I've held a lot of challenging jobs in my life including farmer, teacher, soldier, police reporter and waitress. But the difficulties of all those jobs combined don't hold a candle to the constant, daily challenge of being a parent.
I wanted to have kids for as long as I can remember. I baby-sat and took care of young nieces and nephews from an early age. I loved my jobs as camp counselor and youth group leader. So I thought I knew what children were all about. And maybe I did. But being a mother threw me for a loop.
Babyhood was a breeze. Somehow, I knew just what to do and I loved doing it. But once my babies became toddlers and I had to start setting limits, all that changed. Suddenly, I was no longer great at this job.
I'd say, One cookie only and a whine would change my mind.
I'd say, I'll read you three books at bedtime and end up reading five (and resenting it.)
I'd say, No, I can't buy you that action figure and a tantrum would send me to my wallet.
Those of you who know the importance of setting limits realize I was setting myself up for a lot of grief. And I got it. My youngest is now eight and my oldest 15 and I'm still not the greatest at discipline. But I now see where I went wrong and wish I had had my eyes opened sooner -- like when my firstborn was one.
Time to Reach Out
Because of my experience, I want to reach out to other parents who are just beginning the journey and stress to them the importance of limits, of being consistent and, to use an old fashioned phrase, being strict. Love is essential, but when it comes to raising kids, it's not all you need.
If you are the parent of a baby or toddler and you read one thing on this site, go to Disciplining Toddlers by Grandma Charlie. She gives sound advice, born of experience. Listen carefully to what she has to say. Also, take a look at Teaching Children Respect in an Age of Equality by psychologist Dr. Wendy Mogel. Her insights are important and timely. To read about the beautiful and useful lesson one young mother learned about dealing with her impossible toddler, go to Volcanic Ash by Teen Center Director, Sara Eisen.
If I was weak on discipline, I was strong on reading. From the time our firstborn was six months old, we read books to our kids every night before bed and often during the day as well. And today, my kids are never far from a book. They average one a day. For the joys of reading aloud to kids, go to Early Childhood Center Director Esther Wolfson article, Books to Grow On.
But don't think reading aloud is just for little kids. If you haven't yet discovered the unexpected pleasure of reading aloud to older children, look at Cary Jacoby's The Magic of Reading Aloud to Big Kids.
Those of you who are dealing with the ups and downs of the teen years can get insights about communication with these often uncommunicative beings in our drama, I Can't Go On. Don't miss I Know You Can Hear Me but Are You Listening for a parent's valuable perspective on the same topic and Kidding: How to Raise Your Parents, for a perceptive teen's take on the issue. These articles and dramas will also show you what is unique about our site: We focus on THE WHOLE FAMILY and the interactions between different family members. And we don't just write and talk: we act. Check out our other dramas and you'll see what I mean.
There is a lot more useful information in our Parent Center. Browse around and let us know what you liked, what worked for you, what you need that you haven't yet found.
Copyright Ruth Mason, 2000