Parenting Preview

The last two weeks have been a rude awakening for me and my wife to the potential pitfalls of future parenting.

We’ve been watching our cousins, ages 16 and 13, while their parents were away on vacation.  The parents let them stay at home, under our randomly watchful care, and laid down a few very specific rules.  We didn’t have a lot of rules, but we were deadly serious about the rules we had.

… And the 16 year old broke all of them.

All.  Of.  Them.

By Wednesday, the cell phone and car keys had been permanently confiscated, and they were living at our house under our constant vigil.


What do you do with kids who just insist on breaking every rule?  What do you do when kids just ignore the truth of a situation, and feel comfortable lying through their teeth to get out of anything?  What do you do with kids who are just plain mean to each other?

Yesterday, in church, a precarious little 3 year old turned around to a girl who was visiting for the first time, looked her straight in the eye and said, “I don’t like you.”  When her mom got on her about it she said, “I don’t like her shirt.”

We had a good laugh about her 3 year old antics, but I don’t think it was funny to the parents.  I mean, how does a 3 year old learn to be that mean to other people for no reason and with no provocation?

Parenting just sucks when it’s hard.  “Grounding” a child tends to punish the parent more than the child, and do you really teach a child anything by restricting their freedom?  But can you, in good conscience, give them the independence that they so clearly demonstrated that they couldn’t handle when unmonitored?

I’m a little nervous that I might be too draconian of a parent.  I don’t see anything wrong with ankle bracelets, eavesdropping, and disciplining so that the punishment fits the crime.  I have a very low tolerance for dishonesty and a very short attention span for tantrums.

The problem is, my wife and I were both cut from the same cloth: the peacemaking, law-observing, trouble-averse, do-what-is-expected-of-me, and never-get-into-trouble cloth.  My concern is, how will we ever relate to a child that to pushes the limits, does stupid things that we advise against, and then lies to us about it?  (The latter of which I would be most upset about)

While discussing my babysitting misadventures with various family members, friends, and co-workers, one thing is quite clear: there is no one way to parent a kid.  Most people seem to agree with the importance of setting a precedent in youth.  You are their parent, and the authority figure in their life.  You don’t have to be mean, but you do have to be obeyed. You don’t have to always justify your every move, and you are not there to be negotiated with.  You have to stick to your guns and follow through, rather than making threats.

I know several parents who make it through early teen-hood with amazing kids — obedient, kind, and fun-loving.  I definitely admire their families and their parenting.  I am interested to see, though, how their kids will change as they turn into teenagers.  It seems that when teenager-dom hits, all bets are off.  Any prediction of a particular child’s behavior based on previous records is futile.

I know they don’t come out as teenagers, and that you have a lot of years of cute cooing, barfing and pooping before they really make a mess out of your life.

I have a new respect for those who are parents, and am here to emphatically announce that I am not ready to join their ranks.

11 thoughts on “Parenting Preview”

  1. So you don’t want to come with me to E’s maturation program next year. I would SO freeze time right now if I could. My kids are out of diapers, but before teenagers. I wish it would just stay like this.

  2. Haha! Great thoughts.

    Parenting is very scary. Brad and I think/pray about this sort of thing EVERY DAY.

    We’ve been very lucky with our first, Allen. He has a very obedient spirit (he’s three, I know how this sounds). But he loves to do good and be good and hear about good things. He’s very easy to teach.

    Brigham, our second, is a little different. When you say no to him, he smiles a mischievous grin and does more of the thing you want him to stop doing! He’s been this way since he was a fetus. What are we suppose to do with that? He’s nothing like Allen and we feel like first time parents all over again.

    So, we pray, teach them the gospel, be very consistent, read lots of parenting/personality books, and do the very best we can.

    For all the angst (and headaches) of parenting, I have to say, that joy outweighs the heartache by a million to one. Then again, both of my children are under 4. That ratio will likely change a little when they’re teenagers. 🙂

  3. Yeah, P and I have a (sort of) jokey rule about parenting – if any of our kids get to be serious discipline problems, we’re just going to shoot them and start over. Seriously, though, I don’t know how people can parent without losing their minds…I do wonder if in 15 years I’ll be kicking myself for trying so hard to start this whole process!

    (P.S. My blog address has changed – send me your email if you’d like an invite!)

  4. you really don’t realize what you are in for until it is too late and there is not turning back. If i had known it was going to be this challenging I would have thought long and hard about doing it.

  5. Heavenly Father knew we were weak and sent us 5 incredibly good kids so it is fair to say that we really weren’t tested all that much and maybe aren’t qualified to say all that much. But I will anyway. I have thought long and hard about how difficult it would be to live with “difficult” kids. Here are just a few kind of random thoughts. First of all, teaching them from a very early age that THEY are responsible for their actions is important. Parents who automatically side with their child in any dispute allow that child to learn that they don’t have to be responsible because Mom or Dad will always bail them out. That’s a fine line that parents have to walk because the kids also need to know that their parents will support them, too. I think there are usually enough opportunities of both types of experience over the course of a childs 18 years with their parents to experience both being supported and being held accountable. Second, don’t be afraid to mete out punishment. Just be sure to show forth greater love after administering the punishment. Don’t fall into the worldly trap of thinking that purely positive reinforcement works. It doesn’t. It takes both positive and negative reinforcement. The scriptures are very clear here. Heavenly Father doesn’t just allow us to be chastised by Satan. Heavenly Father chastises us when we need correction because he loves us. Third, I think, for the most part, if you teach the kids what is right, even though they may stray along the way, eventually, they grow up and grow out of it. I know there are notable exceptions. The thing I love about the church is that there is so much help along the way. By ourselves, we would have been abysmal failures. We were well on our way to that before we were baptized. The church changed everything. As it was, we did everything we could which was woefully short and then Jesus Christ made up the difference. So I guess you could say that having kids is very much an expression of faith.

  6. As I read your blog many thoughts crossed my mind. I will attempt to write something that will make sense. I firmly believe that until one who has not yet been a parent should be very careful of how they might be critical of one who is a parent. Yes, teenagers can be a real challenge, and who knows why is any one’s guess. But there are way to many so called adults out there who have passed the teen-age years,and yet are still screwed up worse than Bill Grogan’s Goat and nearly every family has one or more that fits into this group. Should the parents still have to be held accountable for them? I am greatful that I had the blessing of having six children, and going through the terrible teens with them. Was it always happy days and always sunshine? No it wasn’t, but you know what, we took each sunny day and applied it against the cloudy days and ended up with a whole lot more sunshine than we did rain. Personally, I know that the challenges I had with my terrible teenagers really helped me to grow and have empathy for those parents who had alot more difficult challenges than me. Final thought…I am so thankful that I had the blessing of being the parent of six wonderful children that ever came to planet earth.

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