Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Q & A -- parenting stuff (part 1)

Please add in advice or ideas because I certainly don't have all of them. I learn so much from readers! This is an especially tricky post because a bunch of these questions pertain to older kids and my oldest is only 14. I know there are amazing ideas out there about raising teens and I would sure love to hear them.

Have you ever had to deal with children talking back and been disrespectful. If so, how have you dealt with it?

I think each of my children have gone through stages where they have experimented with talking-back.

So far I have just told them to stop in their tracks and start over again speaking nicely. Often I will even give them a cue of exactly what to say: "I'm so sorry, Dearest Mother :), I would love to help you with that!!", etc. Dave and I have a pact to stick up for each other if any of them think it may be a good time to be mouthy us.

We really do have an unwritten "no tolerance" policy for disrespect. It's just not an option. Yes, children have free agency and may choose to be disrespectful despite the "house rules." But the consequence is that they go to their room and think about it until they can come out and be kind. I think this would be tougher to start when they are older and are already exhibiting a pattern of disrespect. But when they are younger and can "get" the fact that there is absolutely no tolerance for any inkling of disrespect I think they learn pretty quick.

We have yet to see if this holds through the teenage years...I sure hope so!

Because of who your parents are, do you ever feel like you have to be 'on your best' when they are around? LOL. {more about my parents here}

That's a great question because you would think that with "parenting experts" as parents I would feel judged in every decision I make. It would be so easy for them to say, "wow, maybe you should think about how you handled that," or just simply to barge in and tell Dave and I what to do.

But my parents are very wise.

They know that learning how to parent takes making some mistakes here and there. Our mistakes and problems help us figure out the answers that work best for us in the long-run. So they let us be.

I don't know if they made a conscious discussion about this at some point when they started having grandchildren or if it just comes naturally to them, but they never, ever pipe in and tell me what I should do. Quite the opposite actually, they praise any good thing I do and I have to call and ask them for advice if there's anything I have specific worries/questions about. I love that about them. They hope that they have given me the tools to become my own best kind of parent and they want Dave and I to blaze our own trail taking their ideas along with ones form Dave's parents. I think they delight in watching what each of us nine kids come up with as we deal with our own families.

Oh man, have I mentioned how much I love my parents? Just wondering.

With your daughters do you have any rules about what age they can start wearing makeup or getting their ears pierced?

Yes, I talked about the ear piercing one here, and the make-up one back here.

Obviously we are not overly scientific about figuring out these ages. I don't believe in making a big deal about either one of them because I think that makes kids want them more.

Your "teens" always look so happy. How do you help them form positive attitudes and prevent complaining? I have a couple nieces and nephews who are teens and seem to think everything in life 'sucks'. I am trying to figure out if this is a glorious teen attribute or something that can be avoided.

Hmmm, that's a tricky one. I'm so glad that they look happy but remember that I don't generally take pictures of my kids when they are sulky. (Even if I did happen to catch one they would die if I posted it.) That being said, I have to say that Max and Elle are pretty darn nice and are generally very appreciative and positive. Maybe they have learned that if they start complaining steam may start coming out of their mother's ears and they may see her transform into "Mean Mom." They have learned that if they find complaining necessary in their pampered life they are in deep trouble.

Generally, I mention how grateful I am for things about every fifteen minutes through the day so maybe the gratitude rubs off on them somehow.

Do your kids ever fight? They seem to be so loving and happy all of the time. If they do fight (which, I'm assuming they do), how do you help them resolve conflict?

Sure they fight. And they tease. And they do annoying things to each other just to get a rise out of whoever happens to be the most fun to pick on at the time. But I do really try to nip it before it becomes out of hand. I tell them constantly that they are going to be with each other forever so they better be nice and may as well be best friends while they're at it.

The "fighting bench" honestly works wonders to resolve fighting. I talked about it back here. It's really mostly geared toward younger kids but it still works wonders for bigger kids too. I love that method of resolving conflict because it helps kids take ownership of their arguments and helps them understand the importance of figuring out what they did wrong and fixing it.

I also think that singing "Love is Spoken Here" to them works wonders when they start squabbling, but Dave disagrees so I stopped in the middle of my off-tune rendition.

What age do you think is best to start piano? My son is going into Kindergarten and I was going to start him in piano lessons at the same time, but the teacher said she likes to wait until first grade. Thoughts? Thanks!

I am a huge advocate of waiting for as long as possible to start lessons. I talked about my thoughts a bunch back here, and this may sound harsh, but I think it is a waste of time and money to put kids in music or sports too early.

Now, please remember that's just me. I do not have children that have exhibited the potential for turning into natural prodigies, nor do I wish to turn into a Tiger Mother and coerce them into becoming just that. I have discovered after much analysis and careful discussions with Dave, that we are not really a family of "experts" and we are totally fine with that. {more on that in this letter I wrote to the kids.}

Had you asked me this question in the "early years" I may have said something quite the opposite. I wanted to start my children early in everything. I wanted to push them to be the best of the best. But the years have settled me down a little.

As far as piano lessons go, all the research I've read says that it's best to start kids when they know left from right and when they can read. That being said, we totally planned on having Claire start this year. She's in second grade after all and has mastered those things. But I was like a deer-in-the-headlights at the beginning of the school year with so many commitments swirling around so we decided to put it off one more year. She wants to do tennis, gymnastics, soccer, piano and dance and well, we could only pick a couple of those.

Bottom line, I think it completely depends on the maturity of the child and the willingness of the parent to sit down to practice with them. Beginning piano students need constant supervision to make progress and it's a big commitment.

I'm a mom of 2 (ages 4 and 18 months, boy and girl). I know how you like to keep it real, and I do understand that everything can't always be constant peace and happiness between all of your kids. But I really do get the feeling that in general, your kids love, respect, and are kind to one another and have genuine fun together. Growing up, my siblings and I definitely loved each other and were protective of each other, but we also had a lot of name calling, hitting, relentless teasing, and yelling. And we didn't usually particularly enjoy one another's company. (probably because of all the fighting) What do you think has helped your kids get along so well? I so wish for my kids to be best of friends as they grow up and not have all the contention that I grew up with.

I think the above questions about respect and fighting pretty much answer this. The "no tolerance" thing is key. But who knows, maybe subliminally it helps to have "love more" written above the door they go in and out of every day: (more about that entryway here)

...and to have the words Learn, Work, Serve, Respect boldly placed where they can see it and talked about constantly at FHE. (More about family mottos here.)

My oldest is a boy and second is a girl, so it will be fun to see their relationship blossom and hopefully be as awesome as max and elle's! do you have any tips on fostering a friendship between your kids? mine are still so little, but it's one thing i always have in mind...how to help them not only love each other as siblings, but genuinely LIKE each other as friends too.

I think the "no tolerance" thing for not accepting disrespect or belittling helps. Dave and I also try to build up our children in front of each other to model kindness and we pray for them each individually in family prayer so everyone can hear...I think that helps to help kids be aware of each other and to help "root" for each other.

But really, I think Max and Elle just happen to have personalities that mesh really well together. Their individual strengths and weaknesses cancel each other out. I'm so grateful for that.

There are so many more great parenting questions I'll try to get to soon in (part 2). Until then, please add your advice or ideas here!
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