Tag Archives: respect

Setting Boundaries

wooden 3-rail fence in evening shadowOne of the things we all run into- whether as parents, or just as people- is where we set our boundaries.  What behavior is okay with us?  What’s not okay?  What are the house rules?  When does someone cross a line?

The next issue, of course, is how do we deal with this “violation” of often unspoken rules.  If someone keeps pushing us after we have been clear and said no- what is your next move?  How do you make it irrevocably clear that the argument is over?  That you are not changing your position?

One of my children is a masterful debater.  It’s pretty impressive.  He can see holes in any argument, come up with compromises, misdirect- it’s actually kind of amusing to watch, when you aren’t the one in the middle of the conflict with him.  He’s the child for whom the boundaries and rules must be the most clear and unwavering, because if you give him an inch, it’s over- he owns you.

The challenge for us lately has been to make sure he understands when I get to the point where I am done debating.  Like most parents, I am willing to hear my kid’s point of view, acknowledge their position, but once I have made a decision, it’s done.  I may give reasons, but I’m not open to being badgered and constantly revisiting the issue at hand.  While I admire “the attorney’s” persistence, I often get to a point where my patience runs out and I resort to raising my voice or even employing colorful language to let the child know the debate has ended.

I’m not proud of losing my temper from time to time.  I know tell your child to leave you alone and to give it up already are not particularly stellar moments in parenting.  But I also know that I need to construct firm and immovable boundaries, both so the Debater feels safe, but also so he understands command and control.  Sometimes you don’t have control and can’t make all the decisions.  Sometimes No is the answer, even if you want it to be yes.  Sometimes, there are reasons and things you aren’t ready to know, or people don’t want to share, and you have to accept you can’t get your way or cajole them into it.  Sometimes, you need to think about how your actions make the other person feel.

One thing that has seemed to work to end the debate is to get out the white board and list the child’s issue.  We list the points, the complaints, and make sure every single one is heard.  Then we try to figure out solutions, asking him to come up with ideas to make things better, and how to solve the problem rather than just complain about it.  I think this has helped him both get to the end of the list of issues he has, as well as helped me point out any common themes to the complaints and issues.  By taking the complaints from being abstract to concrete, and finding a way to move forward, looking for solutions and things we can both do to make things better, it takes a lot of the emotion out of the situation and focuses it on making things better.  It puts a fence around the problem and contains it, much like the boundaries I’m trying to set for him in the first place.

Setting boundaries and being consistent is often the toughest job in parenting.  But it’s often what we need to do for our kids and for ourselves.  Now if I can just transfer this skill into my relationship with others, I’ll be set.

by Whitney Hoffman

Photo graciously provided by Ben Oh, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

We're Working On Mutual Solutions Here

two construction workers on top of a steel beamI realized recently that the boys were flat out using me quite often. In the heat of an argument, one child will show up and demand, “Mom!!! Will you tell him that (insert side of argument here)??” I am not fond of being in the middle of an argument in the first place, and being called on to constantly judge and settle issues isn’t fun. They’re old enough to start finding solutions themselves, thankyouverymuch.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many parenting books I read; I still seem to get stuck in these situations until my head hurts. Then a solution finally presents itself. (If only I was smart enough to figure this out faster, life would be more pleasant.) Anyway, the solution finally appeared in my head this morning and only an hour later I got the chance to try it out.

We were at church early, and the younger boys frequently get into turf wars with the older boys during setup. The youngers only have each other to play with, while the older boys have some friends to sit and chat with. The 7-year-olds think that the 12-year-olds are mighty cool and try to hang around. Being typical older brothers, the big guys don’t see the hero worship as desirable. They just see a pair of pests.

Sure enough, about ten minutes after we arrived the arguing began. Captain Earthquake (age 7) showed up with a demand: “Mom!! Will you tell the Mercenary to STOP KICKING ME??!!!!!!?!!”

I took them to a classroom and instructed each to sit. Then I explained as sweetly as possible that they are old enough to find their own solutions and they could get up and leave as soon as both were satisfied with whatever resolution they created. At first both fought back and forth by shoving at the table between them. Then The Mercenary (age 12) sat back and stated that he had nowhere to go, he could sit there all day. That lasted about 30 seconds after I reminded him that there were friends in the foyer to hang with.

The first solution tendered by the older boy was “How about he doesn’t bug us and we won’t bug him?”

“That’s a stupid idea!” shouted the Captain. “You say that I’m bugging you if I even walk by.”

(My boy is pretty smart).

There was plenty of discussion back and forth and eventually they agreed to live and let live. I had to sit nearby just to make sure no threats were carried out. The whole thing lasted about 5 minutes and everyone got along well for the rest of the morning.

This afternoon, the Captain had a different argument with his other older brother TechnoBoy. I implemented the strategy again and it took longer but they managed to work it out without committing any violence. Overall, the Captain had a hard time with it, but I think if we keep practicing they’ll start taking steps towards settling arguments without me.

A mom can hope, anyway.

by AmyL

Photo graciously provided by Duane Romanell, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Is There Such A Thing As Harmful Cheering?

tallest and shortest men in world at tableAll 4 of the boys played soccer again this spring after taking a couple of years off from the sport. We deliberately drive to a nearby town for soccer because we like the philosophy of the league there; it’s worth the drive. There’s a league in our own town, but it’s more competitive whereas the league we’ve chosen follows the rule “everybody plays”. Competition is fine for the older ages, but I really appreciate the way they handle things with the younger kids. I’d let the older boys play competitively if they would like, but the younger ones aren’t ready yet.

Anyway. I like this league.

I was surprised at the first game for the younger boys at the way the parents were fairly quiet during play. In fact, the only parents whooping and hollering were me and the coach’s husband. I didn’t pay it much mind. We’ve always cheered on the boys enthusiastically, clapping and hollering when they do anything even remotely approaching successful – and that goes for the other team as well. I also spent some time giggling at some of the, ummmmm, choices my boys made during the game. It was all in the best and most encouraging of spirits though.

At the second game I think, the coach brought “Go Blue” signs for parents to hold. Again, only her husband and I were very vocal.

I wasn’t able to attend the third game, but my in-laws did and were given a paper listing common things parents say while cheering for their children and how those things could actually be harmful.

Um. What??

After pondering for a few weeks (and sitting a bit more quietly through some soccer games), I just can’t see a way to completely agree with this. First of all, I know my own kids, and I know they can handle me. Second of all, I’m not criticizing or correcting them. Okay, well. If they were to run the wrong way down the field I’d probably tell them “other way!!!” but I hardly see that as damaging to their psyches.

I totally agree that in the case of a very sensitive child, there could be concern about cheering accidentally being intimidating. There’s one little girl on the team that is absolutely hilarious; half the time she’s involved and playing, the other half she is completely disengaged from the game. One night she spent 5 minutes in deep conversation with the opposing team’s defenders. None of the parents (me included) said a word to her, but we did giggle a bit on the sidelines. There’s no way she knew we were amused. She was too busy talking.

None of the parents have said or done anything hurtful, and I haven’t noticed any of that in the other years we played soccer. If I’m to understand the paper the coach handed out, this is a belief held by some leaders in our league.

When I played sports I knew my parents were there watching, but honestly I could never hear anything they said. When you’re playing, all your attention is on the game. Not on what the audience is saying. Especially over the distance of a soccer field.

So is it really all that terrible to clap and cheer for your kid? To say things like “go, go, go!!” and “YAY!!! Good try, buddy!!” or “Shoot the ball” and “here it comes, sweetie!” In years past, I’d hear other parents hollering my kids’ names. With this coach, games are pretty quiet. She does do a great job, and I especially appreciate the way she gives individual encouragement to every child after every game. I’m not questioning her coaching skills. I just don’t understand the emphasis on not cheering.

What do you think?

by AmyL

Photo graciously provided by Donna62, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Do Not Play Favorites

I have always believed very strongly that a parent should do everything they can to avoid falling into the trap of favoritism. When a parent adores one child over another, either openly or subtly, the child who feels that he or she is less loved never shakes that feeling. It can cloud their entire life. I’ve seen this in those close to me, friends and relatives, and the results always seem to be same. This feeling of “Why did Mom or Dad love my brother or sister more?” can undermine their very sense of self.

A friend of mine just lost his father after a lengthy battle with cancer. HIs father, it turns out, named my friend as executor of the estate, but the kicker is that he has left everything to his other two children: my friend’s brother and sister. I am beside myself with the what I consider to be a huge slap in the face.

When asked why, my friend simply says that his father always loved the brother and sister more.

Knowing his father only in passing, I have a feeling that what’s more to the point is that while my friend is an entirely self sufficient adult, capable of starting and growing his own home business and raising a wonderful family, his siblings definitely are not. They needed taking care of well into adulthood. Whether it was because of because their father did everything for them and they never learned themselves, or because they are just inherently slackers or because they used their father’s weakness to their advantage, they always managed to garner more attention and get more “stuff” in the process. My friend, never asking for anything, never got much of anything: attention or otherwise.

I wish that my friend’s father were still alive. I’d tell him the damage he did with this less than stellar parenting. I would make him see that of his three children, it was my friend (and his amazing wife) who was there throughout the cancer, throughout the doctor’s appointments, the search for a skilled nursing home, everything. My friend was always willing to drop his life to take care of his father. You couldn’t say the same for the brother or the sister.

I would show his father how wonderful a son he has in my friend. I know it. I just wish that his father were the type of parent who could see that the point of being a parent is to one day no longer be needed by your children. It is to train them well enough that they can stand on their own, without assistance. This man never told my friend that he is proud of the person his son had become. Now, it’s too late.


by Rocket Science Mom


Hear What They Are Saying

close up of woman's earThere are a lot of times when I am busy and my kids want my attention.  I sometimes have to triage which gets attention first, how important is it, etc.  Sometimes I don’t give them my full attention even when I am allegedly listening, because I’m worried about the 27 other things on my plate.    And sometimes, behavior and what they’re saying, if you really listen, tells the story that their words do not.

For example, my youngest has developed a habit of saying “But Mom, you have to listen to me.”  I’ve started to tell him that actually, no, I don’t have to listen to him- he should be asking for my attention, not demanding it, and I will respond much better than when he’s interrupting me repeating the “But but Mom” mantra.  “Mom, I need to tell you something” and  “Mom, I still have something to tell you” works much better than stepping over me and interrupting me when I’m talking to him.  What he’s really trying to say here is probably “I need you just to listen, please”  but this gets lost in what ends up sounding like a demand for center stage. 

The lesson here is probably that I need to really listen, and he needs to do the same, and we’ll have less of this conversation that gets caught in semantics.

A girlfriend recently had a problem and called her husband at work, asking if he’d come home at lunch to help her with it.  He was clearly not excited about the prospect and busy with work and she got mad at him for not riding to the rescue.  This drama, under the first layer or so could be translated as: “Hi Honey.  I am having a crappy day and I’m asking you to come home and help me because I just can’t deal with this alone right now, I am tired and exhausted and have had enough.  If you can spare the time, it would mean a lot to me if you could come help.” 

Instead, the request is read by the husband as “Here she goes again, and I can’t believe I have to go home in the middle of the day to help her with this thing.  Lord, she’s an adult-figure it out.”  But he, too, if he read her request in the second vein could have said:  “I understand how you feel, and I will be happy to come help you and make you feel cared for and share this experience with you.  Right now, my boss feels like I should focus on what’s happening here, is it alright if I handle this when I get home at dinner?”  Instead, a tone that could be read as “Do I Have to?” sets her teeth on edge, and this little mis-communication causes way more stress than it probably needs to.  She thinks he doesn’t care enough to come help her when she says it’s important, and he’s having problems judging why it’s so important that it needs to interrupt the work day.

It can be really difficult to hear what someone is saying, particularly if the words misdirect you.  Sometimes a kid’s dramatic behavior is more about wanting your attention and showing them you love them than it is about taking a stand and doing something stupid, like deciding to sleep out in the rain.  Kids are looking for borders and boundaries, as are most people in our lives.

We want to know what’s okay and what’s not, and that the people around us love and care about us.  Sometimes, we act out to get those needs met, and often, it’s not in the most mature or responsible way ever invented.  I think in many relationships, affairs start because people aren’t good at asking for what they need in a constructive way.  If your spouse doesn’t understand you, how about talking to them and helping them to understand you?  It’s much easier for a stranger to put up with your quirks when they don’t have to live with your toothpaste in the sink and underwear on the floor.  But at home, you are both accepted and criticized for who you are, because there’s no hiding from those closest to you.  Communicating requires being vulnerable, and sometimes hearing that you don’t always listen, or the person you’re closest to doesn’t feel heard or understood.

Take some time this next few days, and listen both to the words, but also the tone people use when talking.  Is that client really clear or indecisive about what they want?  Is your child really happy, or is there an undertone in their voice that makes you think maybe something else is going on?  Is your spouse upset because of work, or upset because they feel underappreciated at home?  What’s not said directly is often more important than the words we use, and listening, with all your attention instead of half of it, will tell you more than you thought you knew.

I know I’ve been surprised.

by Whitney Hoffman

Photo graciously provided by jemsweb, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved