Kids Really Are Amazing!!

Starting a blog is not as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, it has taken me over two years to write this, my first post. By my math that is less then one word per day. Hopefully I can improve on that pace. I hope it wont be two years until the next post.

Why did it take so long?

Hey, it’s hard to put yourself out there for ridicule and judgment. Things like admitting that I can’t buy extra virgin olive oil at the grocery store because it reminds me too much about high school, and other potentially embarrassing things are hard to say in a public forum. I think that many people struggle with the same issues on a daily basis, at work, at home or in some social situations. I want to try and overcome these obstacles, and try to set an example for my children to follow their passions. After all, I am frequently telling my children to not be afraid of trying something new, perhaps I should follow my own advice.

With this blog, I want people to think about their own status quo and evaluate their own beliefs, thoughts, and goals about parenting and the education of our children. I plan to dive into topics that a lot of us may have questions on. What can I do if my child talks back to me? Homework vs. no homework? Are schools able to meet the needs of a changing society? I will try to pass on some the tremendous amounts of resource material that I have encountered for raising and educating children.

6 years ago, my life changed so significantly, that it forced me to evaluate ideas that I had previously believed, and also to change my goals in life. 6 Years ago I became a father of a wonderful boy.

As it turns out, parenting is hard. Who would have thought that? My parents had it so easy it seemed. Could there have been any better kids than my two brothers and I? And then, to make matters tougher, 2 years later, we went ahead and had a wonderful little girl. That was enough punishment for us.

I say “punishment” half in jest, half not. Most parents can relate to this on a substantial level. It is both the most rewarding and frustrating job I have entertained in my entire adult life. And for some of you kind enough to read this, I’m sure those feelings are ones that happen fairly frequently. Now that my kids are entering the school system, I want to ensure that they are receiving adequate knowledge, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and creativity to be happy productive members of our society. Are the adults of our future going to be creative and resilient enough to tackle new problems in the future, problems that do not even exist in our existing realm of knowledge?

I am not writing this as a recipe for “good” kids or to criticize parenting skills. We are all doing our absolute best as parents to raise our kids and help them toward a quality education and to help them become quality people. Nor do I believe there is a one size fits all approach to parenting. There can be many ways to get our children to a successful adulthood. My goal is to put forth some ideas on parenting, education and politics that may be different than what is happening in the “mainstream”. You may choose to disagree with me or with the content, and I am ok with that. I hope to generate discussion and healthy debate amongst us, so that we may learn from each other. I ask that you keep an open mind and open yourself up to new ideas and thoughts. I will do the same. I am reminded of a quote from Malcolm Gladwell,

“I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being — to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.”

Look at what your beliefs are and challenge them with alternative views, and see if they hold up to your own scrutiny.

Coming next – Parenting – How to control your kid

How to Control your Kids

Almost as soon as our firstborn was caught by the Doctor and swaddled up in a tiny blanket, I started to read books on how to do this parenting thing. I have come across many different ideologies for raising kids in the years that followed. Most of the early literature that I read started down the path of “training” your children. “Discipline” was paramount, and controlling the behavior of infants and toddlers was the goal. As I sifted through some of these books, it occurred to me that controlling our children was more for the parent’s sanity, than for the good of the child. Many of us may have been raised this way in some form or another. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” was a mantra that I had heard before, and to some people raised in that manner, it may be the only way to “get” your children to do what you want them to do.

But there was one thing that nagged at me early on. I did not want my kids to ever fear me or to fear adults in general. I did not want my kids to fear that what they were doing would bring anger, hostility, or punishment from me. I wanted them to know they are loved unconditionally and valued as people, all the time.

So how do we control them without punishment? Is it possible? If you are looking for that magical answer at this point, you are going to be disappointed.
There is no doubt in my mind that as adults and parents we can control children through a series of punishments and rewards. The question is, should we? And for 8 to 10 years, you may have a model child who listens, obeys and does not act up in any given situation. Other parents speak highly of your children’s manners and you are happy with how your kids “behave”. But as kids get older, it becomes tougher and tougher to control them. They start to learn that they have a voice and they no longer want to be controlled. It is the inevitability of human nature. So, for the most formative years of their lives, they are controlled, punished, put in timeout, but did not learn one thing about self-regulation or how to handle big emotions. They just know that they have been bad. How is lacking self -control going to help them in their teen years?

I get angry with my children. I am not claiming that they are not incredibly frustrating at times. How I react in those moments of anger and frustration is the most important thing, I believe. I think children generally want to do well. They rarely intentionally try to upset or anger us as parents. The reason why they can frustrate us is that often they are busy doing their own thing and do not understand why what they are doing is “wrong” (as labeled by adults) or, why they would have to stop the activity. It makes them incredibly frustrated when they are told that they have to leave the playground or not eat that chocolate bar. Melting down may ensue, (by both parents and children in some instances.) But as young children, it is developmentally appropriate to be extremely upset at things adults may see as “little things”.

Imagine being at a restaurant with your friends, having a good time, watching the superbowl. The game is tied at the two minute warning. It’s a great atmosphere, the food is good, the beer tastes fantastic and then your significant other calls you and says it’s time to go. No emergency, it’s just time to go. Personally, I would be upset, and I might even beg for 5 more minutes, or at least until after the game. Even if I was permitted 5 more minutes, I still would not really be happy to leave.
The difference between myself in the Super Bowl situation, and my daughter having to leave the park, is that she screams bloody murder if she has to leave before she is ready. That is intensely annoying and frustrating for me, but age appropriate for her.

Many people at this point feel that now at this young age is the time they need to be “trained” or “taught”. The thinking is that if they are not taught to “behave” at a young age, they will be melting down at 13, 14 or 15 years old, maybe even as adults. I have a different view based on some of the fantastic books and blogs that I have been reading over the years.
I really try to empathize with my kids when they are upset. It does not necessarily help them to stop being upset, but it does give them a voice, it tells them I am listening and it tells them I understand. How they act as 4 year olds is not how they will act as 8 year olds if we give them a chance to develop the internal regulation that will come naturally to most.

I try my best to react with empathy and compassion as often as I can when our children get upset. I don’t always manage to do this. The demands of work, laundry, cleaning, homework, driving to activities, lack of sleep etc. will sometimes upset my applecart. And it’s not pretty. But all I ask of myself is that I try my best. The kids are counting on me.

Up Next – Connecting with your kids