What Happens When You Go Against the Grain
When I found out I was pregnant, after the initial feelings of surprise, fear, elation and anxiety (they all happened at once am I right?), I started asking myself what kind of parent I hoped I would be. Beyond keeping my little bundle of joy alive, I examined how my mother raised my sister and I, and what it meant for me as I made the transition to parent. Would I adopt her hard-and-fast rules and no nonsense discipline? What would my discipline style be? It became an incredible life lesson that I wasn’t expecting.
My mother was a single mom and had me when she was 21. Overall we were happy, had a roof over our heads and food in our mouths. I have to give her credit, as a single mom she had to lay down the law quickly. There was little room for error. We were to mind our manners, show respect for our elders, do good in school and help around the house. If we messed up, we should not have been surprised at the consequences that followed. She didn’t read parenting books, or have mommy blogs to ask for advice. She reacted to the situation in the moment to discipline her children accordingly. She was no June Crawford from Mommy Dearest but we learned super quick to not mess up or get on her bad side, quite simply for the sake of not getting in trouble.
So as my son grew up and situations arose, in those moments, I rebelled against my mother and tried to be more present in the moment. I wanted to raise an emotionally healthy child, and that be the core of my parenting style. I would ask myself, “what is he feeling?” or “is this age appropriate?” I would help him examine his feelings, point out why his actions were wrong or misguided in hopes that a life lesson was learned and all would be right in the universe. This worked for awhile until….
EVERYTHING BECAME A DEBATE AND WARRANTED DISCUSSION.
My son quickly realized how to turn a “getting in trouble” moment into a “Kumbaya with mommy”. I do wish sometimes that I would have adopted more of my mother’s school of thought. “NO MEANS NO - now go play” and that be the end of the conversation. Respect authority, accept your defeat, and move on. It’s hard for me though because I do want him to recognize his feelings, be aware of them and know that they are valid and a part of growing up. He is 10 now and I think he is very insightful and in touch with his emotions. We have a strong relationship where he talks to me about any and everything and we have some pretty amazing discussions. On the flip side I’m also learning to set more boundaries for his benefit. It’s a learning process for us both!
What I came to learn is that it was OK for me to find my own style but I didn’t need to fight so hard against my mother’s either. In a time of hippy-dippy techniques, “how to” books and barrage of advice from mommy know-it-alls, I did what worked for me and my child. I learned to pave my own path with stones of experience, advice and mistakes that happened along the way.
If ever my mother butted in, gave unsolicited advice, or had a snarky comment, I quickly learned how to brush them off. I was defensive of my tactics because I knew my child. I knew how he responded to negative and positive reinforcement. I picked and choose my battles very carefully. I’m still learning. Parenting at 10 is way different than 5. It’s an ever evolving process.
I do find certain phrases coming out now and then where I have to stop myself because I sound just like my mother. I know it’s happened to you too! I channel her in some situations when I need to because I realize I turned out OK, no matter what I try to blame her for. She did what she needed to do at the time and we didn’t end up on the streets, in a gang, or in jail. She pushed us to be our best, provided a loving home and tried to keep us in line. That’s basically all any mother can do.
Pave your own path. Do what works for you and your family. If you have a mother or mother-in-law, aunt, sister, cousin, who doesn’t agree with your methods it’s OK. You know your child. You know what makes them tick. Also, don’t close yourself off from evaluating how your system is working. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s observations to help you tweak your style. We are all growing and learning, and it helps to do it together and with as much help as possible!
Keep up the great work momma, you are doing great!
As you raise your children, do you find yourself trying to be more like your mother or do you go against the grain and try new things? There are so many techniques, schools of thought and ways to raise kids. It’s quite a market out there, playing on our fears of failing as a parent. Super Nanny was my spirit animal when my son was a toddler. Why she is not President I don’t know….
How would you define your parenting style? Can you relate to Amy's situation of having a different style than her own mother? Share with us in the comments below!