Adult Entitlement

Thursday, February 27, 2014 13 comments

This meme was made by the Facebook page Sharing Along the Way, using a quote from my book The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting. It has been shared thousands of times across Facebook, and while most people agree, there are also many who misunderstand this quote. Misunderstandings are common when we take a part of a book without seeing the surrounding context.

Most often, the misunderstanding is that we don't teach them any better. This is a common misconception of positive parenting. Authoritarians assume that we don't discipline at all just because we aren't spanking or sending our children out of our presence when they aren't living up to our ridiculously high expectations, but true discipline doesn't come through threats and punishments. True discipline is what we teach our children day in and day out in all the million little interactions we have with them. As we model appropriate behavior and teach them diligently day after day how to handle their emotions with techniques such as deep breathing, journaling, or walking away to cool down, as we teach them how to manage themselves within the boundaries of the family, giving them tools they can use instead of consequences they can't, and lovingly, gently correcting, guiding, teaching, coaching, mentoring, we are disciplining - making disciples of - our children, and it takes so much more effort than a quick spanking or a few minutes in a time out chair. Authoritarians think it is absurd to raise children without punishment, but I think it is absurd to expect children to learn how to truly manage themselves by taking something away from them.

But the misunderstandings I most often see point to a larger problem of adult entitlement, and this directly points back to the reason I've chosen a different parenting path.

What happens is, as children, we are told what to do, what to say, how to look, what to like. We raise our hands to go to the bathroom, we get bullied for not fitting in just right, we sit through hours of school and come home to hours of homework. Our feelings are dismissed as ridiculous or annoying. Big kids don't cry! Suck it up! You're being silly! We are criticized on everything from our size to our hairstyles, our grades to our ambitions. Someone is always exerting their power over us until that one day, that one special day when we pass through the magical portal into adulthood. Poof! We go from being the lesser of society to being the top of the chain! Suddenly, overnight, you can no longer hit us without an assault charge. You can no longer criticize us because we adults are covered by the DON'T JUDGE ME ACT that apparently got passed somewhere in recent history. You can't criticize our mistakes any longer! You can't expect us to not grump at our spouse or yell at our kids. We are stressed and worn out and busy, for goodness' sake! And we can't be judged!

Ah, the entitlement of adulthood. The best bit is when we have our own kids, though. Now WE have the power to wield however we'd like. Now we can complain about today's kids because we were complained about, and that evens the score. Now we can dish out punishments if our children don't meet our expectations because it feels good to be on the other side, to be the one with the power! If I don't like your attitude, I can banish you from my sight! I can demand respect for the simple fact that I have passed the magical age of 18 and am now entitled to it, and if you don't show it to me, you can face the consequences! Intoxicating!

The thing is that these entitled adults drop by random parenting pages to tell us how fine they are, how well they've turned out, and in the same breath cuss other people or call them names. They tell us how they learned respect when THEY were kids, and then disrespect people on the threads they're posting in. Go ahead and take a leisurely scroll through a few parenting pages on Facebook and tell me how well behaved and respectful today's adults are.

That's exactly what happens when the threat of consequences are removed. Sure, we have to obey laws, like not stealing or killing anybody, but I have to tell you it's a whole lot easier to stay out of jail than it is to stay out of the corner. Our attitudes though? There's no one to correct us when we get rude and disrespectful, and it's especially prevalent on the internet where, as Sally Clarkson says, there are no tear-filled eyes staring back at us. There's no one to stop us from being disrespectful to our kids. In fact, it's almost expected. We can yell at them every day, what are you going to do? We can grump at our spouses and disrespect the store clerk because you can't spank us or put us in time out. No sir! Don't judge me.

Here is a comment left on this meme recently:  "Yes I do hold my child to a higher standard than myself I am suppose to. If u continue in the same cycle what have u changed. My child is my child not me. What I achieve is not her best its mines she must be better because its in her. Just like my mother change my behavior I must do the same with my child. Each generation must improve that way the world improves."

I'm sorry, but this is a cop out, plain and simple. It's time adults held ourselves to a higher standard. We need to learn how to control our emotions, handle our frustrations, and speak respectfully to the little ones in our care and even to the people we can't see. We need to stop hitting our kids, stop yelling at them and our spouses, and learn to effectively communicate with the people we love. We need to stand up and be the change. If we can't live up to our own standards, why should we expect our children to? 

The quote in the meme doesn't mean don't teach your children better. Please do. It means rise up and give them something to aspire to. That's the only way things will really improve. It starts with me. It starts with you.

*Oh, and I need to mention grace.*

Here's a quote posted on Ann Voskamp's Facebook page.

While we should absolutely teach our children how to handle their emotions, not project their bad moods, and how to be respectful, there are times when, like us, all they need is grace. Grace isn't an excuse to continue bad behavior, but it's a loving embrace of understanding and acceptance of the soul you're nurturing. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes we mess up. Sometimes they mess up. Sometimes we can skip the lecture and just offer grace. If God doesn't expect me to be perfect, I surely don't expect my children to be.

The Three Most Important Parts of Parenting By Sarah MacLaughlin

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 No comments
The Three Most Important Parts of Parenting By Sarah MacLaughlin, LSW, Parenting Coach for Moms and Dads 

Let me start by saying that every parent knows their own children best. YOU are the expert on your own child. I aim to not so much give advice, as ask the right questions and offer guidance along the roads that parents travel. So the guidance I will offer is guideposts, actually. Here are three of what I consider to be the most important aspects of good parenting: Respect, relationship, and repair.

First and foremost: respect. This makes sense; we want and need our children to respect us, right? Right. I think the tricky piece here is staying mindful that respect must be a two-way street. This also makes sense; intellectually anyway. Practically speaking, it isn't always easy to respect a small child who needs your near constant supervision and care. It's even harder to hold in high esteem a small person who may not be behaving rationally, managing their emotions, or have all their teeth yet. Let's face it, our culture is not one in which the weak, emotionally volatile, and unreasonable command respect. Along these same lines, we mainly parent within a paradigm where kids are the sponges and we are our child's first teacher. But this is only one side of a much more complex story. As adults we may have more information, knowledge, and common sense than a child. But we forget our duality, and easily dismiss children's inherent gifts of connectedness, creativity, humor, and emotional honesty.

Next: relationship. This is what parenting is all about! Ah, but we are so easily side-tracked into control and behavior management. Rebecca Thompson, executive director of The Consciously Parenting Project, notes that behavioral approaches (consequences, etc.) all stem from the research of B.F. Skinner - you may recall that he worked with laboratory animals? Animals are not people, and although many have proposed that training techniques do work to change conduct in children, often this is not the case, and the result ends up being even more escalated behavior. Ms. Thompson suggests addressing the underlying emotion first, before discussing behavior, or what might be done differently next time. Keep in mind that it's hard to receive feedback on your actions while you are having strong feelings (and brain research confirms this), no matter what your age!

 And finally: repair. I'll be honest; sometimes I just don't get it right. We are all human and prone to messing up. Part of repair is being accountable for our actions. Apologize if you've made a mistake. This is a skill all people need; modeling it for your child is incredibly valuable. When we approach a problem, error, or offense of ours or theirs with true curiosity about what can be done to amend, fix, repair, or make restitution, we are on track for learning, making things right, and better behavior in the future. Punishment, criticism, and negative consequences all use fear as a motivator. Ultimately, I'd rather maintain love, not fear, in my connection with my child; repair helps with this.

So keep doing what you're doing! Love your kids, treat them with respect, and remember that your relationship will long outlast the phase where you are parenting them. Hopefully you will have a much longer adult-adult relationship with them than you will have adult-child. Model self-control, kindness, humility, and other qualities you WANT to see in your child. The good news and the bad news is that your children are usually paying very close attention to your behavior. Try to make sure it's desirable.

Hands Free Mama Book Review

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 1 comment

Rarely are books life-changing for me. Helpful? Yes. Enlightening? Sure. But a book that actually changes the course of my life? RARE. In fact, I can think of only one other book that has had such an impact on me.

This book is one of those life-changing books.

I knew I had trouble with distraction. I knew I was on my phone a little too much, spent a bit too much time on the computer, and my kids had called me out more than once on getting off my phone to play. "Just a minute. I want to read this" I'd utter, not even looking up to see the disappointment on their faces.

You see, I thought I was doing important work. I convinced myself that, because I homeschool them and basically spend 24/7 with them, that I was entitled to get an hour on the computer. After all, I had a page to run, a blog to check, books to promote, affiliates to contact, and a new yell-free year group that I promised to help. It was my work, and it was important, I told myself.

The thing is, one hour turned into much more than one hour, and I found that too many days, after they'd fallen asleep, I was left with a heavy heart of guilt because once again, I hadn't made time to play. I was around them all day, but I wasn't present.

I have big dreams. I want to make a difference - a positive impact on the lives of children and families everywhere. It's a fantastic notion, but I often have my eyes so focused on what I can do out there that I don't see what's right in front of me.

Rachel's book helped me see that hours together didn't equate to memories together, and what I want more than anything is a life of happy memories for my children and for myself. From the very first chapter, my eyes welled up with tears as Rachel's words spoke to my very soul. Her stories were often heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always inspirational, nudging my heart, strengthening my resolve to live a life less distracted so I can grasp what truly matters.

When I finished Hands Free Mama, when I closed the book, my eyes filled with tears, the first thing I did was hit my knees and pray for the wisdom, courage, and strength to put down my devices and focus on the little ones God has entrusted to me.

If I could get one book into the hands of every mother, this would be that book. If you don't read anything else this year, I encourage you to read this.

My conviction is clear. I desire a Hands Free life, and my kids deserve a Hands Free mama, too. So, you'll see me around, like now, when they're fast asleep on either side of me as I type. These sleeping faces look so much more mature than they did a year ago. Their tiny hands aren't so tiny anymore. I don't want to miss this. If I do, then I have missed everything. Tomorrow, I'm going to turn off my phone, power down my computer, and I'm going to play. I'm going to make precious memories with them while there is still time. Everything else can wait.

Grab the book and join me on this Hands Free journey!


You can find Rachel on her blog, Hands Free Mama and her Facebook page The Hands Free Revolution.

Two Messages Your Child Must Hear By Sarah MacLaughlin

Friday, February 14, 2014 No comments
Two Messages Your Child Must Hear By Sarah MacLaughlin, LSW, Parenting Educator and Coach

All parents want to do a good job and we all could use support in it! The truth is that every parent is doing the best job they can with the resources they have access to. Just like your parents and their parents did.

Parenting is hard, joyful, frustrating, rewarding work. My passion lies in helping moms and dads fulfill their desire to be their best, connected, loving selves in parenthood. As a social worker, I hear a lot of talk about resiliency. Underprivileged youth, in spite of the hardships they have endured, can have positive outcomes.

Research shows that their resiliency and view of themselves is dramatically improved if they receive two consistent messages from a trusted adult. It doesn't matter who the adult is a coach, teacher, or parent; what matters is the message. Whether a child has every advantage or faces many challenges, they need to believe these two things. No child can hear them too often. Here they are, in their simplest forms, and in a variety of verbal and nonverbal ways. Also included are a few ways in which you could inadvertently negate these important messages.

Message #1: "YOU MATTER." Other ways to say it: "You are important." "I care about you." "Tell me your opinion." "I love you very much." "I'm glad you're part of my family/tribe/life." How to show it: Eye contact and smiles. Hugs. Remember and honor their preferences. Give them the heads-up on transitions and family changes. Validate feelings and listen. Try to avoid: Interrupting while your child is talking. Speaking with other adults about them as if they are not there. Ignoring them.

Message #2: "YOU ARE CAPABLE." Other ways to say it: "I believe in you." "You can do it even if it's hard." "You know how to keep at it." "You can succeed." "I trust you." How to show it: Beam them with confidence. Stand back and give space. Let them fail, feel that, and then try again. Try to avoid: Equating a child's developmental phase with their personality or capabilities. Rushing in with advice or comfort. Hovering. Build confidence and true self-esteem in your child by ensuring they receive these two very important messages. Increase resilience in any child by keeping these tips in mind. If heard repeatedly, whole-heartedly, and in many different ways, children will feel the positive impact” and they will be virtually inoculated against hopelessness and despair.

5 Steps to Stop Yelling

Monday, February 3, 2014 No comments

Yelling is nothing more than a habit, and habits can be broken. Here are 5 steps to breaking the yelling habit and bringing peace to your home.

1. Admit and accept that you have a problem. Acknowledging that you have a habit you'd like to break is vital. Think about the ways the habit interferes in your relationships, affects your stress levels, and impacts your children. Ask yourself: Why is this habit bad? What things or people are keeping me from breaking this habit? What are my triggers? What can I do about them?

2. Change your environment. Once you have identified triggers, you can begin to change your environment to get rid of those triggers. If clutter and mess is a trigger, make a tidy organization system with labeled bins. If getting out of the door in the morning is a trigger, set out clothes the night before, make a chart for your child to follow so the routine goes more smoothly, pack lunches and backpacks the night before as well, or get up 30 minutes earlier. If you find yourself constantly yelling at your toddler for getting into a cabinet or climbing on a shelf, child lock the cabinet and move the shelf.

You can also positively impact your environment to uplift your mood with pleasant smells, sights, and sounds. A delicious candle, upbeat music, and a vase of beautiful flowers can go a long way!

3. Create barriers to the habit. Get a support group for yourself. We have one here. Also involve your family members to hold you accountable. Pay up. Use the same rationale behind a swear jar: every time you yell, put a dollar (or more) in a can or jar. Set an amount that you'll hate to cough up whenever you give into the urge, and stick to it. When you've successfully kicked the habit, spend the money on a reward or donate it to a charitable cause. Take a picture of your mad yelling face and keep it on your camera roll on your phone. Look at it when you want to yell. If your reason for avoiding the habit is more pressing than your desire to engage in it, the behavior will become continually easier to avoid.

4. Find a replacement habit. Utilize some of these tips at the time you feel like yelling. If you do it consistently, each time you want to yell, your replacement will become your new habit.
a) Whisper
b) Do push ups
c) Sit down and cup your mouth.
d) Pray
e) Clap
f) Go outside
g) Hug
h) Look a picture of your child as an infant
i) Tap the inner corner of your eyebrows.
j) 4-7-8 breaths. Breath in for a count of 4, hold for 7, breath out for 8. Repeat 3 times.

5. Be kind to yourself. Changing a habit can sometimes take awhile. As long as you're trying, you're succeeding. Don't hold yourself to a standard of perfection, but rather to a standard of progression. Celebrate each success, no matter how small. If you fall down, get back up, dust yourself off, and try again. A fall is not a failure unless you don't get back up.

*Modified and adapted from Wiki How's post on How to Break a Habit