“Mom, don’t put that on the internet.” It was a statement made by my son one afternoon about two years ago. While I don’t remember the details of the situation that prompted it, his request has been on my mind ever since.
It was something he didn’t want public. It might have been something unpleasant that happened at school that day, or even a hilarious story that he just wanted to keep between us. Whatever it was, he asked me not to share it, and I listened. I didn’t write about it on the internet. I didn’t share it on Facebook, the blog, or even with friends. I realized that my children have a valid need for privacy while they grow up.
Needless to say, it’s been a while since I logged in here! Though my children’s request for privacy certainly spearheaded my blogging hiatus, I also welcomed the break as our family headed into some transitional years. Our interests and activities started to go in new directions. Gradually, we moved into the tween years, and I just wanted to be there for them–no camera always in-hand, no blog title or topic always at the front of my mind, no wondering, “should I write about this?” and what the response might be on social media. I wanted to be simply present with my kids.
Now, at 10 and 12 years old, they face new challenges in growing up, and we face new challenges in helping them get there. Issues like…
- Being self-sufficient in the mornings
- Making thoughtful choices about food (what to eat, how much, when)
- Understanding what makes a good friend
- Putting in effort to do high quality work: from cleaning to handwriting to sports practices
- Planning and budgeting money
- Self regulating video game time
- Preserving family time
- The Great Cell Phone Debate
- Balancing friends, activities, and school work
- Time management
- Developing confidence
- Speaking up for what you need
- Staying close while developing independence
And yet, despite the evolving challenges of raising tweens, our priorities haven’t changed one bit: connection first. We hold on to each other. We aim for problem solving, communication, and working with our kids’ natural development. We talk. We hug. We preserve the relationship above all else. No matter what “logistical” challenges arise as our kids grow, these will always be the founding principles of how we approach them.
So here we still are! Things have changed, but ultimately not so much. I have no idea what twists and turns the teen years will bring us, but I trust we’ll figure things out one step a time. Together.
It’s been almost 3 months since my last blog post. Some of the last things I posted seemed like regular blog posts, but they were really reminders for myself. I had been struggling with my son’s new shift in behavior, and I was hoping that if I wrote something I knew to be true about parenting, I would have The Answer I was looking for and things would miraculously change with my son. But things didn’t change, and I stopped writing. I think I felt a little lost, like “positive parenting” wasn’t working…or that I had created these challenges in his behavior by not using stricter discipline all along. Suddenly, I didn’t know what to write about because what I was doing clearly wasn’t working.
My son, who is 8, has always been outspoken and spirited, but over the summer, he seemed to be even more. Outspoken…with an attitude. Spirited…and now belligerent. Our days were spent battling over seemingly everything and always ended in tears and anger–his tears, my anger.
So I stopped writing to focus on my family and to figure things out. I knew deep down that getting our relationship back on track was key, but I had no idea how to do that when everyday was such a challenge to endure. How do you express unconditional acceptance to a child when his behavior repeatedly pushes you away?
This was my a-ha! moment (a whole a-ha! summer) when I realized where the inclination to use harsh discipline comes from…how easy it is to respond in retaliation…
“Fine, be that way. I don’t care!” (walk away/ ignore)
“You can’t talk to me like that!” (do/ say something to show who’s boss)
“How dare you do that to me? (“Now here’s what I’ll do to you…”)
Feeling hurt and finding a way to turn that emotion into a hurtful action against a child (punish)
I experienced every one of these thoughts. What it took from me was the realization that I am the grown up here. If one of us is more capable than the other of regulating emotion and communicating effectively, guess who it is? Not the 8-year-old. As much as I thought he *should* be able to control himself and act appropriately, for whatever reason, he just wasn’t. No, sorry, not for “whatever” reason…the reason is immaturity. At 8 years old, my child still has about 20 more years to go before his brain reaches full maturity. That means the neural pathways between the structures of his brain that process emotion and the parts of his brain that handle logic, reasoning, and self control are far from formed and far from efficient.
My own brain has been at full maturity for a while now. Though it can be hard (and some days/ weeks/ months harder than ever), I have the ability to access my logical brain.
I can be the one to disengage from power struggles.
I can be the one to set limits and hold them without letting my emotions get the best of me.
I can be the one to reach out lovingly when it seems like my child is least deserving of connection and attention.
I can be the one to receive strong emotions and not take them personally.
I can be the one to be consistently firm.
I can be the one to be consistently kind.
I can be the one to understand that we are in a tough phase and my child is not “bad.”
This summer called for more firmness in our parenting. Some phases are like that. It didn’t mean hurtful words or punishments, but higher expectations, new boundaries, added responsibilities–all held consistently with firmness and kindness. It meant understanding that our son wasn’t necessarily going to like our expectations and he would have his feelings about them. My husband and I were prepared for this and distanced ourselves a bit so we wouldn’t be drawn into his emotional turmoil. Eventually, we experienced a huge turning point and saw a shift. More cooperation from our 8-year-old. Less outbursts. We especially found those needed moments of connection and spent time re-getting-to-know our son; It wasn’t such an effort to reach out anymore.
This summer was a phase; I’m realizing that now. It was much harder to see when we were in the thick of it. But what I couldn’t see then that I’m able to now, is that not only were the past few months a growth spurt for my son, but they were a growth spurt for me too. It was time for both of us to grow and change. Not only do I see the maturity he’s gained after this time of struggle, I also feel my own transformation from lost and floundering as a parent to feeling more capable than ever.
It gets better. Times are hard, we struggle, we work, we persevere, we change…and things get better. Little by little, we move forward; we grow together.
Family comes first. Being there for each other, spending time together, and supporting each other is a must. I remember once when my brother and I were in college and we were preparing for a vacation to Disney World, my mom said, “This might be our last family vacation together…” But guess what? It’s almost 20 years later and we still take family vacations together. From school events to movie nights to family vacations, prioritizing our family time has been that significant.
“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” If something is important enough, make it happen. You are capable.
No one can take your education away from you. No matter what hardships may fall upon you in life, you’ll always carry with you the knowledge and skills you made an effort to learn. It’s always worthwhile to learn something new.
Speak up. You might just get what you want.
Eat meals together. Dinnertime is essential enough to schedule or reschedule so everyone can be there. Cooking and baking and eating brings everyone together in meaningful ways.
Tears are OK. One night as a kid, I started crying in my bed at night and I didn’t know why. My mom came in to ask what was wrong, and when I couldn’t tell her, she held me and responded, “That’s OK. Sometimes big feelings overwhelm us and we just need to cry.” Whew…weight lifted.
Small savings add up to long term financial security. It’s the little expenditures that have the biggest impact. Most things we think are needs are really just wants. Know the difference.
Everyone has feelings. No one deserves to be hurt. Ever.
The one who matters most is the one in the glass. It’s not the critic who counts, but the person you see looking back at you from the mirror. That’s the one–the only one–you should worry about pleasing.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and to all the wonderful moms who teach their children lessons about life and what true love really is!
One day I wrote a post about a time in which my children and I were struggling with screen time. I wrote about how we detoxed. Then one day soon after that post came out, Jane Neslen, author of the Positive Discipline series, contacted me, said she loved the post and wouldn’t it be great if we could put together a resource for parents on this very important topic? I said absolutely yes and started to get to work on what would become our ebook collaboration.
The irony was, every time I sat down to work on the book, I was tempted to either turn on a movie for my kids or hand them an iPad so I could get work done on it. I remember thinking, “Do I really want to write a book about the value of reducing screen time while my kids sit in front of a screen so I can get it done?” I decided no. I couldn’t do that.
So the book had to wait. Wait a bit until my kids were a little older and our schedules aligned and I had some uninterrupted work time…without the assistance of screens. Since that day a few years ago, we have had even more chances to work through additional challenges with our use of screens…adding to my growing understanding that there was certainly no cut-and-dry answer for every family and their screen time dilemmas.
It would be easy to declare, “Go screen free! Here is why, here is how, and here are the alternatives.” To give families ONE simple answer for their media use. The truth is, there is no ONE answer that works for everyone. Viewpoints on the topic of screen time range from 100% unlimited access to disowning TVs completely and avoiding video games like the plague.
Though, there is much in between.
That’s where our new resource comes in. For the families in the in-between…Those who fall somewhere in between full access and total banishment for their kids’ media use. I was thrilled when the ebook started coming together and we finally had a pub date. That date was last Monday, so the ebook is now available to everyone!
Don’t think I missed the irony of publishing a book about screen time in (only) a digital format. I noticed. I wondered about that. Realistically, this is how we live. Like the opening line of the book says, “Screens are everywhere.” So many aspects of our lives have been infiltrated by electronic gagets….and that’s not always so terrible. Tablets? Pretty handy. Smartphones? Helpful. eReaders? Awesome. I happen to love our gadgets. The danger–and where I think many parents struggle–lies in not finding balance of your family’s screen use. Of forming strong habits and depending on those devices too much.
It becomes easy to lose track of time when kids play on the computer or xBox. It becomes easy to fall into routines that involve screened entertainment when it may not be necessary–when there are alternative forms of engagement we could be having with our kids.
So keep your iPhones, keep your TVs, and keep your video games. Keep reading ebooks (especially this one!). The key lies not in banishment, but in balance. This resource is meant to help parents understand the value of interpersonal connection, as well as the enjoyment of our devices, and to help you find a balance that works for your family.
In this book you will learn how to….
- Be proactive in managing your media use
- Set your family up for success with appropriate amounts of screen time
- Set limits effectively
- Solve problems when problems arise
You will also find a section of questions from parents just like you and answers from Positive Discipline experts and educators. How do I get my son off Minecraft? What are the best rules to set for Xbox use? What guidelines do you suggest for getting a child a cell phone?
There is also a template for a phone contract you can use with your kids that follows the principles of Positive Discipline. When your kids are ready for their first phone, this is a great agreement to use to help everyone in the family get clear on the expectations and responsibilities that come with owning a phone.
The book is on sale now and available at these retailers:
Positive Discipline Store (downloadable as a PDF)
If you’ve read it already, we’d love to hear your feedback! Please let us know what you think.