I was chatting with a friend last night and the conversation shifted into how we are with children versus how our parents were with us when we were kids. It struck me that I make decisions on how to father my children with that very idea in mind: when my son wants to do something that’s out of my comfort range, do I say “yes” or “no”, and why?
There’s a deeper thought underlying this because I also believe strongly that my parents did the best that they could, given who they were, the environment within which they grew up, and the culture of parenting that was popular when I was a kid in the late 60s and early 70s.
It’s perhaps a banal clichÃ©, but I do think that the majority of parents make the decisions they do, discipline children the way they do, and make familial decisions all based on their love for their children and their desire to help those children grow up to be happy and successful adults.
In other words “they did it because they loved you”.
My friend was talking about how her mother has always been very strict. “super strict” was the phrase she used, and my immediate response was “that’s how she shows you she loves you, right?”
I am definitely of the camp that believes children need and want structure, rules and constraints, within which they can thrive, knowing what’s expected of them. Other parents (who shall remain unnamed in this blog post!) seem to believe that constraints are confining – which, of course, they are – and that it’s far better to treat your children as if they are miniature adults, able to make their own rational and informed decisions and ready to deal with whatever consequences that might ensue.
I agree with them too, but it’s when children switch from narrow constraints to great latitude in their actions and behavior that can be contentious: is a 9yo really ready to watch any movie, listen to absolutely any music, and determine their own sleep schedule? I don’t think so. Do you? How about a 7yo?
When I look back on my childhood, I do think my parents did the best they could and that they loved me unfailingly (and still do). Still, I don’t parent the way that they did, and I have consciously made that decision. And that makes it hard to not be judgmental: why couldn’t they have been more “enlightened” and done a better job?
So what do you think, dear reader? Do you find yourself remembering how your parents were with you as a child and then using that as a basis (positive or negative) for your own decisions in the parenting and relationship realm?