Friday, October 07, 2011

Parenting Quandary

Luna the rat is dead. Cause of death: starvation/dehydration. Isn't that awful? It's awful. We didn't feed her. More accurately, the kids didn't feed her and no one reminded them to feed her.

The dream around these parts is that at some point my kids won't need constant reminders (nagging) to do responsible things. Does that just magically happen at some point? Our oldest is showing signs of turning that corner. He wakes up on his own in the dark, cold basement and starts getting ready for school while I yet slumber. That's a biggie.

But by and large, if I don't remind/ask/nag/tell, bad things happen: kids go to school with bad breath, school reports get turned in late if at all, Grandma's piano teaching efforts are in vain, rats die.

Steve is firmly in the low intervention parenting camp that advocates Lighten Up What's the Worst That Can Happen So They Spent Three Hours on the Computer Big Deal. He does step in to assist with homework because he knows it's important to me and I drown in it otherwise, but he does not begin to know what the assignments are without coaching.

What's the magic balance of letting children suffer the natural consequences of their actions or inactions? As a parent, do I insist they brush their teeth, or do I allow them to be utterly shunned by everyone with whom they come in contact until they learn life's lessons the hard way?

13 comments:

Bobbie said...

I'm right there with you, Emily. I'm just going to sit tight and do nothing until you tell/remind/nag/beg me to do it the way you've figured out :).

Sarah said...

My kids definitely need some teeth brushing reminders in order to avoid CAVITIES and HALITOSIS. Owen had five cavities on our last trip to the dentist. I'm afraid he has my teeth. Now we are on "parents-must-brush-Owen's-teeth" orders from the dentist. It stinks, in more ways than one.

abby said...

luna! i was scared of that rat but i'm very sad for her.

i share your quandary because i thought all my children would grow up like me and be mortified of disappointing people or whatever. and we both know they turned out a little sassier. i think if you set certain standards/a framework/expectations now, that even if you feel like you're failing miserably, it will benefit them when they are adults. but i'm not really one to talk because my kids don't obey me. they obey jamie because he can get really really stern and follows through on threats. my kids will also do anything for candy. milo gagged his way through a bell pepper last night for 3 starburst.

amyegodfrey said...

That was a great post, Emily. Sorry about the rat, but I still laughed. I'm more in Steve's camp, but you probably knew that. Yeah, I guess you have to choose your battles. The tooth-brushing is a must, for reasons mentioned. Homework: I'd promote rewards when it's done more than threats if it isn't.

Michelle Quist Mumford said...

Try reading Love and Logic - a couple of times. And then again.

Neil and Diana said...

Didn't y'all do something a few years back where the kids ate no candy for a year and were rewarded at the end? Maybe look at why that was successful and set up a daily regimen of 5 or so non-negotiables (e.g., brushing teeth) that Steve can get on board with and that, when followed for x amount of time, will result in some much-coveted reward.

AliceK[i]ND said...

Read this article... it will give you some perspective.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

Heidi said...

It's like you took the words right out of my mouth.

Oh this is a daily battle for me - some of my kids need more nagging reminders than others, but I don't know when to push and when to step back and let the consequences happen if they aren't responsible. I'm having to remind them of basic little things every single day that I would think a child their age would know to do on their own without fail. So frustrating......

wendy said...

i nag/yell/punish way too much. i think my kids hate me. i try not to get super involved and let natural consequences take over, but the fact is i am a natural at being bossy. can't help myself. can't stand to see them be so careless and must step in. i'm sure this method is not the best in the long run.


btw, i also love the 'love and logic' book! great info.

Steve said...

Just saw this post.

I didn't start seriously brushing my teeth until junior high. (I'm at least twice a day now, if anyone's wondering.) I didn't have a cavity until I was 34. Cavities are mostly genetic. The halitosis thing is a little more difficult, though there's probably some genetics at play there too. But did you ever smell your friends having bad breath pre-teen? Kids don't notice that stuff.

Also, I would like to say that Luna lived to the full life span of a rat. We had her for a year and a half, and she was probably at least a few months old when we got her. That's how long rats live. I Don't know that it was a good life, but it's longer than she would have got in the wild. Aaron says there was water in the cage when she died, and also I bet there was food buried in the ground around her cage (she did that).

On the laissez faire issue, I'm just trying to ignore "junk behavior" as described and suggested in that Positive Parenting book we read. Now if only I could get down those umpteen positive interactions per minute which the book also recommends.

School projects? I'm sure we're just inheriting our own karma coming back around. All my school projects were done by my parents at the last minute. Until junior high and high school. Then they were done by me at the last minute. All the way through law school. In fact, most of my big projects these days at work get done right before they're due. It's the industry standard. It's life. Why should I expect more from my children who can only do what the monkeys see?

Hakuna matata. Don't worry be happy. What's the worst that could happen?

All that being said, I'm there for you, hon.

amyegodfrey said...

Good points, Steve.

Jennifer said...

Great post. My problem is a I worry a ton about discipline, routines, etc., makes lists and have "family goals," but then fizzle out when we get busy, sick, etc. I'm better at worrying than doing. I started "Love and Logic" and after a couple chapters got distracted by some novel I wanted to read, and never finished it. (That's what a great parent I am.) Loved, loved Steve's comment. So true (and funny.) And look how successful he became! I always remind myself: our kids will probably eventually turn out a lot like us, regardless of rules, routines, etc. So comforting, and so terrifying. For you guys? Comforting. Definitely.

Suzie Petunia said...

I have been pondering the same parenting questions lately. Let me know if you get some good answers. (I'm lazy like that. And therein lies the problem with my parenting!)