to point out that bare pantry shelves and a gleaming empty fridge probably isn’t a good thing for long. We empathize with their frustration, but help them see another reality that as adults we understand the long-term effect of not doing the shopping
No shopping=short term contentment. Possibly an extra 15 minutes playing Minecraft 🙂
Shopping = yummy snacks that ward off will power drain, food to give us energy, lack of hungry stomachs, and possibility for long-term survival.
After looking at the various strategies before us, the boys start to realize that going to the grocery store is not some amazing free-for-all act of freedom of choice by two crazy parents. It’s a strategy for maintaining willpower, energy, and ultimately survival; and a strategy that is certainly a lot easier than hunting for or growing our own food! Sheesh!
Is All of THis Chit Chat Really Worth It
Does all of this explaining and philosophizing help our boys complain less and contribute more? Yes! While not fool-proof (they are kids after all), for the most part both our boys are pretty helpful around the house and willingly participate when asked. When faced with difficult decisions, it really helps them to visualize the future rather than simply have mom and dad tell them what they should do.
As a homeschool family, our focus has always been on growing our values, not just educational facts and figures. By taking the time to help our boys understand that our role as parents is to care for their future-selves, as well as the present, and by giving our boys the gift of making their own choices and learn from those mistakes – we are not only growing kids who can act with wisdom and confidence, but also making our present-day journey a whole lot more enjoyable and connected as a family.
How do you help your children grow their wisdom? Leave a comment below so we can all learn from each other!
PS: The image for this article is me hanging out at my private pool surfing the web doing whatever I want…NOT!