11 May, 2008

Kids

The past two weeks I've had a lot of time to think about parenting. Why, you ask? Well, due to my working ten hours a day this week and last, I have pretty much been the primary caregiver for the boys the past while. I don't know know how my grandmother did it. In the past fortnight, I have learned a lot about where my limits are as a parent, what works, what really doesn't, and what kind of mother I want to be. To begin:

Temperance: Damn rich kids. Not to stereotype, but I don't think I've ever met a child of rich parents who wasn't spoiled. Not necessarily spoiled in the sense of ill-mannered--not Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory--but spoiled in the sense of given everything. I had a friend in high school who was the only child of a neurosurgeon. She was a sweet, kind, charming young lady, but spoiled. We were talking about parenting one night, and she said she couldn't fathom needing something she wouldn't be able to have. If she had been one of ten children, there would have certainly been times when she had needed new shoes, but not gotten them because there wasn't money for them. But because she was an only child, she always had new shoes when she needed them, and then some. From what I saw she had all the material possessions she wanted. She was a good kid, but she had no concept of the word "wait." I certainly don't believe in the purposeful withholding of life's necessities from children: they call that neglect. And I know how it can scar a child to not have enough money to provide for essentials: I have another friend who lived out his childhood in fear that he would get sick because his family had no medical insurance, and he feared the arguments his getting sick would cause. That's not OK either. But I think it's important for kids to not always get what they want. Delayed gratification is a lesson better learned sooner than later.

My conclusion: I don't want my kids to have everything they want, and assuming my life turns out even close to the way I think it's going to turn out, I doubt I will be able to give them absolutely everything they need either. I want my kids to have to work for things they want: like saving for a toy, for example, and then actually waiting for them to save up and buy it instead of breaking down and buying it like my mom always did.

Discipline: Simply put, there is very little discipline in the home I work in. I guess if one of the kids is rude when Dad's around, he might have to do an extra chore, but basically, if a kid is crying, all Mom wants to do is get it to stop. I believe that sometimes a kid needs to cry a little bit in order to learn that life is not always going to go the way they want it. That means time-outs when a small child is intentionally rotten (one minute for every year of age) and punishments that match the crimes with older children. For example, if a kid doesn't do his chores, he has to stay home on Saturday and do chores instead.

Silence: David O. McKay said it best: there should be no yelling in the home unless the house is on fire.

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