What is the biggest parenting mistake you made? Tell about a time you “hit the mark” in parenting.
This is a hard one for me, and somewhat painful. We all evolve over time in how we respond to people. Our attitudes change. They grow either harder or softer. Mine have softened considerably. What that means in terms of childrearing is that I was too quick off the mark, especially with my first two.
I was reared by an authoritarian father. His word was law, and you challenged him at your own risk. He was typical of his generation. That wasn’t always a bad thing. I grew up watching Father Knows Best, and it was a great program. We could use more of that today, couldn’t we? Instead, we have programs that portray Dad as Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest. Mom is the wise one, and the kids are all full of perfect one-liners that put both parents firmly in their places.
I hate those shows, and I won’t watch them. Give me Andy Griffith any time!
Anyway. Add to my authoritarian father my natural temperament to take charge, lead, problem-solve. Whoever first said “my way or the highway” was like me.
Also add into that mix the strong belief in the church we attended when our kids were young that every home should have a well-used paddle. We did. I am not against spanking, and I don’t believe we ever took it to the level of abuse. Three quick swats was the usual discipline, over and done pretty quickly.
So I would still apply that board of education to the seat of learning, but it would be far less frequently. It would be reserved for outright, rebellious disobedience. I would be more creative in dealing with smaller infractions. I’d like to believe I would be a better listener.
I had very good radar with my kids, and I didn’t miss much. I did, however, miss some things that cause me deep regret now. No parent can be there 24/7. No parent can know every interaction between the children, and no parent is god-like. And contrary to what we’d like to believe, all children lie. All children push the boundaries. All children hide things from their parents. I did. Why wouldn’t mine do the same?
So, wrapping it up, I would paddle less often, and listen more closely.
Where did we hit the mark? Sometimes I feel there was very little we did right, but the thing I hear from all four of my kids is that we taught them to think for themselves. We had lots of family discussions at the supper table, something which I fear is becoming a part of the American past. We talked about faith, politics, history, relationships, dating, just about everything. It was good. We spoke, they listened. They spoke, we listened. They have all told us that they are thankful for our teaching them to think criticially, not to be duped by every silly fad or fantasy; to be able to defend what they believe because they believe it, not because someone else believes it.
And they’re all raising good kids. That is a great joy to me.