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?
How to instantly position Yourself says
As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you
I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter (actually, today is her 18-month birthday) and #2 really resonated with me. We’ve bought Maggie a lot of toys — like, our living room is packed full of them. I don’t think we bought them for us, necessarily, but we bought them because wanted her to be happy. But as you point out, close contact with her parents makes her much more happy than anything. Thanks for reminding me.
Speaking of which, the truism that really resonates with me is that you should simply spend time with your kids. If you’re in the same room but not interacting with them, close the magazine/turn off the computer/put down your iPhone and get on the floor with them. The emails can wait.
Neal Frankle says
We imagine all this “reality” about our decisions and how they impact others (like our children). At the end of the day, the other people in our lives experience our decisions quite differently. Amazingly helpful comment Sharon.
@Sharon. Thanks for that comment because we make decisions as parents but I’m always worried the kids are going to think we were nuts or that they missed out. Of course, they might not miss all the “stuff” but they’ll probably still think our choices were nuts, lol!
This is the first time I’ve commented, but I wanted to because I think this article is terrific. I don’t have kids, but in recently speaking to my mom she said she felt bad that she and dadn’t couldn’t afford to buy us more “stuff” when we were kids. Honestly, I never missed it! I never felt deprived. We learned how to be creative with what we did have and spent a lot of time being active instead of stuck in front of the tv. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to learn and benefit from not having too much “stuff”. Thanks!
One thing that I’ve had to let go (and continually let go) is that there’s a “right” way to do anything – whether it’s the birth plan, co-sleeping or not co-sleeping, what type of schooling, what type of discipline, etc. All of those decisions are different for every family, for every parent, and even for every kid, even when they’re in the same family! So as much as I would like to have some pat answers, I’m trying to learn to make day-by-day (sometimes hour-by-hour) decisions for my family. That’s interesting, btw, about the kibbutz. I’ve always been strangely drawn to the idea but I don’t think I’m social enough (not even socialist, just social).
Terrific post..honest and true! The “stuff” eventually ends up in trash heaps..the love and connection lasts forever!!!
This is one of you best posts ever. I don’t have kids and have no plans to have kids, but I really enjoyed this post. This gave me an honest idea of who you and your family really are and how much you mean to each other.
That’s a real deep compliment. Thanks.
Yeah…the stuff does not work…their self-esteems will be OK without some stuff…as a parent we let the ‘stuff’ babysit them and allow us to do other things..some importnat..some not…we don’t need to forget it’s the time with them that makes the impressions that last….good post!
Yes…..I’d agree….except I’m not a huge fan of the diaper era.. But I get your point…
Susan D. says
One thing we found about raising kids is that you may think it gets easier as they get older but in reality it only gets harder and more complicated. Some days I’d give anything just to change a diaper to make things better.