When I posted my 'little rant' regarding my concern about the disappearance of imagination in today's children, it prompted many discussions both here and with friends and family. Today I'm posting the second half of my guest blogger's thoughts on parenting today. If you missed the first half please scroll down and catch up on Bridget's and her husband's common sense approach to parenting. I must tell you, I taught all of their children, and their parenting is producing wonderful young people who also happen to have imaginations. Today's post is all about the Family Rules. For more of Bridget's amusing anecdotes on family life you may visit her blog at:
We made up the rules as we went along:
One sport a season once they were of age to play team sports. We decided not to do year-round anything, both for our sanity and the kids. They don’t know what they want and why do we, the adults, torture ourselves arguing and cajoling them to go to practice and play when they are tired, cranky and hungry? They spend the whole day keeping it together at school and just when they are primed and ready for a colossal melt down between 4:30 and 6:00 we want them to go out and give their best effort at a sport. Really? How many of us are anxious to go out and run a 5 or 10K after 8 to 10 hours at work? Any volunteers?
If you forget your lunch, you will be good and hungry for dinner. The kids are mostly all right with this one. It is a pretty direct cause and effect situation. It is the adults at school that have a problem. No one in this family is going to starve to death because they forgot their lunch. (They started making them for themselves in kindergarten, by the way.) I have had to have a serious discussion with our lunchroom people every year regarding this family rule. The kids only forget once though.
If you forget your backpack at home with all your homework you have worked so hard on you will be handing it in late the next day. After I drop you off at school, I have a full schedule and things to do to keep this house and family running smoothly and running back and forth bringing you things you have forgotten is not on the list any day. Everyone gets one save a school year. They choose wisely now.
If you are being taken to school and picked up from school by me, as well as every other activity you’re involved in, you do not need a phone of your own. When you are in a situation where you will be arranging for your own transportation, taking a bus, or walking/riding your bike home you will have a phone to notify me when you’re leaving and when you get home if I am not there.
If you misplace, lose or forget your phone, you will have to purchase the next one. When you get a phone, we have a contract that you will sign and abide by. These are all leading up to the situations and consequences of the independent adult world. We are allowing them to make these errors now when there is still some sort of safety net, but the gravity of the situation is not completely lost.
Electronic devices are fun and cool and a luxury item. We have Amish days at our house. Sometimes these come about as a punishment for misuse/overuse of electronic devices; sometimes they are scheduled so we can all remember what else we can do with our brains. As you may have guessed Amish days are pretty simple. The only electrical things that you can use are lights, stove, oven, toaster, dishwasher, curling iron, washing machine, dryer, vacuum and the land line in the kitchen. All other electrical or battery operated devices will not be used. They will be secured in Mom and Dad’s room.
Although there is always much grumbling on Amish days—sometimes from the kids’ friends who have to actually CALL and TALK to them on a land line- oh the horror—by the end of the day they have read, played board games, cleaned their rooms, walked the dog, gone for a bike ride, played at the park, and gotten along together. During the long school breaks we plan one or two Amish days per week, just to keep everyone pleasant. It does work.
We don’t take the kids out of school for vacations. We take our trips when school is out. That is your opportunity. Not the week before, not during the middle of the year because that is the off-season at Disneyland. This never made us real popular with our kids, but oh-well…
You get one all class birthday party. These were usually bowling or one of those inflatable jumping places, where the money hungry teenager that works there corrals the children for you. This occurs in kindergarten because you are going to be moving through the K-8 school together for the next 8 years. It’s good to get to know people. After that, birthdays are a one to three friend situation, and sometimes it’s just family.
We have made it very clear to all of our kids that school is their job. All other activities are extra and subject to cancellation at the discretion of their parents. We also say that once you are on a team you are committed for the duration of that season. It can be a fine line to instill the responsibility of being on a team, but also the impermanence of extracurriculars. They are earned at our house and not to be expected. We had our oldest boy call his basketball coach in 4th grade to let him know he would not be able to play in the tournament because he had gotten a C in some subject. He did wear nice clothes and sat on the bench to support his team though. It was a hard lesson, but I’d rather he learn it at the age of 9 than 19.
We received some praise for that consequence, but I know others thought it was harsh. Again –Oh, well… You may be noticing a theme here. We repeatedly tell the kids, and have since they were 5 or so, we are trying to raise you to be kind, happy productive members of society. We are not your friends. We are your parents. It is our job to embarrass you, call attention to inappropriate behaviors, and remind you, sometimes repeatedly that you have chores/homework/responsibilities of all sorts. We hope to be friends one day when you are independent adults with college educations, jobs and your own places to live. Until then it doesn’t really matter if you think we are fair, or things don’t make sense or you think we are in the wrong. It is not up for discussion.
If the kids sincerely think they have been misjudged or maligned in some way, they can come to us with facts and evidence to plead their case. This supporting evidence may not include, ‘It’s not fair,’ ‘I didn’t do anything,’ ‘He/She started it!’ ‘I don’t know what happened,’ or ‘That just doesn’t make sense.’ To reiterate, we are the parents. If these are the only things you can come up with you probably should just keep it to yourself. When the young politicians have brought appropriate extenuating circumstances there have been reversal of judgments. The moral of this situation is, if it’s worth fighting for you better bring your A game. I believe this is a lifelong lesson and skill to be learned.
The fact of the matter is you are not alone out there, and almost everyone else has had some version of the experiences you are having. All of these interactions with your kids, and all the advice you receive solicited or not are points on a spectrum. You are creating an environment that you want to live in with these individuals you have brought into the world. It does not matter what anyone who is not a member of your family, meaning they do not live under your roof, has to say. If they don’t live in the house, they don’t get a vote. Hold tight to your convictions, and be sure of yourself. We all have the power, the knowledge and the skill to raise people we will enjoy spending time with someday.
Thank you Bridget!