Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is there room for shaming in parenting?

The talk on the local media today is a West Fargo mother who posted her daughter's concert tickets for sale on an online garage sale page.

I won't name her or share the post because I really don't want to give her more attention.

My problem isn't with the fact she sold the tickets as a consequence of the child's attitude (It came out this morning the daughter is actually 18, so not exactly a baby anymore.) but how she felt the need to post that her daughter was a "spoiled brat" who didn't deserve them.

A lot of back-patting and congratulations followed, and anyone who spoke up about feeling name-calling and public shame weren't parenting techniques we agree with seems to be shot down with talk of "You can't whoop your kids like I got anymore, that's why kids don't have any respect !" and called names like "wimpy" or "wishy-washy".

I refuse to accept the only alternative to reason and consistent teaching is "whooping" or inviting public critique on their misbehavior. In my opinion, if you have to resort to trolling for validation of your parenting in a public forum of any kind, be it on Facebook, a street corner sign-holding session, or even like my own mother did pre-internet by telling her church group how rotten I was so one of them would come over and wag a finger at me... you've already lost. If there had been Facebook in the 70's and 80's, she would have had a field day!

I'm far from a perfect parent, and my kids will be the first to tell you they pushed the limits just like every other normal, healthy kid does. I'm pretty sure my kids have grown into decent adults as much despite my parenting as because of it, but I do know our relationship as adults is the reward for surviving all the teen angst.

Oh how I know tempting it is to react in anger when they push ALL your buttons, but I've seen the rewards of waiting until I could respond from a better place. When I wanted to yell "OH YEAH? I HATE YOU TOO!" I would have tried to justify it to myself and come up with something plausible... but delaying that instant gratification until I could tell them I understood why they felt frustrated with me but the behavior they used to express it was going to have consequences enabled me to sleep at night. I used to nearly chant a mantra of "It's not personal!" when my teen was doing her level best to hit all the soft, vulnerable spots because the hormonal rollercoaster and pressures of school left her to lash out at the ONE person she knew would love her anyway. To react by calling her a name or belittling her would have driven her farther away, when all the screaming teenager wants deep down is to know you love them enough to set limits and be there for them when their heads stop spinning.

I get the feeling of "Ohhh, I'm going to TEACH THAT KID A LESSON!" I really do. I could almost understand the frame of mind of a young mother of toddlers I once knew who gloated over breaking her son's tonka truck because he gouged the top of the table with it.

Retaliation is childish.

You can't use it to try to demand or extort respect out of people, even the small ones.

I just had to learn what lessons were going to help change the behavior and model how grown-ups should handle those furious feelings, not just soothe my ego and fuel my own anger even more.

Taking the truck away, then having him help fix the scratches with her or his Dad might have been a good chance to teach him how to respond to his own anger.

My kids know I will tell them the truth, good or bad. Whether it's with Steven over his medical things (Yes, it's going to hurt, and the doctors will give you medicine to help that and I'll be right there for you.) or my own shortcomings... like when I would overreact and ground my daughter for a month over something trivial because I was stressed about something entirely unrelated. Admitting I was wrong to do that was HARD. My father could never admit he was wrong. I can understand why, but I resented it so much I swore to myself I'd be different.

It paid off when my kids were able to come to me and admit when they fell short. They knew I'd understand, even if I was upset. I suppose it helped that we had a rule about "If I hear about what you did from YOU before the school, the other kid's mom, or the neighbors tell me, your punishment will be HALF... and DOUBLE if you lie to me about it."

They figured the math FAST. ;)

To make my long ramble shorter...

Sell the tickets, take the car keys, cut off the phone, make them work for what they have... it's all a part of the learning process.

All I ask is that you think about throwing out words you can't take back.

Oh, and whoever said "...and words will never hurt me." has never met my mother's church buddy.

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