When It Comes to Parenting

Item 1:  Did you hear the one about the woman who left her 12-year-old daughter naked in the car? Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it?

Well, it isn’t.

Turns out the mother is a substitute teacher, and left her daughter naked because she didn’t want her daughter to run off and rummage for food in trash cans, while she was teaching in a nearby elementary school. Which is exactly how the girl was found: eating out of trash containers, and trying to modestly cover herself with a car floor mat. (You can read all about it here: “12-year-old found naked, rumaging through trash in Temecula“)

Hmm. I wonder what the mother was planning to teach that day? Hopefully, nothing to do with effective parenting skills.

One of the few photos I have of my mother and daughter.

Item 2: Speaking of which, there’s a new book on parenting out that says the French know how to raise healthy, well-rounded and, most important of all, kids who behave well in public. The book is called, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.

Apparently, Druckerman is a journalist, so I’m going to assume she did her research before coming to this conclusion. I don’t doubt that the French know how to raise their kids. I’m sure the Spaniards and Italians are also apt at it. And, it’s unlikely that this book will be as controversial or as divisive as Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is known in some circles as “extreme” parenting. Though, if you think about it, the substitute teacher mom was also practicing “extreme” parenting, of sorts. (But, let’s just hope substitute teacher mom doesn’t decide to throw her towel in the ring, too, and write a parenting book of her own.)

Item 3: Without having read either book, I’m going to go out on a ledge here and say, that neither the French nor the Chinese have cornered the market on proper child-rearing skills.  On the other hand, my mother may well have. 😉 And since she’s no longer around to tell you herself, I will share with you some of the skills I learned from her.

  1. Resist the urge to make your child the focus and the center of your life. It’s simply not healthy for you or for your child to be on a pedestal. You’re not doing them any favors, except raising them to have the expectation of entitlement and that they will be treated in the same fashion by everyone they meet. If you ask me, that’s setting them up for disappointment.
  2. Enjoy your children for what they are. Curious, creative beings. Treat them as the individual your child is. Listen to them, and be firm when needed.  Try to be courteous, in the same manner as you want them to treat you. With respect.
  3. Set limits. In other words, make sure they know that “No” means no. There’s a time and place for negotiation but there can also be a fine line between negotiating and letting your child take advantage of you.  Contrary to popular belief, being strict doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. For proof on how well it can work, I suggest reading Shenk it Up, a blog by Nate Shenk, a young, blogger pal of mine. In his post, Without Parents, I’d Probably be Smoking Crack, Nate writes with humor and love about his rather strict parents. Here’s a sample: “For me, I grew up with a set of rule-enforcing parents who loved their children so much that they would have given their own lives for the sake of mine, or my siblings. I was never without either rules, or love.”  Pretty cool, I’d say.
  4. Teach etiquette. P’s & Q’s are a start. But also convey to them the value of civility in every aspect of their life. Teach them, too, the importance of offering appreciation by writing the tried and true, Thank You Note.
  5. Give them rituals and a schedule: Like bedtime reading, Saturday morning visits to the library, family meals, etc. Kids look forward to such rituals, and like knowing what to expect. It’s when they don’t know that they start falling apart and having melt-down’s.
  6. Leave guilt at the door. Yes, I know you feel guilty because you work full time and you’re often the last parent to pick up your child from daycare or school. Been there, done that. But it’s no reason to cave and give them what they want when they want it. You’re not doing them any favors by letting guilt manage your parenting skills, which brings me to my next point.
  7. Do not tolerate insolent or unruly behavior: At the first sign of an attitude, I used to ask my kids to go to their room and return when they were ready to behave and speak respectfully, which meant using words, not wails. In fact, whining was not tolerated in my house, period. You want to teach them the kind of behavior they’re going to need in the real world. Besides, I’d rather listen to them vent and scream for a while while they’re in their rooms, rather than have throngs of strangers witness them have a tizzy fit while out in public. Something they never did.
  8. Play with your kids. Make time to get down on the floor with them and play what they want to play. Play in the car while you’re driving (assuming you know where you’re going and it isn’t distracting). I used to pretend I was the car radio, singing my heart out and announcing the news, as my mother pretended to keep switching the channels to different stations. Sounds corny, but I loved it.  Pretend games are always fun and encourage creativity.
  9. When they’re old enough, around 18 months or so, make sure they learn to put away their toys when playtime is over. Do not let them leave a mess just because it’s easier, and you don’t want a scene. By doing it for them, you’re not helping them at all. Teaching responsibility is always a good thing.
  10. Lastly, try to avoid talking about your kids all the time. Yes, we know you think your child is the best. We all feel that way about our kids. But, unless you’re talking to the other parent or a grandparent, keep the discussion brief about how cute your child is. My mother made it a habit to never talk about me in public, not even to my teachers during the parent-teacher conference and, for that, I’m grateful. After all, no one needed to hear about all the darnedest things I was saying.

People tell me I’m fortunate because I have two grown, fairly happy and responsible kids, who never gave me any real trouble–and who actually like me! No rebellion, no back talk. So maybe I am lucky. But I’d like to think that the way I raised them had something to do with it, too. And though my kids never really knew their grandmother, because she passed away when they were very young, I’d like to think I channeled the best of her, when I was raising them, and so they got to know a little of her, through me.

Well, these are just some of the basic skills my mother passed on to me. Soon, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about getting through the teen years. Now, how about you? I’d love to hear about any effective child-rearing tips you may have.

36 thoughts on “When It Comes to Parenting

  1. I am sorry I missed this post Monica, because it is just so brilliant. What a fantastic mum you had and as a result you’re even more fantastic for raising two children who are kind and responsible with no sense of entitlement. I don’t know about other cultures, only what I see when I observe, and some seem to have got it down to an art. All I know is that I am strict but kind, they try their best to negotiate and guilt me into feeling that I am the worlds most strict mum because I have rules for everything and I do not tolerate back talk or impolite behaviour 🙂 but I learned a lot from my mum and that is what I hope to pass down to my children. How I loathe that sense of entitlement kids seem to have today. I have friends who say I am lucky because I have chosen to stay at home to raise my girls, it is not luck, it is a choice I made. I wish women would not put us mums into the who is better category: stay at home vs. going to work

    • It’s the entitlement thing that’s going to do them in. Their parents do them no favor by coddling them, by allowing them to think they’re better, they’re more special than anyone else. It’s so sad, when parents mistake loving their kids for needing to treat them this way and for allowing unacceptable behavior because they cannot bear being firm with them. Oh, well, at least some of us know better, right? 😉

  2. Great post Monica…I’m with you 100% on all points.

    I’m fortunate that my own parents were such great role models; I’ve lost count of the times I’ve leaned on the lessons they taught me when it comes to parenting.

    I like to think I’m a good parent, but at the same time I think we channel so much of what we learned about parenting from our own parents and grand parents.

    You have to wonder if that substitute teacher was doing the same, and wasn’t as fortunate to have such great role models. Not to excuse her behavior.

    • Glad to hear, Ian, that you had wonderful parents. I have faith that you’re doing everything right for your own child. And, yes, who knows what kind of childhood the substitute teacher had. It really is all in the role models we have. Let’s hope the teacher’s daughter isn’t too scarred by her mother’s parenting.

  3. Monica, lady, wonderful post! Where were you when I was raising my kids! I say, it’s time for you to get cracking and write your own parenting book. All of these tips sound spot on and I’m happy to report that I’ve followed most of them, with the exception of #1. (She hangs her head in shame). As a result, both of my children do have a sense of entitlement from time to time and worse of all, I know it’s going to bite them in the ass at some point in their lives and it will have been my fault. In my defense, I believe I incurred in this as a result of compensating for being a single parent. I really wanted my children to feel loved, to not think that just because dad wasn’t around they were going to be shortchanged of not having the love other kids with two parents had. Thankfully, their sense of entitlement doesn’t rear its ugly head too often. The Daughter tends to be a bit shallow and is quite the lover of useless, expensive purses and the Son does tend to think the world revolves around him. Methinks it’s time we invent a time machine if only to do a bit of damage control here. 🙂 Loved this post!

    • Oh, Bella, I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. From your blog, I can tell you have the qualities of being a wonderful mother–after all, you’ve had some amazing role models in your Nana and your mother. And we all make mistakes, just focus on the positive and if you think they’re too entitled now, with time, and your continued guidance, they are sure to come around!

  4. Great advice for family in gated white community. But in many parts of Miami gunshots, drive-bys and crack rule the night. Kids here grow up despite it but grow up far too street wise, cynical and accepting that violence and death are the rule not the rare incident. Put away your toys? How about a good “duck the bullet” lesson instead. That aside, #10 made me chuckle. I can’t believe how many “join me in adoring my kid or cat” blogs exist out there.

    • Doesn’t have to be a gated community (I don’t live in one), nor white (I’m Latina), but I get your point. And, as for #10, glad it made you laugh. I’m just saying. 😉

  5. Did you see this one? It was so hard to watch but Dad said he didn’t want his only child to be spoiled and not know hard work or something like that.

    • Wow! No, I hadn’t seen this one. How can parents be so cruel? It’s mind-boggling.

      Totsy, I visited your site today. What a wonderful homage to an incredible lady. Such a beautiful portrait.

  6. –Monica.
    I work for the schools and it is difficult to observe all of the “Disrespect” of these students.

    It seems we need to teach MUCH more than academics nowadays.

    Simple things …..Such as “Please, Thank You, & Excuse Me.”

    It’s really quite ridiculous that the parents are not teaching their own children these simple manners….

    Great Post.

    • Whatever happened to reverence and respect for authority. As a kid, I would never have raised my voice or shown any disrespect to a teacher. Shoot, I wouldn’t do it now. But these kids have grown up entitled and we are just beginning to bear the fruit of how they’ve been raised.

      On another note, Kim, you must be so touched by Totsy’s gift on her blog today. I am humbled by the friendships I’ve made in the blogosphere and how, in our own way, each of us is here supporting the other. What Totsy did cannot be measured in mere words.

  7. I am with your own mom. It’s very similar to the my own practices. I was and am very keen on teaching my children to self-entertain. When my kids were younger I encouraged them all the time to user their imagination, to read, to play non-electric games, to talk and discuss, and to remember I wasn’t available 24 hours a day. I pushed independence as well. I like you, have two wonderful children and thank them often for being who they are. I take some credit for this, but i also respect they took the best for me but they became who they are base on their own decisions. As for the mom’s you mentioned above.. I am baffled by the behavior I hear and read about from other parents. Note: I am not perfect, nor was my parenting spot on .. I like every other woman learned as I went along. I made mistakes, but I did my best to learn and I listened to my own little monkeys. I’d like to believe I never put them in harm’s way, but you’d have to ask them.. I did drag them with me wherever I went and they have traveled a heck of lot for being so young. Your mom had it right.. Monica.

    • Brenda, sounds like you’ve had it right, too. The best we can do is listen, be there for them, guide them and, above all, spend time with them, engaged in the moment. None of us is perfect in raising our kids, but the key is to raise them to become independent, well-rounded, caring adults. And enjoy the journey, because it is so fleeting!

  8. Good for you, Monica! Perhaps we were separated at birth? My parents used most of these “rules” on us kids, and I used them on Domer. He’s a delight to be around, trustworthy, responsible, and funny (sounds a bit like a Cocker Spaniel, huh?!) Anyway, the only thing you left off — and I’m sure, being the Good Mother you are, you just forgot! — was Reading to them. Daily. And Praying with them. Again, Daily.

    • Debbie, I’m glad you bring that up. I was going to include it as I did think about it. Reading is very important, but you’re right. In the end, I forgot to add it in. Anyway, thanks for catching that! And kudos to you, “Sister,” and Domer, too, for raising such a great kid.

  9. Love this post, Monica. It should go in a newspaper column or magazine. I think we all could read your mother’s wonderful tips on raising kids…and how to be responsible parents. Can’t get over the naked girl found rummaging through the trash. That is just awful.

    • Thanks, Annie! I’m so glad you stopped by, and I know you, like me, can appreciate what a great guy Nate is, and what a nice tribute he wrote to his parents. I can’t get over the naked girl either, and to think, it happened in California! 😉

  10. I had heard about the French book. Sounds interesting. But, the story you begin with here is stunningly disturbing. Somehow I hadn’t heard about the incident.

    I don’t have children and doubt that I would make a great parent, if the way I’ve raised my dogs is any indication of my ability to effectively set limits. Sad–but true.

    Sounds like you have great insight, gleaned from a parent who mothered well. Congratulations.


  11. Thanks for the shout out boo!! I also just read your awesome HuffPost article about FAFSA and I couldn’t help but LOL…I’m a college financial aid advisor/specialist. I could have helped you zip through those forms!

    • Now you tell me. For crying out loud. Anyway, I love how you write about your parents and siblings. It’s touching and heartwarming. You guys sound like The Waltons. (That’s an old TV show; look it up in Wikipedia and you’ll know what I mean). Trust me, it’s a compliment.

  12. Right on Monica. My son is 23. He is an only child and was spoiled. He is also polite, respectful, and knew the rules. My husband and I sometimes say that we got lucky and just happened to be blessed with a good child. But we also put the time in to listen to him, search out avenues of his interest – not ours – and made sure he knew how important he was without turning over the entire house to him. We could take him anywhere and not worry that he would ransack the place because we established boundaries at our own home. As you say, I’m sure the French are fabulous parents, as are parents in every country around the globe. As for the teacher….she gets an F. Send her a copy of your post.

    • Yes, I agree. The teacher deserves an F. What was she thinking? And in all the news coverage, I didn’t hear anyone ask, why was the daughter not in school herself? It’s very frustrating. I’m just glad the child was finally taken out of that situation.

      Sounds like you did the right things, too Your son sounds wonderful. 🙂

  13. I loved this post!!! Thank you very much Monica!
    Unfortunately where I live, it is very different!. I am sure we have very positive points, but we are also very “complicated’ when it comes to raising kids.
    In our society, there is a big difference between having a boy or a girl. My dad had only 3 girls, no boy, and was “bullied” for that from his brother who had “3 boys and no girls. The little brother was considered the big strong lucky guy!
    A boy is raised to be dependent on his mother, sister, and spouse. My son who is 12 was very heavily criticized by his grandma last week because he brought his sister a cup of water from the kitchen. SHE is supposed to serve you, you are not her servant!!! That’s what they told him.
    As for the girls, they have to learn to do house cleaning, to cook, and to always be “ready” to serve the men in the house. And when I say to serve, i mean it. The man would very easily wake his spouse so that she brings him a cup of water.
    I am trying very hard not to raise my kids this way, but its not an easy job, when everyone around is acting the same.

    • Wow, talk about gender bias. Thank you for sharing your story. I can see why it would be hard to raise them how you’d prefer, but stick to it, knowing you’re doing the right thing.

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