Friday, April 4, 2014

It Takes A Long Time to Grow Up

Dear People Who Interact with Kids Frequently, 

Hey, first of all, thanks for being awesome and dealing with these crazy kids.  Sometimes it feels a bit chaotic.  I have my own kiddos 10, 6, and 3; I’ve taught high school and elementary school; and we have big families.  There have ALWAYS been kids around. 

This doesn’t mean I’m the kind of person who can spend hours upon hours with kids and love it more than anything.  Au contraire!  I have my limits to be sure.  In fact, I can only take small doses at a time.  But of course as a parent, there’s only so much I can do about the wild animals that live in my house, and though we have generous grandparents, they send them home often. 

My kids are funny and smart and super cute.  Just like your kids.  
And they don’t listen very often and their dad can’t understand why.  
We make rules and then forget to enforce them and we have goals for them that we have to alter.  
They are always learning things, though not what I was necessarily teaching them.  
And they pick up on WAY too many of our bad habits.  
As often as I want them to be/respond/act/think a certain way, most of the time they are on their own schedule for those behaviors.  I mean, seriously, they act like children most of the time.    

Because see the thing that has finally really registered with me, is -

It takes ALL of childhood to teach these guys how to be adults.  

I recently wrote about perseverance.  About how I figured out that if I stay committed to a few things - the really important things - that I want them to learn, eventually those things will sink in.  It won’t be because they catch on fast.  It won’t be because I’m magic or bribed them or figured out exactly the right phrase to say.  It will be because I stuck to my guns.  

Say it with me: We will be a family who ____________. Now fill in the blank. What completes your sentence? That's what perseverance needs to be about.
I won’t always be consistent and perfect, but overall I won’t give up.  This will be the most effective parenting strategy.  (Other than prayer.  That’s for another post.)

This strategy is essential because this parenting stuff goes on FOR 18+ years.  18 years.  
That’s (at least) how long we have to have expectations for our kids and how long we have to be challenging them and how long it will take them to even be close to ready to head out on their own.  

To be sure it will look different at different stages.  I figure that by the time my daughter is 14, I basically need to have already imparted to her ALL the important things about her value as a person 
and the importance of respecting her body 
and other peoples’ 
and how to show kindness 
and say you’re sorry.  
Because at that point she will be treated like an adult in SO many ways, and it will be LIFE APPLICATION time.  
And I’ll be there for that.  

But sometimes in the hard moments of dealing with an 8-year-old or maybe attempting to reason with a 4 year old - we forget that, the lesson we are teaching this moment?  It will need to be re-taught.  
And re-taught.  
And then taught again.  
We’d like to think we can tell them “once” and it will stick.  But that’s crazy.  

Good for you if you can remember after someone tells you something once.  I have to be told multiple times, and write it down, and usually enter it into an electronic device and there is still a significant likelihood that you will be reminding me that we’ve already been over this “once.”  Whether it’s the fact that you DO NOT LIKE CHEESE (sorry, bro; I always forget), or how the heck to fold up the playpen, or how to start the power-washer, or how to put the car seat back together after I’ve washed all it’s parts.  

Rarely do we “get it the first time.”

It takes all of childhood to learn how to be an adult.  

Heck, it takes most of adulthood to learn how to be an adult!  Goodness sakes. 

My point is, keep your expectations reasonable.  
13-year-olds don’t typically have good study skills ESTABLISHED.  They need to be taught, reminded, held accountable, and then reminded again.  
3-year-olds probably will have potty accidents.  Yes it’s maddening and it’s because they just aren’t paying attention.  But you have to expect it.  It’s part of the deal.  
And 15-year-olds are going to make bad decisions.  They will need to live thru the consequences, be forgiven, and given a second chance.  They are still learning too. 

5-year-olds will forget.  
10-year-olds will manipulate.  
14-year-olds sometimes throw temper tantrums.  
Be the adult here and recognize that this child is still learning.  He needs a firm, steady, hand of guidance.  
And lots of second chances.  

Just like you.


Mom, Teacher, Learner

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