Its true babies do not arrive with instructions. The further I get into this parenting gig though the more I think adherence to old fashioned values/rules are the best approach for me and my family.
Last night after dinner River and I spent a very enjoyable creative hour crafting a hat for him to wear in the Easter bonnet parade at school (I have a whole new respect for milliners). "Time for bed" I announced when we'd finished and with that River decided he was hungry and wanted to know what he could eat. I listened to myself say, "You know the rules, there's nothing to eat now you said you'd had enough at dinnertime so that's it til breakfast." And that is the rule in our house, eat what is served for dinner, if the boys are still hungry when they finish they can eat more but if they choose not to eat at dinner time there is nothing else until breakfast. Some friends think this is harsh because it means that some nights our boys may go to bed feeling hungry, I am ok with that though because I do not want to raise children that are allowed to be fussy and demanding. My words "you know the rules" rang in my ears because as the boys get older it feels even more important for Pete and I to be clear between each other exactly what the rules and values in our family are and to then be really clear with the boys what they are and what our expectations are.
Today I share my/our current parenting 'strategy' (a work in progress) and I would LOVE love love to hear what's working/not working in your house.
Strategy (a work in progress)
write down your family rules/values, refer to them often and re-assess to keep them age appropriate.
delay gratification - in our instant gratification world I think this is one of the best teachings we parents can give our children. If you have a tendency to say yes too easily (for peace, because you're tired, because they're tired/hungry etc; and haven't we all?) then practice delaying gratification. This is different to a flat out no, which is a necessary part of the job too, but delaying gratification teaches children patience and ultimately I believe teaches them to appreciate all that you do, give and share with them. In my book, patience and gratitude (graciousness) are two qualities well worth fostering. Whatever children want NOW, teach them how to wait.
begin with the end in mind - the opening line in Ian Grant's book 'Growing Great Boys' is "Growing boys is better than fixing men". I couldn't agree more. Imagine your son or daughter grown up, what qualities do you want to foster in them as children that will carry them into adulthood and through their life. In his book he writes about expecting great things from your children, this is not about achievement rather about great personal qualities.
practice saying no and seeing it through this is similar but slightly different to delaying gratification in that this is a flat out no. This is one I have had to teach myself to be better at because I thought I was already doing it until I realised I could be doing it more often. Toddlers and young children will often respond to 'no' with tears and sometimes tantrums (ok, older children too) standing your ground is important at this point and I've found that the frequency and intensity of the tears lessens as they learn quickly that your no means no.
I follow Gabrielle Blair's blog DesignMom and read with interest her experiences as an American parent living in France and noticing the differences between American parenting and French parenting. American author and mother living in France who has written about her observations and experiences parenting in France is Pamela Druckerman in her book 'Bringing up Bebe'. This article written by Druckerman is informative and entertaining where the mother of three shares the lessons she has learned such as teaching patience and saying no with authority.
'Toddler Tactics' by Pinky McKay
'Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves' by Naomi Aldort
'Raising Boys' by Steve Biddulph
'Growing Great Boys' by Ian & Mary Grant
'Growing Great Girls' by Ian & Mary Grant