This week's Moms Talk Q&A discusses protecting our children.
As parents we vow raising our children to be the best adults they can be, and as parents we instinctively protect our kids from danger, misfortune, and even from themselves.
In light of recent events in the public eye, in our courtrooms and on our streets, this question resonates with many:
Q: How far will mothers go to protect a child from consequences of the child's own mistakes?
A: As a mother, I have made my share of mistakes while trying to smooth over a boo-boo, my son's missed homework assignment, inappropriate language in front of others, to begin the lengthy list.
I despise the feeling, that absolute dread that overcomes me, when I realize a teacher is going to come down hard (and rightfully so) on my precious boy--whose dog not only has eaten his homework, but may have inadvertently forged my signature on a progress report.
My first instinct as a mom is to protect him from the mean teacher who doesn't understand him, and then privately repeat to my son the infamous words of Bill Cosby, "I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out!"
My next, more appropriate instinct as a level-headed adult is to help him come clean, complete the assignment, and discuss with him the dishonesty. Are there times I wish I could take away the inevitable consequences that he is facing? Of course. Have I written an excuse for him staying home from school when he was healthy? Embarrassingly, yes. At times the line dividing reasonable and inappropriate appeared blurry. But as he learns from his actions and becomes a man, I am grateful to be able to see my place in his mistakes and consequences, and my role in his decisions.
I'm not sure what lengths, if any, I would go to if I am ever faced with the reality of my ADULT child being charged with a crime. But if I'm half the mom I hope to be, I will see the line to avoid crossing. Clearly.
A: You know the old story, no one knows what it is like to be a parent until it is upon them. Then, there you are figuring it out as it comes along. And children are learning too and it is our job to teach them. In a way we learn together I suppose.
When I first discovered that my daughter was getting toys from a non-existent treasure box in Pre-K I was shocked. Then I realized that children are impulsive and make choices mostly based on the fire in the moment. So the passive interrogation or childhood begins. Overall, teaching them right begins with coming to terms with our very own experiences. I often teach my children by telling a story about an experience I had.
Consequences can be very powerful on there own--so let your kids experience them and soothe them through it.
A: How far will I go to protect a child from consequences of his own mistakes? Not far at all. Actually, not an inch.
As a parent, it is our job to raise responsible, contributing members of society. It is not fair to them or to their future bosses, spouses, friends and co-workers to raise a child to think that their decisions, large and small, do not have consequences.
Recently my 5-year-old son broke something in a store. I made him tell the clerk and admonished him, informing him that he would be paying for the item out of his allowance. Then, the clerk derailed me by saying the store had insurance and he didn’t have to pay. We paid for it, anyway. How is my son going to learn respect for others’ property if his irresponsible actions cause damage and he faces no punishment?
That’s just one example, but frankly I’m disturbed by today’s prevailing notion that parents protect their kids by ‘saving’ them from facing the music in life. Are we saving them from immediate embarrassment, hurt or suffering? Perhaps in the short term, but we’re dooming them to much worse consequences down the road, when they can’t keep jobs or relationships because their word means nothing and their actions become louder than their words.
It also leads me to ask another question: Who are you really protecting?
I can’t help but think parents are trying to cover up for their own guilt, or their own need to be liked by their child.
My parents lived by the mantra, ‘Hate me now, love me later,’ and boy, both statements were and are true. They taught me that how you treat others is in direct correlation to how you see yourself. Are you trustworthy? Independent? Truthful? If your parents cover for you, this tells a sneaky, invasive lie that you are incapable of dealing with crisis yourself; that you are untrustworthy to handle diversity; that you lack the character needed to face life’s challenges.
Life is hard enough; parents don’t need to add this to the hurdles children need to overcome. Take a stand, and put your kids on a pedestal--just make sure it’s one they deserve. Only then can they truly stand out above the crowd.