Friday, July 22, 2011

Opposite Mommy- Strict/Lenient

When my olders were younger I had a much stricter stance in parenting. My expectations were higher than probably should have been. But there were other areas where I was more lenient- a lot to do with how they spoke to me and allowing them to say "no" and giving them choices in things that they didn't need (like where we'd eat out). Now as teens I'm the opposite with them. My expectations are lower and they have it pretty "easy", very few regular chores, no set bedtimes, curfews too late (but in accordance to the law). But my parenting of them when younger comes back to slap me in the face far too often. I have a hard time with the way they speak to me, ignore things they are asked to do and in general see me as a peer instead of parent. BUT they are good kids, with loving hearts towards others, and they make good decisions away from home, so some of what I did was right.

Now with my middle and younger daughter things are a bit different- my expectations of them while younger were much lower (probably due to experience, and wisdom) and they weren't give the same allowances are the olders- no choices they didn't need to make, and they are expected to talk to parents(adults in general), well actually all others, with respect.

Something I think parents have a tendency to overlook is the influence of older siblings on younger ones. Yes the job of the parent is to parent them all- but sibling influence is strong, stronger even than peer pressure (and we all hear about the importance of helping our children deal with peer pressure and saying "no", not so much about sibling pressure). Older children may not be whispering in the youngers ears to "do this" or "don't do that" but those youngers WATCH those olders with an eagle eye and follow their example. I've found the most difficult areas I have with my olders are the areas my youngers are picking up on. So I'm working hard to combat it from all angles. I model respect to them all and point out (to the individual not the group) when their behavior is inappropriate, and when its an older, how the youngers are watching and coping them. It works sometimes...but I'm also changing tactics with the middles in hopes that the very youngers have a great example.

I'm finding I will probably be more strict with the middles and youngers as they enter teenagedom. They will have more to do in regards to being helpful around the house, will need to check in and not run as free, and expectations will be raised, because I know what they are capable of. I am no longer in uncharted territory.

But with the very youngest there is a fine balance needed. Maybe due to their sensory issues, maybe due to my growth as a parent. I know what I can expect developmentally at certain ages, but they are behind in those areas, so I need to adjust to their needs. Choices are something they don't need as much as I gave, even to the middle girls. They like a strict routine and when I (we) deviate too far, life for them falls apart.It'll be interesting to parent these boys as teens. I have a feeling structured activities, or sports will be part of our life.

Being opposite Mommy brings its own challenges. Sometimes I find myself defending my parenting of the younger children to the older ones. It doesn't matter how many times I say "Well I've learned different/more since you were young." or "They are not you and I have to treat them according to their needs, as I do yours." or "I'm the parent and you can let me do the parenting, please." I know the youngers frustrate them, they frustrate me regularly. And I know how much "life should be fair and equal for everyone" but life lessons that "life isn't fair or equal" are important and necessary, and the best place to learn those sometimes is in the home. It's also a lesson of tolerance that I hope I am teaching. Because in life we have lots of people we can't stand but have to deal with. And do so with tolerance.

I am constantly changing in my parenting style but that's because I'm learning as I go. We all are. What works for one may not work for another and we really don't see the end results of our parenting until they are grown. We don't really know which style is best for the individual until its all said and done.

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