I wrote the following post about my own experiences and how I think I could have been a better parent. But I think the concept behind this can be useful to grandparents, uncles and aunts – anyone who has children in their lives. Let me know if you agree.
Did you go to Mommy-Daddy School before having kids? I didn’t. Neither did my wife. We just did the best we could. Often, we relied on “conventional thinking” when it came to parenting. Fortunately, we re-examined many of these ideas and laid them aside.
Like every parent, my wife and I think that our kids are absolute gems (and they are, believe me). I believe that dumping these particular “truisms” helped them become the wonderful people that they are.
Let’s have a look-see at those lies:
1. A kibbutz is a wonderful place to raise children.
For those of you who don’t know what a kibbutz is, it’s a communal farming community only found in Israel. I met my wife on a small kibbutz in the southern part of the country. Our first daughter was born there.
Most people who know about kibbutz life will tell you that it’s the best place on earth to raise children. Kids have everything they need. It’s beautiful, safe and clean. They are well taken care of and have a great education. All that is true…yet it was still the wrong place for us to raise our children. Here’s why:
a. I am a capitalist and was miserable in a communal socialist system. I was wrong when I thought I could get used to it…I couldn’t. My frustration impacted my relationships with everyone there. I couldn’t possibly raise happy kids if I was miserable.
b. While safe and secure, the kibbutz was very isolated. We wanted our kids to be exposed to lots of new people with new ideas. A kibbutz in the southern tip of Israel is no place to do that.
c. The community has a huge role in shaping how kids develop. The parents’ roles are diminished. We didn’t want that.
We concluded that a kibbutz was probably the easiest place to raise kids – but not the best place to do it. When I told friends that I thought raising kids on a kibbutz was a terrible idea, they thought I was crazy. We didn’t care. We abandoned our fear of criticism. Despite the “common knowledge,” we got out of Dodge.
2. We bought “stuff” for our kids.
Sure our kids love “stuff.” Who doesn’t? But we noticed that our kids had more fun in an empty room with a deflated ball than in a loud, insane arcade. You know when our kids were happiest? When we played blocks and Barbies with them on the rug. (OK…so they need blocks and Barbies, I’ll admit it.) They didn’t need a lot of “stuff,” but we bought too much of it for them anyway.
Why? For ourselves – at least partially.
We bought things for our kids because we wanted to be like everyone else. We wanted to feel like we were being good parents. We wanted to show that we love our kids just as much as the next parent, and we were going to spend every last dime we had in order to prove it.
All this had nothing to do with the kids and everything to do with ourselves. We bought “stuff” and gave it to the kids, but we spent it selfishly. We didn’t realize it at the time of course, but it was true.
Another reason we bought toys for the kids was to keep them busy. Of course, we never wanted to admit this to ourselves either. But we wanted some free time once in a while. “Stuff” kept them busy. Naturally, we didn’t tell ourselves that. We convinced ourselves – through lazy thinking – that we were giving them “stuff” for their own benefit. When we realized what we were doing, we stopped.
3. Television allows kids to relax, enjoy and maybe learn something.
Try this experiment. Let your kids watch TV for three hours and watch how they behave. How relaxed and joyful are they? Not much. They’re probably really agitated. TV does that.
Now, try just chilling with them. If they are young, try getting down on the carpet and playing cards or blocks with them. (If you want to splurge, throw in some Barbies or G.I. Joes). If your kids are too old for that, just talk together.
I’m writing about this for one spectacularly important (financial) reason:
You and your family will benefit greatly by re-examining the “truisms” and “rules of thumb” you rely on. They may be appropriate, and that’s fine. But they may not be, and that could have disastrous emotional and financial results. Better to look at that sooner rather than later.
Now that I’ve spilled my guts…what about you? Have you ever discovered that a “truism” didn’t work for you and your family? What did you do about it? What were the results?