Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Road to Independence Experiment Update... Some Thoughts on Moderation

My little experiment is turning out a bit differently than I had expected. I did, in fact, crack a little bit and make some comments about work that needed to get done, and I am now checking over the list every couple of days and commenting on it with her. I'm still holding her to getting the work done each week. There is no punishment per se, unless it's that she won't get to see her friends when the opportunity arrises. I don't believe in punishments, only consequences.

She completed her work for last week around 10pm last night... just before bed. The "new" week starts on Monday, so this is not at all perfect... by any means. Hopefully, she'll learn at some point that last minute isn't always the best. I consider it a work in progress, but I am telling myself that the middle road may be the better path, and patience will continue to be my mantra.

My daughter accused me of having no faith in her that first week. She accused me of seeming to want her to fail. She assured me that she had a plan all along, it just wasn't the plan I had envisioned. I then reminded her that she needed to show me that she was able to manage her time, and until I could see that in tangible terms, I couldn't allow late-week playdates if the bulk of the work wasn't done. She acknowledged that she didn't like change. There were tears. There are often tears... and lots of statements using the words "always" and "never". This is part of being a mom to a teen girl. I like to think I stayed pretty calm. This is not always the case.

Still, I will not back off on this idea. I really feel it is an important next step. It's just that maybe throwing a schedule at her and backing off completely was a little bit much to start with. I think I am not the only one who sees an ideal and tries to jump to that. There is a danger in seeing things in black and white and pushing things too far too fast. 

If this is another learning opportunity, I should do what I can to set my kids up for success and I would do all of us a favor if I can be realistic. In time, I hope, I won't need to check things until the end of the week. If we get to that point, and I can trust my kids to be responsible, they will be so much more prepared for life than so many teens or adults I know.

My son asked for a similar schedule last week. I told him it was a responsibility and I wasn't sure he was ready for it. He is, after all, two years younger. Still, he wanted to give it a try, so we shall see where this leads us. We are giving it a trial run this week.

I can't help but contrast this with something I overheard in the park today. Two moms with toddlers were sitting around the sandbox. Both were pregnant. One mom wanted the other to give her some book resources for teaching "obedience"(My icky radar went up with this comment.) She went on to mention how their pastor had encouraged them to teach their children "absolute obedience" in all things as the bible says "ye shall obey" or some such (You'll have to forgive my ignorance, it has been a long time since I've read scripture and I don't remember the exact words, but it was something to that effect.) 

Wow. I can't tell you how sad I felt at that moment for the moms and the kids. That idea of absolute dictatorship and submission is so against everything I believe in, it was hard to keep my mouth shut. Also, absolute obedience from a toddler?! Not only is that harmful, it's an impossible idea!

What could I have said to them anyway?... Some random mom, sitting there watching another mom's toddler... "You are so wrong! You need to cultivate mutual respect in your relationship with your kids! Trying to beat them into submission will only cause them to hate you and hide the things they think and feel from you!" It's what I wanted to say, but obviously, that wouldn't have gone over well. I know what unreasoning dictatorship did for me as a child. I cultivated an internal rebellion and failed to tell my parents many things!

The idea that some religious leader is telling this to a bunch of moms gives me the heebie jeebies.

That said, I don't believe the the idea of total permissiveness either. I have come to a belief that in the absence of boundaries, kids keep pushing the envelope because they desperately need some boundaries to feel safe and to know that someone cares about what they do and don't do. Kids without boundaries can be just as unhappy and kids with too many boundaries. 

I have read some articles recently by unschoolers who identify themselves that way, and for some it seems a well-balanced way to listen and respect everyone's needs, but for others it seems like an ideal taken way too far. If a child doesn't learn that other people around them have needs as well, including those of his or her parents, it is not good for anyone, least of all the child. 

Ideals are good, but ideals need to be tempered with realities and our own best instincts. The trick is to acknowledge them and learn from them and try to do better... always. Sometimes it takes listening to your own inner instincts and separating out your own issues from the realities. It always takes hard work.

(Sigh.) It's so hard to get it right. We are all trying. We all make mistakes. I'll keep trying. Each new stage I reach as a mom is a new ball of wax. In some respects I am lucky to have an assertive and strong-willed girl who constantly tries to set me right. No meek child here going with the flow! If I had tried that didactic approach with her, I am sure I would have ended up with a juvenile delinquent.

In any case, that is my report and some thoughts from today.