I sometimes wish I could be the mom that just let things run off her back. The mom who didn’t read so many articles or watch so many documentaries. The mom who just let their kids be.
My boys think the mom who lets their kids play endless hours of video games is way better than me. They think the mom who doesn’t care about ratings is super cool. They think the kids who get pop in their lunch every day has more loving parents than we’ll ever be as we shove broccoli down their throats at every juncture. I really believe it’s not just because they want more junk food or because they want to play the game. No, I think it goes deeper than that.
Somehow they see that the kid who’s allowed to play grand theft auto must have parents who trust them more. I mean truly? That kid is fine. (the one we know who’s allowed to play it, I mean) He’s a normal functioning member of society. He doesn’t pack heat or snort crack. (do you snort crack? I don’t even know..) No, he goes to school. Does his homework most of the time. Plays hockey and eats dinner just like the rest of us.
The image I portray to my kids of the ones who are allowed to play grand theft auto and consume carbonated beverages at their own discretion is that of child criminal. They are surely stealing their parents cars after dark, stealing vodka, hitting the streets to wipe out old people and prostitutes and are dealing all sorts of narcotics during social studies class. And if they’re not doing that now….well, just wait and see…
I’ve read enough studies to know that these kinds of games are bad for our kids. That the amount of video games they play does affect them. I’ve studied enough to know the effects of healthy eating on our bodies and minds. I’m really doing all that I do because I love them endlessly. They just don’t see it. They see me as a tyrant and a rule maker and so super duper uncool.
So what’s a parent to do?
If we cave on this, which by the way we aren’t going to, then we’re going away from the values that we feel are right and good to teach our children.
If we lay a hard and fast line are they going to just want to be at their friends all the time, out of our sight, so they can do what they want?
Are we pushing our children and their friends out of our home by not allowing them more freedom here so that their friends don’t even want to come over?
Are they simply choosing the wrong friends?
Are we turning them into those kids who were never allowed sugar and then the second they’re free from their parents grasp they go bonkers?
This parenting gig never gives us time to just chill and breathe, does it? I mean, maybe for some of you it does but as a thinker and planner and analyzer it has my mind always working overtime.
I was given a tip when my kids were little that I loved and followed for years. I was told by a parent of older children that when your kids have friends over that you really like, make it a party. Allow them to watch more cartoons and eat more junk food. When they have the children over that you like less, make it not quite as desireable.
That sounds so harsh in type.
But it worked. Our kids would naturally want the friends over that we enjoyed spoiling and would veer away from the ones that we didn’t love the habits of without even realizing why.
It gets so much trickier as they get older though.
If I used this theory now my kids WOULD be playing Grand Theft Auto with their friends until 4 am and then sleeping in well past noon only to wake up and eat chips and swig a pop for breakfast and continue on in the madness. Because their friends are good. They just have different ideals than we do.
As my boys parent, I know I’m called to set a higher standard. I know I’m called to teach them what is right and good and teach them to discern this as well. But what about when they’re just not there yet? Not ready to be left up to their own devices? (we know they’d choose not brushing their teeth or changing their underwear for days…)
It’s a fine line. Giving your children room to breathe, to grow and even to mess up. Combined with being a rule maker and authority figure that they grumble about.
I’m not sure we’ve found the best balance yet but we’re working on it and pushing forward with much prayer and thought.
What was it like for you in your home growing up? Did you like your parents rules or sneak out and break them? Did you value their explanations or just think they were lame?