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Contact Mike Farrell
My wife and I have three kids. The oldest is 22 now and graduated from college. My goodness, that happened quickly! Our other two children are 18 and 17. Each one amazing and unique. Unique because each one has very different needs and interest. Each one also has very different personalities. In our earlier parenting days, we somehow thought, naively, that we would raise each one pretty much the same way. I guess that’s one of the beautiful surprises about parenting is how it opens your eyes–makes you wiser–somehow enlightens you. But this process of parenting we are a part of–the journey we are on, is not always an easy one.
I use the words process and journey because that’s exactly what it is. Step by step, stage by stage, ups and downs along the way. When we had our first child we, of course, were at once overjoyed and overwhelmed with the mystery that is parenthood. It’s supposed to be that way–mysterious. I’m convinced of it. So much of who you are changes when a new child comes into your life. Even with all the reading and preparation, you are never quite prepared for what lies ahead. It sounds perilous because, well…it is. So much to learn and it must be learned quickly.
For example, with each child, you must understand their sleep patterns, which foods they like and dislike, their different types of cries, what calms and comforts them, and each one is very different right from the very beginning. One likes to sleep a lot, another keeps you awake all night. One is a picky eater and another will eat almost anything. One likes to be held close and rocked in a chair to sleep while another just wants to be placed in the crib and snuggled.
These differences become even more pronounced and challenging as they get older and become teenagers. Where one child is motivated to excel academically–another child finds his outlet in sports and is motivated by his accomplishments on the field. One child might be respectful and logical while another is free-spirited and very independent–each child winding their way down the roller-coaster pathway to adulthood.
Through all of this, I’m learning a few things about myself too. I’m learning that the way I was raised and how I viewed my parents has almost nothing to do with the way my kids are raised or the way they see our relationship. This is proven out every time I say things like:
“When I was your age I would have never…” or
“My parents would have never allowed me to…”
But what I’m beginning to realize is that although I may want a perfectly compliant child because that makes my life easier, that really isn’t necessarily what I need. Let me explain.
With our first child, we thought we had it all figured out. It was almost too easy. He was very compliant and compliant children are, on the whole, easier to raise than their defiant or “independent” counterparts. Here are just a few examples:
- He seldom argued with us and even when he did he was respectful.
- He rarely struggled with school and when he did he quickly figured out what needed to be done and did it.
- When we put reasonable boundaries in place he respectfully followed them.
But when our second and third children came along they opened our eyes, especially when they became teenagers, to a whole different side of parenting. We were challenged in so many different ways.
I recognize now that each child’s personality type has advantages and challenges. The independent children are typically more outspoken and they will probably never have a problem being heard and getting their point across. At the same time, it can be more difficult to get the independent ones to agree to important things like getting chores done. They want to argue and bargain and find reasons why it should be put off. This can sometimes lead to a power struggle. But, what I’m also starting to see is that it can also teach me patience. Do I want it done the right away? Sure. If they don’t learn that lesson now it will be a harder one to learn later. I’ve learned that with the compliant/independent dynamic taking place in our household the phrase, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” has never been more true. But I’ve also learned that sometimes the loudest one isn’t always the right one.
Parenting has many challenges and I’ve come to the conclusion that parenting is as much about teaching our children the best way we know how, as it is about learning from our children how to be better people.
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