We have just had an interesting discussion about the differences between power, authority and respect. To see that discussion, see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/01/power-authority-and-respect-in-parenting/
Where do things go so wrong for parents? My original thought in the post above was that there are two kinds of parents who have problems with all this: harsh parents who have a hard time connecting with their children and who shove their children aside emotionally; and attachment parents who do wonderful with attachment and connection but not so great in setting boundaries for their children.
I have mentioned before what a big shift I see in attachment parenting as that first child approaches three and a half or four. Parenting really shifts at this point, or it should. I find some attachment parents make the leap well, and some don’t. If it doesn’t shift at this point with the first child, then you will have catch-up work to do later on, which I will talk about in tomorrow’s post.
What leap? I am so glad you asked! Here you go:
(Thank you to my friend Samantha Fogg for letting me use this picture).
This is moss growing on a big rock. Now, before you think I have lost my mind, let me explain!
This rock is steady; it is not sagging because it has moss on it. It is not crumbling because it has moss on it! It is steady. It is calm; the rain comes down on it, the snow, the wind – and there it sits calmly. It doesn’t get all upset when the weather is not nice.
The forces of nature do help mold it and wear on it over time, yes, but the original essence of the rock is there and untouched.
Good parenting is like this. We are like calm, immovable stones. Our children do shape us, but our essence remains the same because just like a rock cannot help being a rock, we cannot help but be a parent. Just as moss lives on a rock, we are creating and shaping life for our children.
Small children deserve dignity, respect, unconditional love, gentle hands and gentle voices. They also deserve the gift of boundaries. I find many parents are reluctant to place boundaries in their lives with their children, but then blow up at the child when the boundary should have been placed and kept the first of the twenty times the child does something. Why are you blowing up at your child when you failed to set the boundary and help the child stick to that boundary the first time?
One of my dear friends, a terrific mother of three boys, gave a parenting workshop several years ago that I attended. She related how one day she had her boys in the car and they were in line for the drive-through of a fast food restaurant. One of the boys spit on the floor of the car. The boys were all talking and did not notice her easing out of the line. In fact, they didn’t notice until she was almost home. They protested, “Hey! We were going to get some food!” Their mother replied, “I don’t buy food for boys who spit in my car.”
Well, when she told this story, this sweet little mother with an only child that looked to be about three or four, piped up and said, “Well, if they apologized and calmed down, would you turn around and bring them back to the drive-through?”
As parents we absolutely have the right to give children second chances. Absolutely and yay for being human! But if you give second chances for everything, always couch things without a direct rule involved, make up for your child every time they do something that wasn’t morally good …well, then you are not being a rock!
One of most important things you can give your child is the gift of knowing THEIR ACTIONS MATTER. What they do counts. What they do has consequences. And if you do not let them experience this when they are with you and there to help guide them, the world is going to be far harsher in teaching this when they grow up. Even things that are developmentally normal still need guidance!
You and your child will have moments where neither of you are at your best. A loving, attached relationship is the basis of grace, humility and forgiveness. But, if the more negative moments of your relationship with your child is outweighing everything, or the negative moments are just so intense and color the world of the family, go back and look at boundaries:
What boundaries exist?
When I set a boundary how do I follow through?
Do I do this EVERY TIME?
What is the “consequence” of my child’s action? Does this happen every time?
Food for thought,