Friday, July 15, 2011

Raising Resilient Children

It may come as a huge surprise to you, given that I am the least resilient person I know, that one of my goals as a parent is to raise strong, resilient children.

I am so very fragile that the thought of ever having to spend a night away from my very pricey latex pillow (molded specifically for my neck), 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets or luxury toilet paper sends me into a cold sweat. God forbid anything should happen that would keep me from my daily diet coke / chocolate fix. I would likely have a melt down to rival most two year olds!! I once forgot to take my pillow on holidays with me and had to spend one night without it. I was so upset that the next morning, my sister spent an hour and a half of her time to go to my house, pick it up and drop it to me!! Ever since then I have been so scarred from that incident that I invested in another pillow and spent a week 'breaking' it in so I could constantly leave it in the caravan - so it will NEVER happen again!!! I have carted my pillow on EVERY overseas holiday and EVERY camping trip ever since.

The thought of putting the washing out with no shoes on frightens me no end (what if an ant crawls on my foot? what if I step on something? WHAT IF THERE ARE BINDIES????). I can honestly say that I can count on one hand the number of times I have stepped out of my house barefoot in the 5 years we have been living here. I have extremely specific things that I like to eat. I will only eat one type of yogurt (ski d'lite strawberry), one type of muesli (Lowan Apricot and Almond), one type of frozen veges (McCain Steam Fresh), one type of toothpaste.... I could go on all night. The moral of the story is that I take fussy to the extreme.

Yes, I can think of nothing worse than raising a child to turn out just like me. It is bad enough that I have to listen to myself whining about things let alone adding another whinger to the mix!!!

Given my own fussy behaviour I'm sure that a lot of people probably consider my parenting methods strange and hugely hypocritical.

For starters I do not allow the kiddies to be fussy when it comes to food. In our house you eat what you are given or you don't eat. It is as simple as that. Ben and I do not care if one of the kids doesn't like something (and they know from experience that if they express their distaste for a particular food we will often serve it up more often!!). There are no exceptions. If they flat out refuse to eat a particular food they will be given nothing and served it for the next meal, then the next and so on - till they eat it. No child is going to starve to death and we can tolerate their tantrums. But the fact is that there are no tantrums anymore. The kids are well aware of our rule and because we are consistent with it they comply. In fact, our kids will happily sit down and eat almost anything and everything you serve them. I do not want them to grow up being as anal and picky about food as I am. Slowly I am trying to 'train' myself to step outside my comfort zone. I have been cooking and eating foods in the last few years that I never would have touched with a 10ft pole 5 years ago. Now that I have trained them up to eat what they are served we are more relaxed and I like to cook things I know the kids enjoy.

Another one of the things I do to 'harden' up the kids is to let them run around bare feet as much as possible (with the exception of public toilets). This drives my mum insane as she hates kids to have dirty feet. But I figure the more time you spend bare foot, the tougher your feet will become. Who cares if there are bindies or bits of sharp rocks.... ? (I can almost hear the gasps from other parents!!). The kids are up to date on their tetanus needles so we have nothing to worry about. I have done such a good job 'toughening' up Rohan that once when we were at Sea World someone pointed out that there was a trail of blood behind us. Turns out that Rohan had kicked his toe and hadn't even made a peep about it. Now, if it had been me that had kicked my toe in that way I'm sure there would have been tears, bandaids and the WHOLE of Sea World would have known about it. He wasn't even bare foot at the time - he had thongs on.

I guess in general, we don't constantly give in to them and pander to their every want. I think that if you are constantly fussing over your children and making them as comfortable as you can then you are going to have children and then adults, who just cannot cope when some of their comfort is removed. My kids don't have the same caliber of linen, fancy mattresses, special foods, latex pillows... that I do. I don't want them to grow up with a dependency on lifes finer things because sometimes those things can be taken away. I would rather that they grow up to appreciate those things when they get them than have them think that they are something they can't live without.

The kids are never allowed to say the word 'bored' in our household. I respond to the 'B' word in a similar way that I would respond to them saying the 'F**k' word. In fact I think I would rather them say the latter!! If you can't find something to do in our enormous house full of every conceivable toy then I will find you something to do - and it won't be fun!!! We don't have computer games because I find them to be antisocial and addictive. Given that Ben and I both have addictive personalities, I'm quite sure that we would never see our children again if we allowed them to have a Nitendo DS or a Wii etc. The kids mostly entertain themselves and make up concerts (which we are all forced, I mean delighted, to watch - and video tape), or very elaborate games in the backyard or with their toys.

I also try to make them emotionally resilient. I have only had limited success in this area because my eldest is a huge drama queen. I try not to 'feed' their emotions. When something happens to upset them (a kid is mean to them, someone hurt them etc) I never say 'oh poor you.... you are so hard done by'. Rather I would say to them 'Oh well, that's not very nice that they did that, I know you would never hurt someone. Now chin up, stop your crying and get over it.' I do acknowledge that they feel sad but encourage them to try to just get over it and move on. I think that if you allow kids to feel sorry for themselves and wallow in the negative emotion then you run the risk of your kids growing up to be 'victims' (everyone is always mean to me, my boss is awful, everything always happens to me.... etc - I'm sure you all know someone like that!!!). I try to teach them that people only treat you in a way that you ALLOW them to treat you. I don't particularly care what it was that the other kid did - it isn't my place to discipline another persons child (to a degree... there are some things that cross lines). I don't see any positive things that can arise from me intercepting and fighting my children's battles for them.

I guess I am so hard on them in that respect because I am always so affected by other peoples opinions. I wish that I was emotionally tougher and it is something that I am working on.

At the end of the day we don't know what is in store for our children. Who knows what kind of trials they are going to have to face in their lifetime. I want to arm them with as many coping skills as I can and if that means being a little tougher on them when they are young then so be it. Sometimes I worry that I may be too strict on them in some regards and too relaxed in others. I constantly worry about whether or not I am not doing the right thing. But I'm sure we all have those thoughts and just do the best we can....

I guess our own experiences influence the way we parent. I wouldn't want to have to put up with myself as a child (hat's off to my mum!!!) and I am aware that I don't have the best coping skills. So I am trying to raise them in the best way I know how.

People always assume that homeschooling parents are extremely overprotective. But my experience has led me to believe that this isn't always the case - and certainly not with me!!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh you make me laugh! But yet we are on similar wave lengths with the kids. I know that others feel I am probably too hard on my kids but like you I don't believe that answering to every whim raises resilient children.

    Dobbing is one of my pet hates, thankfully I don't have a dobber...yet, C still isn't old enough to know for sure hehehehe

    LOL love your last sentence, I couldn't agree more. I guess like in anything you do there are extremes hey :-)


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