Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Raising Children

Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”  How true is that!

I have to be honest with you, raising children is the most difficult job I have ever had.  It’s perplexing how two (in my case) people who bring me the most joy in life also bring the most frustration.  There are times when I feel like one big fat failure.

Let me just include here, lest I have painted an unflattering picture of them in your mind, I have really good kids and, despite the occasional attitude adjustments needed, dirty dishes left out, and toys left strewn about, I feel blessed they are mine.   

When it does become a little overwhelming I take a step back and realize my goal should be to raise good children, not perfect children (for they do not exist), and that my micromanaging, choreographic, helicopter style is usually counter-productive.

Having said that though, I think the hands-off approach taken by many parents in child-rearing does even more harm.  Children need love, support, and freedom to learn on their own and be independent, but they also need guidance and discipline.  There is a consequence to each and every action we do, and sometimes the consequence can be grave.  Children need to be taught this.

In our years of teaching John and I have seen many a parent come to school when their little Johnny or Jane was in trouble in an effort to get them out of whatever consequence they were facing.  Usually, but not always, these parents were never seen at any other time during the year...not at P/T conferences, open houses, or other school events.  The only time they were ever publicly engaged in their child’s education was to fight to keep them from being disciplined and to argue that whatever rule was “unfair”.

I remember this one student (not from my class) who had stolen an item another 7th grade student had brought for show and tell.  The item was a Samurai sword (yes, this was in the days before zero tolerance).  At some point in the day the sword was found to be missing, and the teacher began searching with no luck.  Then, at the end of the day during bus dismissal, the teacher just happened to notice one sheepish looking boy walking toward a bus, carrying a gym bag which just so happened to be in the shape of a sword.  When questioned about it and after giving multiple versions of his story he was given his punishment (which I don’t remember now what that was).  Anyway, the next day his mother came to school furious that her son was in any kind of trouble.  As she told it, her son had told her he didn’t even know there was a sword in his bag.  Of course, the school did not back down and the mother left angrier than ever ranting about how her son would never have done anything like that and how the school was horrible.  The next year, this same student showed up in a pair of shoes which had been stolen from a locker the day before.  Of course, mom was back with the same story to tell...not my boy.  He would never.  This pattern of trying to get her son out of punishment continued until one day, a few years later, when the young man died drunk in a fishing accident.  Not even mom could get him out of that one.

The following article has been making the rounds on my Facebook feed, so if you and I are friends you may have already seen and/or shared it.  Anyway, I thought it was good so I wanted to share it, too.

A Different Kind of Drug Problem

The other day someone at a store in our town read that a meth lab had been found in an old farmhouse in an adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, “Why didn’t we have a drug problem when you and I were kids?”  

I replied, I had a drug problem when I was young:  I was drug to church on Sunday mornings.  I was drug to church for weddings and funerals.  I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather.

I was drug by the ears when I was disrespectful to adults.  I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or preacher, or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me.

I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profanity.  I was drug out to pull weeds out of my mom’s garden and flower beds and cockleburs out of my dad’s fields.  I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair a clothesline, or chop some firewood, and, if my mother had ever known I had taken one single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the woodshed.

Those drugs are still in my veins today and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, or think.  They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin; and, if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America would be a better place.

God bless the parents who drugged us.



Michelle said...

Parenting is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. But, it is rewarding.

Heather said...

There are times when I bang my head against the wall too. My children aren't perfect, but they are great kids. I am excited to see them in their adult lives!