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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Parenting for Dummies? Maybe.

So, I’ve been reading lots of reviews on the ‘Tiger Mom’ memoir, and the whole thing about the French being better parents. On the one hand, you have the Tiger Mom making you feel all warm & fuzzy about being so ‘in tune’ with your kids. On the other, you’ve begun to doubt your ability to maintain a modicum of sanity, unlike the French, who seem to have well-behaved gourmet eaters under 5.

All this reading has me going back to one common thread: Choices. It’s the choices we make as parents that educate and mold our children. Do we choose to circle the wagons, smother and demand of our kids, or do we choose to give them the freedom to make some choices of their own, experience the consequences, and be there for our children to offer love and support?

Have I over-simplified? Sure! And I get that. But that’s what it seems to boil down to. We all have the choice to allow our children to jump off that equipment at the park, knowing full well that they may get hurt. We also have the choice to go all commando helicopter parent, demand they cease and desist and leave the park, never to return again.

Personally, I think I lean more towards the French model of parenting. I started giving TT1 the privilege of choosing his own clothes for daycare when he was 2 (from a set of 3, pre-selected, they’ll go together no matter what items). I did the same with TT2, and am doing it with TT3 right now as well.

I started introducing new flavors and textures of foods early on. I don’t allow ANYONE at my table to pronounce something gross/yucky/disgusting without first submitting to the 3-bites rule. 9 times out of 10, it’s not gross, yucky or disgusting, it’s just different than what the family is used to.

We have our list of favorites, from foods to places to books, but we make it a point, as a family, to try new things. Whether it’s a new park, a different genre of library book, a movie we have never seen, or a dinner full of ingredients we’ve never seen before, we embrace the adventure.

Kids may thrive on routine, yet they need to be stimulated and encouraged to explore the world they live in. Demanding participation in a certain activity because it is accepted, or what you did as a child, serves no purpose, and does more harm than good. Setting acceptable limits and providing choices within those limits is, in my opinion, a much healthier and less stressful way to parent.

I don’t want to be a dictator, but neither is my home a democracy. There are rules and expectations of behavior. There are consequences as well. And after reading this week, I’ve decided that I’m going to tone down the discipline, and increase the education of my kids. Learning shouldn’t be punitive, and really, what is toddler behavior? It’s learning behavior.

So, instead of going all ape-schmidt when TT3 has an accident on the floor (yes, we are potty-training), I just bet I can convey my disappointment without yelling, make him clean up the mess without yelling, threatening or bribing, AND educate him about getting that pee in the potty next time. And myself, because really, how many toddlers can hold it for more than an hour or so??

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