Raising kids is tough. As a parent you are just expected to know how to keep your child, not only alive, but raise them to be a good person. There is no manual for how to be a parent, mainly, because each child is different. I have 3 boys, and their personalities are all different, and since we are in the toddler stage of life, emotions are comparable to those of a teenage girl. That being said, there is a clear line between letting you kid have fun and enjoy childhood and them being total jerks.
I am all for letting kids run around crazy and not push them into things too fast. I tell mine all the time to not grow up and stay a kid forever because being an adult is no fun. However, that doesn’t mean they get out of all responsibilities and general discipline. I have seen both sides of the spectrum, from kids having no discipline and never being told no, to being super strict and pushing them into activities so they don’t actually get to enjoy the imagination side of being a kid. The hard part for us as parents is finding that sweet spot, somewhere in the middle.
Letting kids be kids is letting them play in the mud and get filthy, but teaching them they need to take their muddy shoes and jackets off outside and to wash up before running through the house. It’s playing sports, keeping score, and turning a loss into a teaching moment. Its letting them stay up late but having them pick up their toys and brush their teeth first. Its that time they broke your favorite vase and putting them in time out, but having them understand why they are there and what they could have done differently to prevent that from happening. Its letting them have fun, explore the world as they are learning about it, be creative but also letting them know there may be limits to things and consequences for their actions. It’s not letting them stay up till 2 in the morning when you have people over just because you don’t want to fight with them to put them to bed. It’s not letting them get away with telling you no when you ask them to feed the dogs because your busy making dinner. It’s not buying them a toy every time you checkout at the store just because they throw a fit. It’s not letting them dictate when bedtime is and then make you late in the morning because they wouldn’t get up. It’s not letting them be late for school every day because they refuse to get dressed. It’s not letting them do whatever they want just because they are kids. If you do that, when is it time to draw the line? When they are 16? 18? 21? 30 and still living in your basement?
Children need discipline; they need rules, structure, chores and rewards. I recently saw a thing on Facebook “Age appropriate chores” and some of the comments on it were mind-boggling. I happened to agree with the chart on most aspects, some of the chores were things that I couldn’t see my kids doing at their ages simply because they aren’t big enough yet. But some people were saying giving your children chores was making them your slaves and that your job as a mother is to take care of your kids and do everything for them because it’s hard enough being a kid *Insert Jaw Drop Here* Say what?! I get it, going through all those emotional changes as a kid is tough, but what, once they’re 18 you expect them to just know how to do things without you ever showing them? And no, my job as a mom is 100% NOT to cater to their every need. Yes, I will help them with things, yes I will show them how to do things and if they can’t do something, I will do it for them BUT I will never be their waiter. Catering to your child’s every need and never letting them do anything for themselves is taking away their sense of pride and self-worth and not allowing them to see what they actually can achieve.
Here’s a scenario: My kids are responsible for clearing their own dishes after each meal. It seems like something small but it’s much more, It teaches them self-responsibility and respect for their house, for me since I made the food, and respect for their house by keeping it clean. Do we sometimes still argue about it, yes, but when my 15 month old was finally able to reach up to put his plate in the sink he was ecstatic. He saw his older two brothers doing it after each meal and kept trying, but couldn’t reach and would get so upset. Now he looks for dishes to put into the sink. But the trick as parents is to make a big deal out of it. We always cheer and clap when he makes it in, and thank the older two when they clear their plates because they need to know we appreciate them doing their part.
We live in an age where schooling and technology are being shoved down our children’s throats and every action that is made is highly analyzed. We as parents need to take a chill pill and let them learn at their own pace, but we still need to let them learn. I am lucky to have some very curious kids and they always want to help me around the house, so I let them, to an extent. When my 4 year old wanted to use the drill I let him help me hold it while I was working. I ask them to get the vacuum for me if they make a mess and have them help me clean it up. We work TOGETHER to fix things, and we make it fun. As a parent it takes a lot, a lot, a lot (did I say a lot) of patience, and some days you just won’t have it. But you need to let your kids try, and fail, and encourage them. THIS is what it’s means to let them be kids, letting them learn, letting them get life experiences off of their phones, away from the tvs and tablets, but doing it in a supervised setting. It’s telling them no and having them understand why. If you never tell your kid no, they grow up to have no sense of what is acceptable to do.
Kids do need to be kids, childhood is a precious time and it shouldn’t be wasted. But letting kids get away with whatever they want just because they are kids is wrong. We need to step it up as parents and teach our children, discipline them, but also be fun enough to have giggle fits in massive blanket piles together.
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