Have you ever had an unexpected moment when something changes your life? It could be something you hear on TV or something someone says to you and, well, it’s what Oprah Winfrey termed an “A-ha moment.” I had two of those recently and they’ve changed how I parent!
1. I was talking to a middle school principal about the challenges of dealing with tween/teen kids. She said that the key message a parent needs to give, over and over again is: “I love you, I am here for you and I have clear expectations that I am going to hold you to.” Seems simple enough but consider how many times we don’t make our expectations clear to the kids (or ourselves) and how many times, out of exhaustion and frustration, we may literally or figuratively throw up our hands and give up – at least until we regain some strength and go at it again. That sends an inconsistent message to our kids and tells them that if they push us hard enough, we’ll back off and leave them alone, which means that their bad behavior got rewarded. That’s not the message we want to send.
The words from that principal have stuck with me because it means I cannot let MYSELF off the hook, no matter how hard it gets. And it means that I tell my children now that the more they rebel, the harder that means I have to parent them, making my expectations and love even more clear. That’s so NOT what they want to hear, which is why it’s exactly why what they NEED to hear.
2. The other A-ha moment I had revolved around something I read by a monk who was talking about reincarnation. According to him, in between our lives on earth, we choose which life we are going to go to next, depending on what we need to work through on our path to being the best person we can be (I’m paraphrasing here of course). I looked up from the book and asked no one in particular, “you mean I CHOSE to go through this?” Then it really hit me – what if that is true and instead of just going through our lives, often feeling like a victim of it, we, ourselves, chose the things we would go through because they would each provide a lesson and a chance to learn a better way to deal with it? Apply that to parenting and it’s huge! Every difficulty is an opportunity to learn how to handle it better. And every great moment is an opportunity to really acknowledge and appreciate it. It’s the ultimate self-help guide!
These two notions have made a big difference in how I parent and I feel they are working. It will take time and repetition and every day is a new chance to put them to work. I feel like I have more direction in my parenting life with more defined goals. I’m parenting harder, when need be, but I’m parenting better.
I’ve always maintained that it’s critical to have reasonable expectations and abide by them, even if it means we have to write them down as much to remind the kids as ourselves. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, or just forget the law you laid down. We continually hear how important structure is for kids, whether it’s a sleep schedule or the expectations they need to abide by. So I really like what that principal told Courtney about frequently giving the message of love, support and expectation. Mixing the love and support piece is critical or else it’s just parents ragging on their kids again!
As for the reincarnation theory, well, I don’t know about all that but the basic concept is an interesting one and is one I’ve been recalling when the going gets really tough in parenting. It’s all about the opportunities and whether we take them and use them for good or waste them. Consider that the next time your child puts a marble up their nose or misses curfew. Just keep repeating: learning opportunity, learning opportunity…
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