As one might imagine, we get some attention when we go out as a family. There are a lot of smiles, several points, and a few oohs & aahs. There is also the unfortunately common, “How many kids? You’re crazy!” Chris has to address those people by himself, because those interactions shut down my brain.
My proudest moments, though, come when someone stops us to compliment the big boys on their behavior. They are polite and considerate. They open doors. They pick up dropped items. They look out for the babies in such a tender manner, it makes a grown man weep (even if that grown man is their dad and a weeper by nature).
I know that every child is different. I know it simply by looking at my own. But I also know that expectations have a lot to do with behavior, too. We expect a lot of our children, and we don’t apologize for it. We run a very tight ship at our house. So tight, in fact, that people occasionally try to intervene during a time of discipline.
“Ames was playing with that toy first; that’s why he tried to get it back.”
“Avery’s just being a boy. Don’t be too hard on him.”
“Lucas only interrupted because we was so excited to tell me about his school project.”
We usually deflect those conversations with a smile and a comment about “teaching moments.” I won’t get into types of parenting and discipline in this post, but I do want to share two concepts that often run through my head while Chris & I learn how to parent our growing family.
Kids are like puppy dogs. We don’t try to complicate things. When it comes to the basics, we don’t allow things like personality and human nature and willpower to get in the way. Our children will learn to do what is best for them. They will learn this by repetition. Our boys will always be expected to wait until everyone is finished before they get up from the dinner table. They will never wonder if it’s okay to watch TV or play video games without asking first. They feed off of structure and routine, and they thrive off of positive reinforcement. Like puppies. It sounds harsh, but it’s not. It works for us.
Kids will rise to the occasion. One of our boys is notorious for performing a task sloppily, in order to bring someone to his rescue. Shoe laces are a particular nemesis. We used to bend down and tie them quickly for him, after he showed us his own poor attempt. Now? We simply wait. It takes patience, and often extra minutes built into the schedule so we’re not late somewhere. But we will all wait until he ties his own shoes and ties them well. And we will encourage him through it. The same goes for making beds, or walking a little brother inside from the car. Our boys like to be challenged and taught and groomed for the future.
If you’ve ever met my kids, you will know without a doubt that they are not suffering from either of these parenting strategies. They are colorful, creative, and quick-witted. They know when it’s okay to let loose and get wild. They know when it’s time to straighten up and fly right. They’re learning how to think critically and how to (respectfully) challenge authority when something doesn’t add up.
A quick note about toddlers: I only knew the big boys at arm’s length when they were super young, but I am currently learning how to handle the “terribles” with my own little man. Everyone has a different opinion about which year is the hardest. I think they’re all wonderful, and they’re all challenging.
Every day, Ames learns something new and flexes his muscles a bit harder. We encourage him to develop his own sense of self & personality, while helping him learn his place in the family. When it’s time for a nap, it’s time for a nap. I know when he’s tired, even better than he does. It will not always be so, but right now parents know best. Thanks to this little “mobile time-out” Chris invented, Ames knows when he’s messed up right then and there. He sits down, puts his hands on his knees, and takes a few deep breaths. He puts his finger over his lips when he’s ready to re-engage his wild world. He’s able to work through whatever emotions he’s experiencing, and he’s able to process with Momma or Da-Da. It’s so beautiful to watch. And handy, too… how do you think we taught him how to leave his fun hats on?!
Feel free to share your stories and tips. We’ve got kids at every stage at this point. We’re always up for learning something new!