A Grandmother's Thoughts on the Raising of Children

My favorite photo of our three sons Mike, Chris, and Joel taken in 1998 on my 50th birthday.
I was raised in an incredibly strict home and by today's standards it might even have been labeled abusive, but I think not.  I did not raise my children as rigidly as my brother, sisters and I, but we were strict.  By that I mean......We exercised extreme love and affection with our children.  We had expectations.  WE DID NOT REWARD OR GIVE IN TO BAD BEHAVIOR.

With little little kids we picked our fights.  If a little one even looked like they might do something that might prove harmful to themselves or others it was boom!!  Big and immediate repercussions!  Yes, a swat or a smack if no didn't phase them.  When they got older we took things away to get their attention and the big one was the threat of embarrassment and their belief that I was good for what I said I would do.  Our big rule was not to ever reward bad behavior and to be consistent.

Not all children are alike and this was evident with our three sons.  So different things worked with different personalities.

Being strict means more than saying yea and nay.  Being strict is also keeping your home on a schedule.  I can attest to the fact that your children will be happier and more successful (Even if they fight it.) if the family adheres to a schedule.  It can even be a unique schedule.

For instance, my Father was in business for himself along with his partner my Uncle.  This meant late hours and weekends Dad more often than not worked.  He also drove a rural school bus. So he got up each weekday morning, drove the bus, can home and went to work,  came back home and drove the bus route, came home from the bus route by 4PM and we ALL sat down for supper and ate.  Then he went back to work then returned sometime after 9:30PM.  My Dad was off every other Sunday and one weekend a month.

So,  we were expected to make good grades, go to Church, do our chores, and mind our manners.

When I had children of my own I expected and got the same.  It never occurred to me I was to be their best friend.  I was their Mother.  As the Mother it was my responsibility to see to it that they were well loved, clean, well behaved, and cared for.  That I prepared for them good and nutritious meals.  That I taught them life's truths as I believe them to be.  To urge them to be good students and citizens and to get an education and prepare them for life.

The children always had a bedtime and went to bed on time.  The same for meals.  We sat down together at the table and ate dinner and talked about our days.  Each day when the boys came home from school they got a snack and sat down at the dinning room table and finished their homework and had the snack BEFORE they were allowed to go outside and play. 

When the boys were older and had drivers permits and went out they were not allowed to go out on school nights other than practices.  They could go out 2 nights on the weekend.  They had a curfew and were home on time or lost the keys and were grounded.

Children feel valued and secure when they have a schedule and know what to expect.  If you pay attention and stress the importance of homework, good grades, and good citizenship it will be important to them. 

We were never well to do, just average and they did not get everything they ever wanted.  For big items like bikes and later cars.  They were expected to save up their money and help pay for the special item.  It has more value to them if they have to wait and help earn what they want.

The thought I want to leave with you because I KNOW you care or you would not have bothered about finding and reading this is;  It is much much easier to be you child's friend,  to say yes to everything, to give them everything as you are able. It is much easier to throw money at kids for every whim.  But that is not being a good parent.  Being a good parent is a lot of work.  It is hard to say no, it is hard to make and enforce standards of behavior and rules about homework and friends.   It is hard not to explain and discuss every single thing.  But it is in my opinion a mistake to do so. 

When you continue to make conversation on any subject with a child you are telling them the decision has not been made and it is still open to debate.  Once you make the decision and explain the decision to them,  as the grown up and the parent, that should be the end of it.  If you handle it otherwise you open yourself up to all manner of TEACHING THEM OTHERWISE.

So be loving, kind, and firm.  Stick to your guns.  Run the household on whatever schedule works for your family,  Feed them good food and lots of love and affection.  Make your decisions, it is not up for a vote or debate, you are the parent.  Explain the decision once and that is the end of it.  Good luck my friends and God Bless you and yours.



P.j. said...

Amen, Sister! If more parents realized their role isn't to be their kids' best friends, they wouldn't experience so many issues with their kids as they grow up. You & Brian raised 3 wonderful, intelligent, polite, & successful sons, which no amount of money can buy. I consider my greatest accomplishment to be that I helped successfully raise 2 kids who were good students, honest, respectful, dependable, who also are able to support themselves instead of thinking someone else would take care of them (or the government would). I witness so many parents being manipulated by even little kids, begging, throwing tantrums, or arguing over every little thing. I can usually predict that the parent(s) will give in, because the kids have learned to persist until the behavior pays off. People can't seem to understand that they are rewarding negative behavior. The opposite is more rare--those parents who nag a kid about every little thing, even when the kid has a legitimate request or is tired & needs a nap. It's not that hard to distinguish different kinds of crying even when it's someone else's kid: hungry, tired, in pain, or just being a brat. My sister & I inherited the ability to give bratty kids the "look" that says, "If you were my child, you wouldn't be allowed to act that way without being punished". It's funny how fast even a toddler can read an adult's face & know if you're serious. They also know when a parent isn't serious with threats, because they usually don't carry out any threat of punishment.

With our kids, I tried to keep in mind something Mom always said when we 4 were young: I don't want people to say, "Oh no, here she comes with those kids!". Grandpa Harrison told her we were the best behaved of all his grandkids, which made her very proud--& she told us she was proud of us when anyone else complimented her. The highest praise anyone could ever pay me is to say our kids were well behaved--& I always made sure to let them know that they had made me so proud, too. That's the right way to build self esteem!

Kids actually want to please adults, & feel more secure with limits. Kids who get to do anything they want wonder if their parents really care enough to take time to teach them or protect them from doing things that may get them in trouble or hurt.

If I could afford to buy billboards & advertising, they would say:

Do you love your kids? If you do, you should want other people to at least LIKE them. If you fail to teach them how to behave, nobody will like them. That will hinder them in almost everything they do in life--school, relationships, work, family.

There--I'll get off my soapbox now! Great column! Hope it goes viral!!! (And I LOVE that picture of the boys, too! Handsome, smart, funny, successful!! & OUR nephews!! ;-)

Diane Cosby said...

WOW! Thank You. I thought long and hard about posting this. I am getting, as evidenced by the top 7 posted list I published a few weeks ago, almost 50% of the traffic on non recipe posts. So this is evolving to more of a magazine. This is a topic I am very concerned about. Thanks again for the wonderful comments and the comments on the boys. I am both humbled and Blessed to be their Mother.

P.j. said...

I agree with the whole post, but especially the part about not getting into debates with kids after a decision has been made. If parents teach their children respect & establish who is in charge (NOT the kids!), there won't be many battles ...even during the teen years. We honestly didn't have many issues with our 2 kids while they were growing up, & I know you didn't with your 3 boys. Have to start early, 'cause once you concede territory kids won't give it back! As a former daycare provider & school teacher, I know it pays off to have a schedule & rules that aren't open to discussion. I loved all the kids, but some would have run over any adult like a steam roller if I didn't start out tough. I think all the kids liked me though, because I made sure to let them know I wanted them to develop to their full potentials. If they don't have respect for authority, they will end up in trouble. There are always parents who can't control their kids, but will try to run interference when a teacher or administrator imposes discipline. That's just compounding the problem. Now my work involves trying to help adults get & keep a job, because many didn't learn there will always be rules. Anyone who wants their kids to succeed in life should let them face the music if they get in trouble instead of constantly bailing them out. That's just enabling them to continue negative behavior. Yes, it's work to raise kids to be responsible adults, but soooooo rewarding. I'm very proud of our 2 kids & their spouses for achieving their goals & working to support themselves.