I have been giving this a great deal of thought lately:
Where do our parenting styles come from?
Is it how we were brought up, or the opposite of how we were brought up?
Is it based on our spouse’s style and we adapt closer to or further away?
And, there are all these categories of parenting – well, really of mother’s parenting styles: Tiger Mom, Helicopter Mom, Friend Mom, Mean Mom, etc. Where do I fit in? And, why did I choose that style?
Let’s start with me. I have had the opportunity to lead various teams in my organization. And, I have also had the opportunity to be evaluated based on my leadership style. What I have learned is that I have high expectations of myself and hold myself to extremely high standards. Because of that, I also have very high expectations of others…sometimes unreasonably high expectations of others.
How does that translate into my parenting style? I have extremely high expectations of our children. Even at this very young age, I do. And, it might also be unreasonable, but at least I’m consistent…
Here is how it manifests. I would label myself as a “Teachable Moment Mom.” What that looks like is every time something happens, I don’t just look at that individual moment; I forecast what that might mean down the road. I quickly review times in the past when I have seen the behavior and, if not corrected, how it might manifest in the future. And then, I swoop in with a teachable moment.
Let’s look at an example. Our middle child has the habit of putting things where they don’t belong, like:
- Putting tissue paper up his nose – causing us to run to the ER to get his nose scoped, and the doctor to use an “alligator” to remove it.
- Putting numerous objects down the vents, not just at our house, but at others’ homes
- Putting a T-ball ball down the PVC pipe outside our home – causing us to call a plumber to help fish it out as it was sitting on top of the fan on the water heater.
As you can see, he has a history of putting things in places where they don’t belong. So, when it happened again, when he more items down the vent, “Teachable Moment Mom” stepped in.
First, he was placed in time out. Then, we had a discussion about where he placed the objects, and why this was not okay to do. We talked about what we might take away as a result of his behavior. We talked about how to ensure he doesn’t do it in the future because even more things would be taken away. Plus, how would he like it if his brother would take his things and put them where they didn’t belong.
I know…he’s only 3. And, I know…he might not get it. But, in my defense, he does seem to get it. He understands when he does the wrong things. I know this because, when I’m around him doing these things, I see him looking at me to see if I will react. He is looking for boundaries. He is seeing how far he can push before he will get in trouble.
There are many options. I could just let things go. In the grand scheme of things, these little troublesome moments are not that big of a deal. Right? Sure. But, what will it lead to? And, when will we stop it? And, how can we be consistent so he knows right from wrong? And, why not stop this behavior now before it becomes a problem.
I heard Andy Stanley talking on a TV program one afternoon about guardrails. What I gathered (again, please note that this is what I gathered, not necessarily what he said) was that it is important to put up guardrails and be consistent. And, those guardrails should not be placed right up against catastrophic behavior. The beauty of guardrails is that they keep you on track. If you bump into one, you can quickly get back on the road. They keep you away from the cliff. And, they are usually placed with room before the cliff, so that if you do cross it, you aren’t heading straight down – you have time to correct.
So, I have taken that advice, and several verses in Proverbs listed below:
Proverbs 19:18 (GNTD): Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them destroy themselves.
Proverbs 20:7 (GNTD): Children are fortunate if they have a father who is honest and does what is right.
Proverbs 22:6 (GNTD): Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.
Proverbs 22:15 (GNTD): Children just naturally do silly, careless things, but a good spanking will teach them how to behave
Taking all that in, let’s add in the last piece, our family life. In our home, my husband is the stay at home parent. And, I must add, he is an amazing father! If you know my husband, you also know that he is more of the mentality that “rules are meant to be broken” and “not everything is a big deal.” And, again, our children are so lucky to have their daddy home because their mommy is “everything is a teachable moment” and “right is right; wrong is wrong.” There isn’t much in between for me. Layer on that the fact that daddy gets to be with the kiddos 100% of the time. Mommy, on the other hand, only gets to be with the little ones about 40% of the time. Lately, that number has dropped down to about 30% of the time.
Let’s tie this all up into a bow. When I get to be mommy (my 30-40% of the time), I want to be 100% mommy to the kids. That means being fun mom, but also being teachable moment mom. And, it’s amazing, in my 30-40% how many teachable moments there are. Seriously! They happen more than you would ever imagine!
But, I put it all into perspective with this.
1 – Our children know, without a question, that their mom and dad love them more than anything else in this world. We prayed for them long before they ever came into our lives. And, we could not imagine our lives without them. As our oldest tells me, “I know mom, you love me no matter what!”
2 – Our children are really good kids! They are usually kind and respectful. And, when they choose poor behavior, and I ask – “was that respectful or disrespectful?” – they respond correctly. Or, when my oldest does something he knows he shouldn’t have done and our middle child repeats that behavior, without prompting our oldest will say – “I know – see what I teach my brother.” And, the three year old is starting to respond the same way.
3 – Our children are spoiled with love and gifts! They do get all of their needs, and nearly all of their wants. And, we are trying to make them wait to earn things – even free app downloads on the iPad. It’s not just the cost of things, we want the kids to know that they should be good all the time, and with good behavior comes positive rewards.
4 – And, when things go wrong / when our kids don’t listen and bad things happen (like getting hurt jumping off the bed), we can respond with “now do you understand why we have those rules?” To that, our oldest will reply with tear-filled eyes…– “Yes, so I don’t get hurt.”
So, all in all, I think we have a healthy balance. My husband gets to be the “not everything is a big deal” dad, and I get to be “teachable moment” mom. Somewhere in between, our kids probably have the right balance of rules and flexibility. And while I’m sure we will make many mistakes as they each grow and challenge us in new and inventive ways, I know that I will love and cherish each day as they are our precious gifts from God.