Parenting – A Kind of Stewardship

IMG_20180326_0257It’s been quite a while since I’ve read something that has literally made me want to scream. Scream because we are ruining our children. Scream because we don’t know how – or want – to find middle ground.

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time then you know that being a parent wasn’t on my to-do list. I ended up being one anyway and I am very grateful. Children are mirrors. You want to see all of your personality quirks? Observe your kids.

It wasn’t very long into the relationship when I figured out that I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. Then I discovered I was repeating much of the same crappy behavior my parents had when I was growing up. It really isn’t pleasant, but you can change if you want to…

So what did I read that has me so worked up? It was a quote from a positive parenting author – Rebecca Eanes. Maybe you’ve heard of her. I hadn’t but that’s because my little kid parenting phase was over quite some time ago – phew!

So here’s the quote. I’ll give you a minute:

“So often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes, yet we adults have them all the time! We think if we don’t nip it in the bud, it will escalate and we will lose control. Let go of that unfounded fear and give your child permission to be human. We all have days like that. None of us are perfect, and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves. All of the punishments you could throw at them will not stamp out their humanity, for to err is human, and we all do it sometimes.”
Rebecca Eanes, The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting

Everyone knows I am no fan of perfect. I hate perfect. It’s impossible. It causes anxiety and fear. It kills the human spirit. I never wanted my step-son to be perfect. Even in my dysfunctional days that was never the goal. I had to be perfect. Huh, maybe that was the problem.

But that’s not the point. And I guess maybe I get what she’s trying to say here, but oh this seems like she’s giving people permission to let not only their children but also themselves behave poorly. Like parents these days are raising a bunch of assholes with no emotional intelligence because they don’t want to raise them how they were raised.

Like there’s no middle ground. Like saying, ‘Hey, when you act like that no one wants to be around you. Stop it.’ When if fact the parents are just reinforcing what ever dysfunctional behavior they still have that they are unaware of.

I suppose this hit me wrong because we have neighbors with a kid who’s probably around 5. He was almost 2 when they moved in. He’s been screaming since the day they moved in. He has barking competitions with their little Terrier. He calls for his mother at the top of his lungs even when she’s 2 feet away from him for 5 minutes or more.

But I shouldn’t be surprised because the parents are out doing yard work, partying well after dark during the week with their back yard lit up like a Christmas tree. We don’t get the worst of it because we’re not directly behind or beside them, but damn I feel sorry for the neighbors who are. So it shouldn’t be surprising that this kid is allowed to do whatever he wants with no thought or concern or respect for anyone else. It’s almost like they think they live on an island with no consequence.

So what happens when we have a whole generation who’s allowed to be ‘human’ and behave poorly all the time? What happens when these kids grow up thinking they have no control over their emotions and should just act on them? What happens when our rights become entitlements and start encroaching on others’ lives?

Don’t get me wrong, kids should be kids. They should be allowed to do and say goofy shit because that’s the only way they’ll learn what’s ‘normal’ and if they even want to be that. But giving parents ‘permission’ to not ever stop their child from acting out is swinging way too far to the other side.

These kids need to know that they don’t have to be ruled by their emotions. That it’s okay not to get everything they want. That a little pain and disappointment is a fact of life. That there’s not always going to be someone there who will ‘make it all better’.

But, hell, there are adults that don’t get that. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me then that people are raising their kids the same way. Now I want to scream for completely different reasons.

Except I don’t.

See, my emotions do not have to dictate my behavior. My circumstances do not have to affect my mood. I can treat even the most awful people with respect and dignity when what I really want to do is slap them.

Look, parenting is hard. There’s really no way around it, because as a parent you are responsible for another human being who has some of the traits and behaviors as you, but is really a completely different person. You think that since you brought them into this world you have the right to tell them what to say and do but you don’t.

You can’t. Because at the end of the day you only have control over yourself and what you do. It’s hard to understand that when it comes to kids because they start out so dependent. And the relationship changes between parent and child so quickly it’s difficult to adjust sometimes.

But we owe it to our kids – and ourselves – to figure out what emotional intelligence is and how to increase it. They will follow our lead. Don’t for a minute think they don’t see it when we fly off the handle because something didn’t go our way or someone’s moving to slow or we didn’t get what we wanted when we wanted it.

Or that once they see this type of behavior consistently they don’t internalize and think it’s okay. We are examples to our kids – 24/7. There is no time off. What we say to them isn’t so important as how we are, how we live.

Sure we’re all human. We all make mistakes. Perfection is a pipe dream. So how about we all work toward being better, kinder humans. Humans that are respectful of everyone, including ourselves. Humans with integrity and honesty. Humans with no interest or desire to control what can’t be controlled.

Humans who can understand that parenting is a kind of stewardship. A great responsibility and honor. We owe it to our children to be the best examples we can be.

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