Parents: What if I’m right? What does that mean for you?

If you’re happy with how your children behave, this is not the post for you.

As I read other blogs and listen to parents discuss how they raise their children, there is one common thread – everyone needs to choose how to bring up their children as they wish. That there is no one way to raise great kids.

But what if this isn’t right? What if we’re just too overwhelmed by our day to day existence to face reality and make the changes in our lives that need to be made?

Perhaps when the angry and unhappy children are our own, it’s too hard to face what we should be facing…and anyway we want to do things our way…we have no support…it’s just tooooooo hard.

When things were not right with our gorgeous Mr Hare, I had continuous comments that things were OK – his behaviour was normal – there was nothing to worry about – we were good people and he would be OK.

ALL those comments were wrong. He was in distress. And he was trying to tell us that through his behaviour.

He wouldn’t have turned out OK if we hadn’t made the dramatic changes we made. WE had to say NO to society and face the reality that things weren’t great for him. We had done things wrong. And we went through living hell to re-parent him.

Thank goodness we did.

The greatest asset we all have, and probably our greatest downfall – is that human brains are so adaptable. Children will do OK in most parenting situations. They will survive the worst of parenting situations.

But how many modern western children are THRIVING? Really thriving? Can you put your hand on your heart and say yours are?

One of the key things (along with copious research) we did was work backwards – we found teens and children who were mostly calm, self-assured, mature – fabulous, and we asked their  parents questions. Lots of questions. And we were willing to try things that made us uncomfortable and were different to what other people were doing. For six and a half years.

Amongst all of the answers the themes were consistent and never varied, although the day to day workings of the house were different from family to family.

EXCESSIVE affection.

EXCESSIVE focus on understanding what the child was trying to communicate, and responding.

EXCESSIVE attention to long night time sleeps and eating food that looks like food.

EXCESSIVE freedom to explore – loads of time outdoors amongst trees and on grass.

EXCESSIVE playtime, particularly non-electronic playtime. Especially imaginary and creative play. With no adult intervention or ‘teaching’.

EXCESSIVE expectations of manners and pleasant behaviour, which were firmly reinforced. (In a variety of ways, and yes some were spankers.) The parents listened to their kids, but there was no doubt who was making the final decisions.

EXCESSIVE focus on rituals and stories.

EXCESSIVE attention to the big picture – that the child is not an adult; a five-year old is not a 10-year old; a 10 year-old is not a 13-year old; a 13-year old is not an 18-year old.

Education and tertiary qualifications (as opposed to how well the children were doing in the first few years of school) were strongly emphasised – but only as SECONDARY importance to who the children were as people.

Making changes and following through with them is hard. Perhaps we have to do things differently from our friends and family. Perhaps there will be conflict with our partners. Perhaps we will have to move away from the city, away from our jobs, away from everything we have ever known. Perhaps we’re scared.

Biology doesn’t argue, though, it simply responds. Very young human brains don’t understand intentions, they only understand what actually happens. Luckily we can begin to make changes at any time we choose. The big question is – can you make those changes for long enough to make a real difference? Will you? Or will you be where we were heading – those lovely parents with dreadful children – who had done ‘nothing’ wrong.

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I have written the books I wish I'd had to read BEFORE I had children ('All About Tantrums - Why we have them How to prevent them What to do when they happen' and 'Why People Drive You Crazy - Pt 1 A Fresh Look at Temperament') I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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38 Responses to Parents: What if I’m right? What does that mean for you?

  1. Jennifer Burden says:

    I always like reading your posts, Karyn. :) I agree with all of the commonalities you found in your study — agree in, I think they’re important, too. However, being it the middle of the winter here in NJ, USA, I am definitely feeling guilty about one of them. Spending enough time outdoors. I wish I had read this in the summer! lol

    But, the ability to communicate and listen to your children is sooo important!!! Excessive affection. Yes! And, sleep and food. These are all things I also value as important. The one thing that I’ve added in the mix is introducing a second language. I think given the advantage of the child’s brain to grasp language in the early years and my love of languages, it is something fun we can do together. So far, so good. :)

    Jen :)

    • Hi Jen,
      So nice to be back in the world of bloggers and actually be able to communicate (efficiently) with you again! Outdoors in the middle of a snowy winter is more difficult to manage than summertime, that’s for sure. We’re lucky to have a ‘wet-back’ on our fire which heats all our water, so the boys can have as many showers as they want when it’s cold. I am always aware that more people live in the city than the countryside, and access to the outdoors isn’t as easy as opening the door and chasing children out! Great to hear from you. :)

  2. Laura Weldon says:

    This REALLY sums it up. Sharing!

  3. Sparklee says:

    Thank you for an insightful post! Our children are exposed to excessive things every day: violence in the news, rudeness and bullying in our community, aggressive advertising for unhealthy products, etc. It’s SO important to make sure that we focus on what builds up our children instead of breaking them down!

  4. Pamela says:

    Exactly. Our daughter was struggling with mainstream education and a number of other factors. We had to do what was right for her despite being assured she would be fine. Fine is not okay. Fine does not equal anything I hope for my children.

  5. entropy says:

    Leaving a comment to answer your challenge.

    Like this post.

    Also, a question: Do you have a post that explains “hare”, “owl” etc. temperments?

    • Hi thanks for answering the challenge! I am 3/4 of the way through an ebook which will explain my take on the temperaments. I had intended to have it finished last August, but life intervened. This year…:)

  6. sarah says:

    I love this and so agree with you.

  7. Elena says:

    I feel deficient in the “non-electronic” play department and the “ritual” department. In the last year as I’ve tried to develop myself professionally I’ve been relying on monitor-headed babysitters way too much. I’m not even sure exactly how much it has affected my kids, because the screaming voice of guilt is the only thing I can pay attention to.

    I myself feel acutely the lack of ritual in our lives. I can make a thousand excuses as to why I neglect my family in this department, but none of them matter. I have to finally make this a priority.

    Thank you so much for this post. As always, your writing informs and inspires me, but most importantly, I feel really supported and not judged.

  8. I’d like to add one! Parent the child that you have! Parenting shouldn’t follow a single philosophy or theory. Parenting should look different from child to child. Look ay your specific child and decide what s/he needs.

    • I do think that children with different temperaments need more or less of the things in that list. Two of our children need extra-excessive running around time and one needed extra-excessive affection. I do, however, think people should follow a single philosophy, though, and that’s to provide children with what their biology wants/demands and therefore, will respond most favourably to, in order to become the best they can be in every way.

  9. rilka says:

    Great to have someone put the actual needs of children into perspective. It is a hard path and I think what you are saying makes a lot of sense. I am currently considering homeschooling to get out of the “system” that doesnt seem to work for our children’s happiness.

    • I’m pleased that this all makes sense to you Rika. I don’t think I have the right temperament to homeschool our boys, so I admire anyone who can/does homeschool. Thankyou for commenting. :)

      • rilka says:

        I don’t think I do either! But we are faced with a child with high levels of anxiety and possibly ASD so although I would prefer him to attend the steiner school his twin sister attends it is not looking like that is going to be an easy path for him. And having 2 younger boys at home as well it is challenging convincing everyone that school is essential.

        Even with most of your suggestions in place in our lives we struggle with behaviour. Perhaps we need to concentrate on insisting on manners and being friendly to each other. I will continue this later,… my time is up and the kids need me.

        • Our boys are at a Steiner school too and our very busy, easily overwhelmed, electronic-reactive, full-on gorgeous boy has thrived. He is now in Class Four and is a delight to be around (most of the time!!). Insisting on manners does seem to help our boy a lot. We also did some special exercises that the chiropractor gave us (Post about Reading problems) and the chiropractor regularly finds one bone out of alignment in his neck – when that is straight he is definitely more calm and conscious about his actions. He is now going to make my computer have a smiley face for you! :)

  10. Jennifer says:

    I love this list and am going to print it and put on the fridge so I remember to put them into practice every day. But I was wondering how you, personally, reinforce manners and pleasant behavior. I don’t feel that spanking or time-out is ideal and want to figure out something that works best for us.

    • Hi Jennifer,
      I love that I’m famous on your kitchen fridge! I will write a post about boundary setting in the next week or so – it’s too big an answer to write here. Thanks for the question – always good to hear what readers are interested in. :)

  11. Michelle says:

    I knew from birth that my daughter was not like other kids…even the dr said jokingly,”I guess she didnt read the baby handbook”…So I learned early on that the ‘regular’ way (what ever that is) of parenting just doesnt work. I really have to pay attention to her. which should be a no brainer…but so many people asked me when I was putting her in daycare, or “put her down, you’ll spoil her”- LOL
    She was advanced in all milestones until the age of 2, then she stopped, and back tracked a bit. I had her tested for autism, social worker said she scored only a few points from getting the diagnosis. Then she said the most horrible thing to me….that I was over reacting and should just put her in daycare so she would learn ‘social skills’. O_o I knew in my heart, that would only make things worse. She needed intense one on one…so that is what I did. I researched things and did them with her. It has been a LONG road…she is 5 and doing great. I know from her needs that school is not going to be her thing, so I made the decision to homeschool. I have had arguments with the family (they all disagree with our decision)…and I have recently lost 3 friends over it (because I would not make time for them, I dont party, I dont go out clubbing, I did that in my 20’s and I’m 40 now ….sorry, right now, my child comes first)
    It is very hard, I hope I’m doing the right thing…then I look over at my girl and she is SO HAPPY (ok, most days)…and people in the store comment to me about how happy she is and how polite…so I think I’m doing good.
    In reference to your opening statement:
    “If you’re happy with how your children behave, this is not the post for you.”
    Dont get me wrong, she still has behavior issues, This post WAS for me….I’m glad to see I’m not alone in doing things different. :-)

    • Taking the road less travelled is always interesting – good for you sticking to your guns. I had our third child in my 40s and totally understand the choices you’ve made for your daughter. She sounds like a lovely ‘Owl’ child. They are intense to begin with and then (with loads of loving, boundaries and nudges to try ‘scary’ things) they are the best behaved kids on the planet. Yay!

  12. Kelly S. says:

    I just take issue with the word excessive. If it is what the child needs it can’t be excessive. It might be more affection, responsiveness, etc. than YOU expected or what society tells us is the appropriate amount but that doesn’t make it excessive to the child.

    I would also add the importance of emotional intelligence. Teaching your child about ALL of their emotions and how to express them and process them appropriately.

    • I understand your taking issue with the word ‘excessive’, Kelly. I was using that word, just as you suggest, as a nudge for parents to realise that what we think is enough probably isn’t in terms of our children’s needs. Also, the whole focus of raising children according to biology is to raise emotionally intelligent children – what society used to call maturity. There are some posts around here about identifying and naming emotions – pleased we’re on the same page!

  13. Rosemary says:

    I believe in these ideals and I am moving into them…gradually. There’s one left out, though, and it’s the most important one. Be happy yourself. I used to practice all of this far more rigidly than I do now, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was really depressed and unhappy. My kids did not do well even though they were Waldorf inspired homeschoolers. There’s more to it than biology; there’s your spirit, and your children feel your spiritual condition. So if life is out of whack, begin to take care of yourself first. Get exercise, meditate, do yoga, Nia, or whatever you enjoy. Find playfulness and joy in your own time (make sure you have your own time) and restore your vitality. Your kids will start to do better even before you change things like their screentime. You have to have it within to give it to them.
    Thanks for this blog. I’m going to follow you. Lots of great stuff here.

    • I’m pleased that I’ve found another fan, Rosemary. I agree with what you say about taking care of yourself – to a point. Sadly, we don’t live in a society where there are other adults supporting us 24/7 so the onus does fall on the parents (and yes, particularly the mother) to put in the hard yards alone for those first years. It’s what our children’s biology is expecting and until society really understands that and supports mothers properly, it is, I believe up to mothers to carry the brunt of the load – and that *is* hard. For me, once our youngest reached 18 months of age, I was happy to have his grandparents look after him once a week so that I got some time to put myself first. And the really great thing is that I had/have no guilt whatsoever in taking time out – because I know I have done absolutely everything I can to provide our boys with the nuturing and security they need.

  14. Evelyn says:

    This is my first post of yours that I have read; a friend shared. I love this post. I have a 5 and 2 year boys. I am thinking now of unplugging. I see how the smart phone is making them dummies. They fight over it and want to watch videos or play games. I have started to say no. I have always encouraged outside play and love when we can go outside. We draw and play a lot. We have instituted board game nights.
    My 2 year old is aggressive and this is helping. No television really helps him. He goes to bed better and is just more pleasant to be around.
    I am glad my friend shared and will be following you now!

    • Hello Evelyn! We had an interesting journey with regards to electronics and there are a couple of posts here about that. In short – I would suggest you go cold-turkey with the electronics. Your youngest son sounds like our eldest and for those kids electronics are a particulary big issue. We begun to reintroduce electronics once our eldest reached the age of nine, and now have to work out how to manage his need to be part of his peer-group moving into pre-teens and the needs of his younger brothers not to have any electronics so their brains can develop optimally. Good luck, let me know how you get on. :)

  15. Elizabeth Marks says:

    Karyn,

    We do practice a lot of what you say is important but my husband I struggle with a couple of your suggestions. The computer monitor gets too much attention by everyone in our house, kid and parents. I am also concerned that we are not including enough ritual into our lives. Can you tell us about some of the rituals you implemented in your home?

    Thank You,
    Beth

    • Hi Beth,
      Electronics are addictive and I believe the next big issues modern society will be facing will centre around this problem. There are posts here about why we went electronic free and how we began to reintroduce it when our eldest son turned nine. (The children had, pretty much, no electronic exposure for around five years).
      We have rituals around eating together; we have seasonal rituals and a season table; we have a weekly ritual of going to a playground on a Friday after school – rituals are anything that are done regularly as a family and we try to have some daily, some weekly and some seasonally. You probably do have rituals in your family, but wouldn’t necessarily identify them as such. If this isn’t enough information, get back to me and I’ll write a whole post on the subject…might do that anyway! Thanks for your questions.:)

  16. Mama Mo says:

    I’m happy with how my children behave, and I still read this post. And I’m glad I did! I began parenting my children (twin boys, now 2 years old) the way I was parented, which was attachment-style though my mom didn’t have the word for it then. I then began researching and reading as much as I could get my hands on regarding human development. Now I go with my gut, heavily influenced by my brain. I love this blog and what you’re writing about, and I can’t wait to dig deeper. Also, lurkers confuse me, too. First time reader, first time commenter here :-)

    • Yay Mama Mo! Lucky you having a Mum who parented you so well. Parenting twin two year olds must keep you on your toes. I have one with whom I struggle to keep up with some days. Great to hear from you and please come back and visit soon. :)

  17. goose's mom says:

    Love this post. I am always striving, striving towards your list. I think mostly I do pretty well, though I also feel like I fail a thousand times a day in little ways. I think most of what is on your list could be summed up as: CONNECTION. If you are connected with your children, the rest follows. Whenever I feel myself getting frustrated with my son’s behavior (almost 5), I focus on connecting with him & usually things are quickly better. He can be difficult & I have had difficult situations with family who have told me that his difficult behavior is because I am too connected, too attached. I am grateful to be surrounded by a group of like-minded moms. And now adding your blog to my virtual surroundings. :>)

    • Welcome to the gang! Connection is certainly a key factor in raising our children. How we manage connective times and disconnective times (intentional ones or not) is probably *the* key aspect of parenting. Great to hear from you. :)

  18. Michelle says:

    I Love this so much. I do. I am a teacher right now (how sad it makes me daily to see the state of children). I want to homeschool and radical homemake. I am so excited by your blog!

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