MOVarazzi

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

908. Ethics Is A Team Sport

I am that mom.  The mean one.  The one all the kids hate.  No one ever says, “Hey, let’s go over to Tall and Short’s house because their mother is so nice.  She lets you play computer games all day and eat junk food for dinner.  We love her!”  No.  Instead, my children beg to go to someone else’s house for a break from homework and eating raw broccoli and grapes for a snack.  

I don’t mind if my kids eat a cookie or five.  And I can live with a few hours of wii at the neighbor’s.  It is the future I worry about, the future where we are no longer talking about elementary temptations like watching cartoons for an afternoon, but instead graduate to the big leagues:  drugs, smoking, sex, skipping school, lying, cheating, shoplifting, eating disorders, steroids, fighting, bullying, drinking, driving under the influence.  I need the other moms to let me know if my kid is doing any of that, and I vow to do the same. 

If I see Johnny behind Target smoking a joint with his buddies, you’d better believe I will be on the phone with Johnny’s mom.  If I run into Johnny stealing beer at the supermarket, I will address Johnny and tell the mom.  But what if she doesn’t believe me?  And will I believe her if she is the one making the call?

I promise I will believe her.  Even if it is easier to believe my own son.  I must trust that it is difficult for her to confront me and betray my child, just so I can have all the information, the information that says my child might not be the angel that I think he is. 
The waters of teenage life look murky from where I stand.  How will I navigate them?  The only map I have is the current one:  How To Parent First and Third Graders.  I have that map mostly memorized.  Limits and boundaries, rewards and punishments.  We take away TV privileges, or birthday parties, or other fun things.  We reward with activities and also new toys or books.  Mostly we reward with verbal praise:  “We are so proud of you!  Good job.”  Life is not always about things.  Sometimes just doing the right thing, the expected thing, should be enough.       

My friends with older kids give me advice:  “MOV, if you are strict now, you don’t have to be so strict later.”  I like this advice.  I cling to it like a lifeboat.  Strict now.  Yes, that is what I already do. 
I look at the Lego airplane in the trash can, the victim of this morning’s punishment for Tall hitting his brother. 

Am I too strict?  Will Legos in the trash prevent drug use when he is 17? 
MOV

22 comments:

  1. I don't think I'd throw Legos in the trash. I'd take them away for a while and then give them back when I saw an improvement in behavior, but I agree that if you're strict when they're young, they'll do better when they're older. When Favorite Young Man was a teenager all the kids hung out at our house. We didn't allow Nintendo, but we invited kids to stay for dinner and we talked to them. I asked FYM what they talked about when he ate dinner at his best friend's house. Nothing, he said. They don't talk, he said. I was shocked. I think the conversation and the laughter were the big draws at our place. By the way, a number of young women who have dated FYM have thanked me because he's not addicted to video games like every other guy they know.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I hear you. I tried taking away favorites and giving them back later, but there is such sheer quantity of neat Legos in our house, that they really were not missed.

      And yes, I want to be the house that the teens hang out at. That is the goal, I totally agree with you.

      Check in with me in a few years, and hopefully that is how things pan out!

      xxo
      MOV

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  2. Oh MOV I feel you on this one. I wanted to be the cool mom but found that I could remove myself from my desire to raise my children properly. My 16 year old still has a bedtime.

    All the books and advice claim that children crave the rules and restrictions but it is heartbreaking sometimes when we have to mete out a punishment.

    The best I can say is to stick to your guns. Make a rule and follow through with the consequences because honestly, I find that it isn't so much the rule that counts it's the consequences that make the most impression.

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    1. You are so right, Heather, it is all about the follow thru. It makes me insane sometimes when The Husband will dole out a punishment (that I might not agree with) and then of course I get to follow thru with it!

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  3. Legos in the trash?!?! Ouch...real trash, or you fished them out later and hid them? Sorry, this house is practically built of legos so that struck hard...but now I wonder if my son's recent major (and I mean major) mistake might have been avoided if I threw away some treasures. I was/am the strict mom too, and sh*t still happens...sorry.

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    1. No, they were not fished out. :( I guess I got too carried away too fast.

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  4. I don't think you are mean at all. Kids have to have structure. It's like a law of physics or something.

    Like Janie, I've taken away a favorite toy (or 6) and made them EARN the right to have them back.

    And, I also agree that being the home where there is fun, laughter and conversation is the home I want to have! Everyone needs to be heard -- teenagers sometimes more than others.

    Do not fret, MOV, you are laying the groundwork to mold some fine young men.

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    1. Thanks, Couse, I also want my home to be the fun/laughter/conversation house! It is what I strive for, but also a balancing act of being strict.

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  5. That's the thing about parenthood--you never know if you're "doing it right." I will say that I have had the privilege (and I am not using that word sarcastically, believe it or not) to 'parent' over a thousand 13 year-olds. I have learned that each kid needs something different. All we can do is our best.

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    1. That makes me feel better, Kirby. And a little bit worse.

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  6. I am a believer in keeping a tight reign on the little ones as it will make handling your teens easier. I wouldn't dare tell you how to handle your little guys but I expected good behavior from my grade schoolers, had minimal problems from my high schoolers and to this day think I had the best college age kids that ever lived. As adults...so far so good.

    I will say though that ours was the house that all the kids hung out at in high school. I wanted to be in the loop. I would rather have my kids close by and if that meant 5 other kids as well...that was OK too.

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    1. I agree, Cheryl! And it sounds like you did a good job!

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  7. I think consistency is the answer in childhood rearing; kids got to know there are boundaries and there are punishments as well as rewards. I think we do the best we can and then hope the teen years are "gentle" ones (they weren't in my household). What you do want is an open house in that friends are comfortable to come over because you'll learn you can find out a lot about what is going on if the kids are at your house rather than at another person's house and you can get to know who your kids are hanging around with.

    betty

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    1. betty-- good advice! I will try to be "that house" that the teens want to go to.

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  8. It's a tough job isn't it?! I like to say "we are all just doing the best we know how to do". I spent lots of time with my daughter as she was growing up. She is 15 now. While that's not "grown" it is a point where she is making a lot of her own decisions now. I keep open line of communication and try to keep my finger on the pulse, but try to give her enough freedom to make her own decisions when appropriate. So far,so good. They will make mistakes. I know I did!

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    1. Fancy Ranci, sounds like you have made good decisions with the way you are raising your daughter! I hope I can do the same when my kids are 15.

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  9. Our parents always gave us crap for being so strict with Sheldon, but we were both wild teens, we figure she was genetically cursed.

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  10. I am really bad at being strict and scheduled and all of the stuff parents are supposed to be. I don't have enough Type A in me to keep things going smoothly. We barely eat dinner together because my husband works weird hours. We are not conventional. I worry about that a lot. I often feel like I am doing it all the wrong way. I spend a lot of time with my daughter. I am hoping, somehow, that what I do will be good enough and work out. I mean, I hope she grows up without doing drugs, getting pregnant accidentally or running off with a creepy guy that treats her badly. I hope she goes to college and can support herself all while being kind and smart and helpful. I want her to know hard work is the pathway to success. I can relate to your worries and I guess no matter what kind of parents we are we all have them. So many factors are involved. The teenage years scare me too.

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    1. I guess we all want the same things deep down: safety, sanity, and serenity. And, oh yeah, for my kid to be a doctor and pay for my retirement.

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  11. That telling other parents about their child's behavior is a tough one. Now that two of my kids are teens, we've had to walk this line. I have seen and heard plenty of kids doing wrong, but I haven't always told the parents. Sometimes, I know it won't make a bean of difference, and may actually make things worse. I have always said I want people to tell me if they see my child doing something she shouldn't. I've modified that. I only want my friends telling me these things. People that actually care about them.
    You've struck a nerve with this post. We've been dealing with this issue quite a bit lately.
    Be strong. Be strict. Be loving. Be kind. Piece of cake, right? Ha!

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    1. See, that is the part that makes me nervous: that telling the parent would not make a bit of difference. *sigh*

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