Parenting is tough stuff. It is hard work! I have said that for years, even before Man Cub was a twinkle in my eye. When you think you’ve got it all figured out, children are very good at throwing a curve ball your way!
So, it should come as no surprise that, when faced with a curve ball or two, one may not quite handle it the way they would typically hope.
That said, the key to helping face these curve balls is “consistency.” Consistency in your expectations of your kiddo, and the manner with which you deal with said curve ball.
But let me tell you, it gets exhausting being consistent.
After knowing a couple single parents, working their way through our grad school program, while interning for the program, and continuing (obviously) to raise their children, I have maintained I am in awe of single parents. I am also the first to recognize that I am blessed that, while holding down the fort at home while Soldier Boy is gone, I know my other half is coming home to help, eventually, with co-parenting. Single parents typically don’t have that extra pair of hands to co-parent – not unless they have a strong support system that can help them maintain a set standard of expectations.
Man Cub has done nothing major, nor has he done anything unexpected of a toddler. He is, quite simply, testing his boundaries and checking to ensure my response will be the same every. single. time. he crosses a line.
This past week, Man Cub has decided to test my boundaries every single day. Usually, multiple times a day. We went from a child who was well-behaved, and did what his mother asked more times than not, to a little boy who laughs when scolded, as he runs out of his mother’s grasp. The funny thing – the running out of his mom’s grasp and laughing the whole time is what got him kicked out of church this last summer, but that is a story for a few years from now.
Last month, I decided to take a parenting class. While I have quite a few years of parenting classes, as well as practical application of all age ranges, I like to continue adding to my “tool box of skills.” So, I took a “Scream-Free Parenting” class, offered through Army Community Services (ACS). ACS has a fantastic set of classes, depending on each individual installation, offered to provide education and support for parents, especially those whose spouses are deployed or frequently gone from home training. “Scream-Free Parenting” was a program I heard of years ago, and it finally fit my schedule to attend the class.
The designer of the program has a segment devoted to natural consequences, and how to let the “consequences do the screaming, so you [as the parent] don’t have to.” I have lived by that philosophy, and taught (or coached?) by that philosophy, for years.
The biggest struggle I find, when a family is trying to implement natural consequences, is when society as a larger community, interferes with that approach (i.e. the parent informing the teenager that they – the parent – will no longer be hounding the teenager to turn in the homework, the parent notifying the teachers to give the teenager the credit – or lack thereof – due the teenager when teenager fails to turn in homework, and the teacher saying they can’t give a zero <– true story). This is something the author of the program doesn't discuss how to handle.
What I am learning, hands-on, that I have never fully had to do alone, is that holding the line firm is tough stuff. I have held the line firm dozens of times throughout my life – with siblings (but, I had the support of my parents), with “my kids” that I parented as elementary school through seniors in high school (but, I had the support of the team of other house-parents), and coaching parents to do for their children (where, if there was an absence of support from the parent, I at least had support of my clinical supervisor/s). I haven’t had to do it, day in and day out, with a toddler.
Wow. What an experience!
I keep reminding myself that holding this line firm now, will prevent my child from being one of those kids that I have worked with – the kid that poses a threat to himself and others in his family and/or society. But, I now fully get why so many people find it so easy to be “friends” with their children, rather than parents. I have seen, firsthand, the ramifications of that concept, which is why I am willing to do the hard work now.
That said, I am counting down the days until Soldier Boy gets home, and he and I can split these co-parenting challenges.
Again, keeping consistent at the expectations (especially, age-appropriate expectations), and the consequences, is vital. I know that with every fiber of my being; however, I can and will say, it is exhausting at times!
And, I will continue to say – single parents are awesome! They are on the list of my personal heroes!