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 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.