I feel that my son will thank me down the road for not being bat-shit crazy. Well, that is my sincere wish, lets see if it is the outcome. I hope that he reflects in his twenties that I had certain expectations for his behavior but above all my semi-relaxed parenting style allowed him to find his way. That I taught him not be afraid to make mistakes and respected his need for some semblance of a private life.
Those are my overarching goals but I have to negotiate the toddler years first. There was a phase when I read so many parenting books and ended up thoroughly confusing myself. After some research the consensus is that everyone will tell you how to do things but you need to decide which strategies work best for you. We all need to come to terms with the fact that families are built on interactions between different temperaments. We cannot help but have an impact on each other so you might as well lead by example and accept that even if you try, you cannot always present the best version of yourself. Accept that you are human.
The French methods observed by Pamela Druckerman in “Bringing up Babe“ have influenced me greatly. She has it right in thinking that many North American parents are obsessed with indulging their child’s every whim. We as parents, especially mothers, are expected to bleed ourselves dry till we cannot sacrifice anymore. What kind of life is that? I’m sorry but I have no desire to live for my child and trust me, they will not be grateful for your overbearing ways.
In France, parents respect their child’s individuality and therefore try to create a relationship that considers their personality and preferences. But to define one’s identity you need to have both hard limits and a great deal of freedom. The French love their paradoxes non? But it makes sense because if there were no rules how could anyone play the game? Plus we live in a society where we are accountable to each other, so play nice. Clearly these boundaries vary according to age but overall time-outs are warranted when the child causes physical harm or disrespects someone else. Patience is key especially during the toddler years when they are still learning the social mores. But I like that within this system you frame why they cannot do certain things because they don’t have the right to. For example, your child does not have right to hit another child, Billy does not have the right be make fun of someone’s physical appearance. Having discussions of this nature also involves speaking to your child in an adult manner and about concepts of considerable depth. At all ages we need reminders that we strive to live in a respectful way.
Now, they lump together the rest of the behavior as some of annoyances and inconveniences that come with childhood. Yes, they will probably be messy and have sensitive moments but that is part of the package. Would I still explain to C why he cannot spread jam all over my walls (which he hasn’t by the way)? Yes, because I don’t want him to go over to my friend’s house and do the same. I don’t have the right to bring my child over to vandalize. But the important lesson is to always explain why and in turn encourage him to ask why.
So many people have children and don’t want to actually parent. It is not my job to be C’s friend. It is my duty to try to lead him while providing him with some agency and most importantly to love him. There will be times when he doesn’t like me very much, but that’s alright. Self-worth and good values are far more important.