All that follows here may indeed be oxymoronic: a blog entry titled “Advice” that claims not to give any. *shrug*
In my home, we have 4 big rules: No violence, No threats, No insults, No destruction. Most things which require discipline fall under these four headings. The idea with this is that all the kids (even the 2 year old) are able to list every rule we have and shall in no way be surprised by the swift and sure consequences that come with an infraction (time outs, loss of privilege, restoration/restitution (AKA CHORES), and the occasional dose of straight apple cider vinegar for sass-mouth). I don’t have to stop and philosophize and instruct about why what they (or I!!!!) did was wrong. We have done that already, and I still try to re-explain each rule. But, I don’t do it when they have done something wrong; I try to do it when they have done something right. Like: “I saw you stop to put brother’s LEGO helicopter on the shelf instead of stomping it like you wanted. You chose not to be destructive!” Or: “Hey! You just encouraged your sister when she was feeling down instead of insulting her! Way to go!” It’s called “Positive Parenting,” and it is SO FREAKIN’ HARD! (and we've mostly been doing it with help of a family therapist)
It took me a long time on this “positive parenting” thing (and just picture me rolling my eyes EVERY time I say or type “positive parenting” because it is so freakin’ hard) to recognize that disrespect and sass to parents counts as threats and insults. Game changer (because selfishness/disrespect is the biggest behavioral problem here (everywhere???)).
The idea is to be very clear and simple about the bad things so that we as a family can spend more time on noting the positive things they do. Y’all, I ain’t gonna lie. Sometimes I wake up and am ready to positive-parent the shoot outta these kids. And then by 5pm I SWEAR no one has done something about which I can say, “Wow! I really noticed how you blah-blah’ed back there! Way to go!” And I start really stretching and saying shoot like, “Wow! I notice that you chose not to spit that loogey directly on the dining room table! GREAT WORK! Awesome respect of property!”
There are 4 positive counterparts to these 4 deadly sins: Be encouraging, Be helpful, Be thankful, Be selfless. I turned “Be Kind” into “encouraging” and “selfless” because “kind” is vague. And really, all 4 things are aspects of kindness. I had the privilege of nannying in college for an incredible mom (who happens to have a PhD in child psych… no pressure), and I remember her always saying that the thing she wanted most for her sweet girls was for them just to be kind. Same here. JUST. BE. KIND. And, frankly, that’s a great goal for myself as well. I want people to think I’m smart and funny, but mostly I want them to feel better when they walk away from me than when they came. That’s the result of kindness.
So, I’m sharing my “Positive Parenting” plan (EYE ROLL) because I need all the review I can get. BUT, I’m not sharing it as “Advice.”
I don’t give advice. It generally messes up your own instincts about parenting, and I’m not a professional. I AM a professional at loving and raising Ribera children, but that’s not what you have. You have your own peeps, and how could I ever know more about them than you?! “I ain’t no Mack; I’m a Peterbilt, for dang sake!” Meaning: I’m not your kids mom or dad, and I’m not a doctor or therapist. But, I’m with you in wanting to love the shoot outta your people!
Do you have a baby? Good for you! Nope. I cannot tell you what we did for sleep. We’re somewhere close to the spectrum-end labeled "Attachment Parenting." But, I can’t sleep when they are physically on me. So, we did our own thing without ever doing “cry-it-out” because my heart (and Brendan’s philosophy: “When would we ever leave a baby to figure something out on her own?”) can’t take it. But, you may be very different! And I bet you love that baby something fierce and are capable of making choices that work for you. (And remember that “sleeping like a baby,” even sleeping “through the night” means 4-6 hours beginning at midnight.)
Do you have a kindergartener? Good for you! Nope. I cannot tell you what we did about school transition. We did all three of ours differently at three different schools. *shrug*
Do you all have stomach flu? Crappy for you (for real…)! Nope. I cannot tell you what we did about multiple vomiting children. I’ve blocked it out. But, I do know you should never, NEVER thin your towel collection. THAT is real advice, and you should take it.
Do you have humans instead of pre-programmed robots? Good for you! Nope. There is not a way to trade the humans for pre-programmed robots. Here’s the deal: humans are a beautiful mess. And you don’t want robots. Maybe you do from 12-6am, but when they’re older, you’ll be glad they have quirks and issues. You’ll love them for their unique display of the image of God. Even as babies, you don’t want a robot. A robot would look nothing like you! And why waste that beautiful name you agonized over on a robot?
Parenting is SO HARD. But it’s not a “job.” Yes, it’s work, but we can’t think of it as a job. That’ll make you all bitter inside about how no one pays you. “Parent” is just part of you now. And you can do it however you want. Just remember the 4 rules: Be helpful, Be grateful, Be encouraging, Be selfless. (OK, JESKYBERA!!!!??? I’m TALKING TO YOU, LADY!!!!)