I spent about three hours talking to my sis today. To me, she is the perfect mom. I like the way she deals with her kids – and I like how her kids are turning out.
For example, her older one – who’s already 20 – is awesome. He has wonderful relationship with his parents. He shares a lot with them – for he knows they will never disclose it to anyone else or judge him. He never even went through that teenage phase of conflict! It went all smooth. It says something, right? He even offered me to introduce me to his girlfriend a couple years back when I was visiting.
The younger one, she’s 5, is also a very calm and nice child, no unreasonable tantrums, no nothing.
So I recently started asking lots of questions on raising kids.
Granted, it’s still too early for any of the disciplining or anything for me (my baby isn’t even born yet!) – but I want to wrap my head around the concept. And it looks like it all is coming down to respect. What my sis does so differently from our parents – and many other parents I know – is treating her kids with respect. I’ll give you a few examples.
It’s late evening, time to go to bed. My niece is watching a cartoon. There’s about 10 minutes left. My mom (her grandma) simply says “ok, time to bed” – turns everything off – my niece throws a tantrum, everyone is unhappy, although my niece gets in bed right on time (whether she falls asleep easily is a separate question). What does my sister do? She says: “okay, honey, it’s time for bed. I see that you’re watching something really interesting, so let’s finish watching it and then quickly get to bed”. That’s it. No tantrums, no hysterics. When the cartoon is over, my niece quickly undresses, brushes her teeth and goes to bed.
And that’s the way it has always been – if, for example, my niece watched short cartoons and asked for “one more” – my sister usually would say “okay, but just one” – and after that, firmly but gently get my niece to bed.
She always respects her wishes, her interests. You can’t – or at least shouldn’t – just force someone to do something.
My parents bought my niece a new toy – huge plastic horse. The horse isn’t too sturdy, so they kept telling her and disciplining her “don’t climb on it, don’t knock on it, don’t do this, don’t do that”. And complain to my sister that she doesn’t listen. It all ends up with a horse’s broken leg. My niece is, of course, in tears. What do my parents do? They say “see? told ya!” – over and over. To really drive home that this all happened because my niece wasn’t listening to them. My niece who’s already in tears because her favourite horse is broken, gets even more hysterical.
What does my sister do? She tries to calm her down. Tell her that they will go and look at the horse. Let’s put the blanket over her, while we look for the first aid kit. Let’s see if we have bandages to fix her leg. My niece calms down.
My sister believes that once she bought her daughter a toy – the toy belongs to her and she’s free to do whatever she wants with it. My sister respects that. Of course, she’ll warn her daughter that if she handles the toy this way, it might break – but she will never force or forbid her anything. If it breaks – the girls will still learn her lesson.
My sister believes that restrictions should only be used in situations where her daughter can harm herself – like touching an iron or an electric jack.
There’s a need to bring my nephew to the dentist. My sister consults my nephew: when would you prefer to go? When is it convenient for you? She tries to work a time that suits all of them.
My mom gets impatient: why do you even ask him? Just grab him and go!
But no, my sister respects the fact that he might have his own plans and does her best to schedule the dentist trip around it.
I really want to learn from my sister. And because deep inside I am programmed to follow my parents’ model, I will have to consciously work on it. So I am starting to learn from my sister – and keep notes of her words of wisdom here. For my future use.
And how do I know that my parents’ model sits in me? From my first marriage. I behaved just like my mom. A lot. Which really, really wasn’t good for our relationship. That’s not why the marriage didn’t work, but I learned my lesson – and I changed my ways.
I hope I will be more successful with changing for raising kids – from the first try.