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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Too Much Parenting

A couple of weeks ago there was a topic on the Wheaton Patch called Too Much Parenting. The gist of the question that was asked by the editor:
"But for the most part, my parents avoided getting in the middle of learning lessons; particularly if they involved troubles with a teacher, coach or friends. 
But how does a parent draw the line between parenting too much versus too little? Is there such a thing as parenting too much? And, does parenting too much hinder a child from making mistakes that might also be valuable learning lessons?"

Since I am a contributing writer for that column, this is what I answered:

Great topic! As parents I think it makes US very uncomfortable to see our children make mistakes or hurt in any way. I think as the "mother bears", we want to step in and protect them but now that I am raising a teenager, I relish the moments that I can step aside and let him make his own mistakes or learn his own lessons. For example, if he is goofing off or slacking at practice and at game time, he doesn't play a lot in the game, then that is a lesson learned. Goof around at practice, lose playtime. I wish, wish, wish parents would stay out of "friend arguments" or "who is hanging with who" issues. The kids will find their own way. If my child calls someone and he doesn't answer, the solution is not to keep calling or for me to call the parent, it is for my child to call someone else and for me not to over analyze it. If they are good enough friends, they will find their way back to each other. If not, there are plenty of other kids with similar interests that he can find to hang out with. When kids argue or fight and parents get involved, it ends up that the kids make up and are fine and then the parents are strained. We can't control or deal with other kids and their issues (can we even control our own kids?), we can only deal with our own kid's issues. As far as teachers, I think once they are in high school, they can handle things. Before that, I don't think they have the maturity to deal with issues on their own and most times need us to intervene. Just my opinion.

Click on the link if you are interested in what others had to say. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. It's a very hard topic for me to write about because I have a lot of friends that read this and I don't want them to think this is about them. It's a topic that comes up often in various circles of people and I am curious to know how others handle it. Is it just where I live? Is it everywhere and no one is discussing it? Is it the elephant in the room for everyone? There is a growing trend, at least where I live, that parents become good friends with the parents of who their kids are friends with. I have to say that when it is good, it is so unbelievably good with late nights of eating, drinking and laughing, vacationing together and spending free time shopping or having lunch or dinner together but when it is bad, it is unbelievably bad with hurt feelings, upset stomachs and strained friendships where you wonder if you are really friends or are you just friends because your kids are. What I should have said about the phone thing is that I don't think all parents check their kids' phones to see how often they are texting or calling so that isn't really a parent issue. It's a kid issue.  Tommy and Isabella are 9. They obviously need a much bigger discussion or teaching platform than Nico. The ship has pretty much sailed and the days are over with me giving him suggestions of who to call but the discussion of what makes a good friend continues (someone you get in trouble with does not make a good friend). The issue of friends is a touchy one. Kids get left out. I know mine do and I am sure (if you have them) yours do, too. Even if you don't, I am sure you remember being left out. It doesn't feel good to be left out or to see our kids be left out but it is near impossible for everyone to be invited to everything and it is unfair to ask any parent to house 30 kids for fear that someone will be left out. I know...I tried. For Nico's golden birthday, I had a party here for 24 fifth graders and even though I tried very hard and he tried very hard, people that should have been invited, weren't. It is a part of life and we are doing a real disservice to our kids if we don't teach them that lesson early on. Not everyone is going to be friends. It is unrealistic for our kids to believe that everyone is going to like them all the time. It is my stance that parents get involved in way too many things that they should stay out of. The kids will work it out themselves. They need to learn to do that so that they have the tools to do it later in life. With kids having phones these days, it is a mess. They have no idea how to handle it when they are with one friend and another friend calls them or texts them. Kids no longer have the luxury of not being found. They also no longer have the luxury of building one on one friendships. As a wise friend once said, "they move in packs."  My kids have hung out with certain kids and then all of a sudden they start hanging out with other kids. I'll ask them if anything happened and they look at me like I am crazy. It is not for me to figure out why my kids have stopped or started hanging around someone. That's what kids do. They are trying to find their way and it doesn't mean they don't like the people they hung out with last weekend if they aren't hanging out with them this weekend. As adults, we want to put it in neat little boxes of expecting that our kids will always hang out with the same people and I know with my kids, it is isn't like that. It is always changing. They might have a few kids that are their core group of friends but kids are fickle and even that can't be expected.  Kids are always changing friends and sometimes I might raise an eyebrow at some choices but it is their choice. Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole doesn't make anyone happy. Just because I adore Little Johnny doesn't mean that he and Tommy get along and forcing the issue doesn't make anyone happy. Little Susie might drive me up a wall but for some reason Belle has a blast with her so I deal with the crazies because it makes my daughter happy. It is not for me to control. I can only talk to my kids about what makes a good friend and how to be a good friend. I can only teach them and I try to teach this early, you don't want to be with someone that doesn't want to be with you (this is a good lesson in love as well). Everyone deserves to have a friend or friends in their life that looks out for them and has their back. Even at 41, I still look for that in my friends. My child might be it for some but not for others. The other thing that is important to remember is a kid is not jerk because they don't want to hang out with your kid. We really have no idea what goes on behind closed doors and something might have happened that guess what, the parents no matter how hard they try or want to try, can't fix. Another wise friend once said, "It's okay. I'm not for everyone." This is a great lesson to instill in our kids. They are no more or no less because of who they hang out with. People are all different and I believe it is more important to teach kids to be okay with themselves because then it doesn't matter who they hang out with.

And for the record, if I am friends with you, it is because I like you. If our kids are friends or hang out, great but I really don't care if they do.


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