Discipline or Control?
I’m dedicating this one to my sweet friend Indi—from whose wisdom I gain so much, and who was kind enough to let me know she’d be looking forward to this post! (Has she been patient, too. Little did either of us know a single page of thoughts would morph into…ten?)
Yep. This one will be a series, friends and followers. One that will probably cover a minimum of five posts. Please feel free to chime in as often as you like. All thoughts welcome!
As many of you who read my musings regularly know, my boys are now teens. The older is fifteen, the younger thirteen. On almost any given day you’ll find as few as one and as many as seven of his friends in my home. During Christmas vacation, nine of them dropped in for an early afternoon ‘breakfast.’ One had come in from another state for the holiday, and was staying with a cousin where a total of eleven kids were hanging out for the week. (Two of those guys didn’t want to leave their video games. Off track as usual—sorry! Point is, I get to know these kids, and they start feeling like my own.)
As a mom, I often ask myself Am I raising them right? From the day my guys were born, my biggest struggle has always been finding a balance between disciplining them vs. being controlling. Just maybe, I’m starting to see the fruits of all these years of (frequently) agonizing over which one I am in any given situation that calls for me—or hubby—to step in and exercise parental authority.
Please bear with me through this disjointed trip, set to be delivered in a minuimum of five posts. (I know I get long-winded. Being someone who gets excited when I happen onto a short post elsewhere, I’m trying to do the same in my own blog home. And yes, seems I’ve fallen short again…)
Let’s start with definitions.
Control, on the other hand, is to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command. (This one can give me the heebie-jeebies when I see it in action, or how its negative effects can manifest themselves.)
Real-life story illustration: On the Saturday before Christmas, we’d just gotten home around 8:30 PM from a get together at my sister’s-in-law. Within the hour, I’m hearing kids’ voices outside calling out to my older son. I figured they were coming from another friend’s, who lives three doors down from me. They came in for a minute then headed back out.
One of the girls often complains about how strict her parents are, especially her father. After they left, hubby asked if that particular dad knew his daughter was out walking around at that hour. I had no clue.
Didn’t think much about it until the next day, when one of those who was out the night before was over with her mom, and I made mention of my husband’s comment. This girl’s mom went off a bit on her daughter, after she realized her daughter and the other friends wandering around the night before had essentially been stranded at a neighborhood restaurant (which amounts to a 25-30-minute walk from my house). Sounds like a disagreement between the kids at the restaurant resulted in their ride being cancelled by the boy whose dad was supposed to provide it.
My immediate thought was: my kids would never have thought twice about calling me to pick them up. The girl whose father is strict may have been afraid to call. My son’s ‘girlfriend’ stated, “We didn’t want to bother you,” and the boy with them rarely asks for a ride from his parents. (His stepdad watches his toddler brother and his mother works on Saturday nights. His father lives about a half-hour away.)
The situation made me feel really good about my relationship with my kids so far. When they were really small, I found it very tough and often terribly frustrating to manage (a.k.a. control) busy boy behaviors. Seems like then it was all about them getting to do what I wanted or expected, and I often felt resentful those times they did not. (Sometimes I still feel that way, lol.)
Too many times, I grappled with whether I was being permissive or letting them make choices out of respect for them as people, especially after I’d set a boundary then found myself discussing/negotiating it (a supposed no-no in the way of effective parenting, or so I’ve heard here and there). Maybe what appeared to be negotiating then was my way of thinking aloud and making sense of the process as I lived it. (I still do that and my poor kids have to listen to it, lol. Good thing that older one is patient!)
Respect for my children—and for children and teens in general—is something that helps guide me in this process. We’ll talk more about this in the subsequent post. In the meantime, please go ahead and add your thoughts and experiences on this subject. Not an easy one, but one that is manageable with a shift in mindset.
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Until next time,