Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Being ourselves














Lately, I find myself fielding more frequent questions and observations from the small Bears on the subject of what we do and what other people do. It comes as no surprise; they're getting older and they are learning more about themselves and their places in the world. They understand the basics: every family makes its own decisions, and what may be right for some is not right for all. That doesn't make the discussion less challenging, though.

There aren't very many truly controversial decisions being made in their world yet. But there are smaller ones, and they crop up all the time. I'm sure this only increases as children grow. Then there's the challenge of answering this sort of question: I want to uphold my own household's rules and values, without openly denouncing those of another (well, I try not to do this, but sometimes I can't help it). We value independence and clear-headed decision-making, the Bear and I, but we're certainly not perfect (as parents or otherwise). We're confident in our choices but we're still learning too. I hope that never ends; I don't think I'll ever know exactly what life should be like.

I'm glad they notice the differences between themselves and their peers. I want them to be engaged with their world and to see that people are inclined in all different sorts of ways. It's a tough thing to teach, though, this idea that we make our choices and they make theirs, and that not all choices have a chocolate-or-vanilla quality to them. I have had glimpses of success in this area, but it's early. For now, we strive to help them feel good about who they are. I know they will need to make bigger choices in the not-so-distant future and this may not be enough then, but I hope it builds a good foundation for independent thinking and decision-making later on.

What do you think kids need to be independent, to learn to think for themselves? If you're still in the process, what are you doing about it? If your kids are grown, how did you do it?

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I hope you had a nice Easter and that you're enjoying this week, especially if you're on a holiday break. We're going to be out of town for a few days on a little road-trip adventure. I'll be back by the time my Winter Project Link Party for April goes live; I hope you'll want to join in with this final installment of my link party for the season!

30 comments:

  1. Hard job raising kids and doing it your way and not the world's way. Our daughter is grown and she is a lady to be proud of. I'm not sure how we did it exactly, we were an Army family moving every couple of years and we had our rules that enforced what we believed it. I'm afraid I'm a little more out-spoken than you, when our daughter asked why others did it differently if i thought others were wrong, not just different I said so.
    Don't know if that helps or not.

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  2. I think that it is very important for children to have boundaries and thoughtful parents who are not doing just what 'everyone' else is. I find that our world is not in a healthy place in a lot of ways and it is good for children to have a place that is a safe haven and a place that has a clear sense of who they are and what is and is not OK.

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  3. I think children need to see that it is okay to be different, to make different choices, and to accept themselves for who they are...and they see all of that when we as parents do those things as we raise them. I think it is important as a parent to be confident in your decisions, and to allow children to ask questions about why certain decisions have been made...it's how they learn, and gain an understanding.

    This whole parenting thing isn't easy, every day I make mistakes, but in doing so I show my little man that life is a constant learning process, and each mistake brings me closer to the person, and mother I want to be.

    Safe travels on your road trip, enjoy!

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  4. I hope your trip away is a good one. We have no special time off this week, Dennis is working as normal for him, although I'm taking a day trip to the lake tomorrow to do more preparing to stay there this next weekend. As you know all of our kids are grown. All are productive members of society and seem to have a strong sense of themselves and what they believe. We did model our beliefs for them and they saw us trying to live out what we felt was a life of helping others. I think it rubbed of on them as one is a nurse and one a teacher! They have strong feelings of helping others and treating all people the same. Honestly, I don't know how we did it. I know we made lots of mistakes, but consistency in everything I probably the best advice I can give. That, and letting them know that you love them, no matter what. This was probably no help at all was it Jennifer? Oh well. I've never been very profound. :-). Have a lovely week.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  5. Wishing you happy, safe travels, Jennifer! While I wanted very much to be a parent, I was shocked again and again when I was confronted with numerous challenges. In spite of my imperfections each of my adult children have let me know they felt and feel loved. Their roads to independent thinking were each different, but little by little they learned new skills and stepped out on their own to give and receive, reject and accept, to protect and free. There were those awkward moments like when I discovered that one of them had told the grandma next door that she should not smoke...mercy....and that one was my shyest child! Across the miles, I admire how you and the Bear are parenting, Jennifer. I am cheering you on xx

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  6. safe travels Jennifer, have a wonderful trip x

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  7. My three daughters are all grown, all went to university have wonderful careers and now have little families of their own. We made lots of mistakes along the way, but we learnt from them and moved on. They are loved and know that we love them. Have a great trip.

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  8. I try to tell my children that it's good to be different and not just blindly do what everyone else does, especially if we believe it's not healthy. Of course, sometimes they just want to do what their friends do. I try to strike a balance, but there are some things I really just don't believe in or agree with. I hope that one day they will have similar values themselves and understand why I've made the choices I have. I also want them to see how much they have compared to so many in the world, I would hate them to grow up thinking that everyone has more than they do or not to realise the privileges they have such as education, healthcare, food and a safe place to live. I know a few people who have raised the most amazing children and I always want to ask "How's it done?!" I hope you all have a really lovely break. CJ xx

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  9. I believe that your title "Being Ourselves" is the most important factor in young peoples lives - i.e the example that they are set by their loving parents or guardians on a daily basis.

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  10. Hardest job in the world raising children to be good, proper & with a lot of luck thrown in too. Finding the balance is so hard at times. We have taught our two boys being different is fine, taking a step away from a situation to evaluate it & being mindful of friends situations & kindness is a must. So far so good. Hope you all have a super trip xx

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  11. Sounds to me like you are doing the right things. We are here to guide our kids, not mold them to our liking. Being honest and up front with them is important. I've always let my boys make their own choices and decisions, whatever the outcome and without always attempting to save them. They have to learn to think for themselves. If only everyone in the world would understand that it's okay for us be and think and see things differently. We don't have to be the same but we can still be tolerant and kind and peaceful. Have a good trip.

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  12. I try not to overthink these things. I think kids learn most by example, and also by trial and error. We lead a fairly simple life and from that our rules are fairly simple too. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Our kids have to find out who they are, and they are not always going to think like their parents and follow the same path. Decisions they make are not always the right ones, but they sometimes have to find that out for themselves. I was talking about this with a friend awhile ago. We both have sons who wanted to choose a different path of education than what we as parents thought they were suited. Her son did go through his chosen field of education, but is now having a hard time supporting himself. My son chose a field that we didn't think he could manage, but we let him try for it anyway. I reasoned with my husband that he needed to try for it, and if he didn't succeed with his plans, at least he can say he tried. If we had told him "no" from the beginning, he would always resent us for it. It was a hard learning experience, but now he has learned it was not the path for him. He's altered his plans now, although he still holds onto a revised version of his dream. I think it's really important to have faith in our kids so they are confident they can try for anything. They'll learn themselves whether they are suited for it or not.

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  13. I think children need confidence to be able to make decisions and not just follow what their friends do or say. The main thing is to explain to them why we do things a different way or why we don't think something is acceptable and then they can understand for themselves and hopefully, apply this to future situations. I just wanted to thank you for the Jojo Moyes Me Before You book recommendation last year, I downloaded it to my Kindle and have just read it, it's one of the best books I've read in a long time. Enjoy your road trip.

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  14. Hey Jennifer,
    I'm afraid that I made it all up as I went along with my boys. I have tried to instill in them the value of their individuality, but children (especially teens) like to be part of a pack. My older boy never fitted it, and my middle one seems to be heading the same way. I find it heart breaking and also challenging. Hea rtbreaking, because their path travelled is bumpy and not always happy. Challenging, because I'm proud of their difference yet need to acknowledge their need to fit in. I look back at my own teen years, and realise that my quick wit was a way into the cool crew. And boy did I want to be part of that gang! I try to help them see a situation from both sides, and not to be a black and white thinker. Again, that can be tricky when dealing with teens. Although my boys are very independent of thought, which I am immensely proud of, even if it means that the cool crew won't come knocking anytime soon. There are certain values that both Marc and I hold dear, and we have hopefully passed these on to our boys too. You never know though.....my brother was the biggest pain in the ass EVER. Until about three years ago. He's 36...
    Have a lovely holiday.
    Leanne xx

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  15. Parenting is never easy and of course is passed down from generation to generation.

    Talking, sharing, caring allowing them to grow with confidence ...

    From my visits to your blog and reading your posts I think you are doing just fine!

    All the best Jan

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  17. Oh yes, we're getting that too - why is so and so allowed to do that but I'm not? It's hard but you have to stick with it and explain your reasoning and also, as a parenting team, both sides have to support a principle 100%.

    How lovely that you're going away for a few days - have a wonderful time. xx

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  18. At five years old we are already finding ourselves in such situations. We too have some very particular beliefs and values that may not be important to other but are to us. And we make sure D is aware of them.. and there is always that.. 'but so and so doesn't do that' and you are right.. while you don't want to denounce someone else's beliefs you have no choice if it means making the point clearer for your child.
    A great post.

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  19. I think we are all learning from each other as we go along. Openness is important to me and if there are instances when I don't agree with someone else's way of doing things, or their choices, I am comfortable to say so, hopefully in a non-critical way, and I make an effort to explain why I feel the way I do. I am still learning, together with the children. They teach me so much. Being a child of an opinionated and rather critical mother, I am maybe trying too hard to explain and justify my own choices and beliefs. My children are much more nuanced and accepting than I was at their age. Accepting and celebrating being different is part of their life. But of course they find it difficult if we appear more boring (often), or if they think they are the only children in the whole wide world with no TV in their bedroom :-) Have a lovely time away Jennifer. xx

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  20. Parenting is a learn-as-you-go thing. I tried to give my 3 children the things that I felt were lacking in how I was raised. I did 9 years of scouting.. 3 for each kid. My mom did nothing for me that way. We did years of dairy goat 4-H as my parents did not see that I had those opportunities. I think you and your guy are doing a fantastic job raising your kids. Have fun on your tip! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  21. Wow, that sounds just like our life right now. With a 10 year old and a 7 year old they are constantly comparing their life/house/parents to their friends. It is not a hard exercise for them; our family leads a very simple life, while many of their schoolmates have the busy two parents-full-time-job and big house kinda life. Feels like we are constantly on repeat, "all families are different". Luckily, they pick it up quickly and the comparisons are not full of resentment about having to share a room or not going on two trips to Disney a year...b/c all families are different :)

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  22. We haven't had the 'we are different conversation' in our house yet, but there have been a few occasions where the children have realised that things are different in our house. We tend to socialise with like minded families but I know that won't always be so. I was bought up differently, I was never part of the cool gang, but my parents gave me the confidence to be myself and I will always be grateful to them for that. I am trying to do the same. I think if they are comfortable and confident in their own skin then any differences children notice will not be particularly remarkable to them. The same is true of adults too!

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  23. I struggle with this all the time. I just go with what feels right - and it's difficult not to denounce other children or the way they're parented (Joe just repeats everything I say anyway so I'd be in serious trouble!)
    My brother's parenting style is very different to my own, and he turns a blind eye to a lot of what I see as bad behaviour. It's unfair to tell Joe off when his cousin's in the same room, doing exactly the same thing, and not being challenged. I've still to find the answer...

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  24. Sitting down on the sofa OFTEN lends itself to good conversations. If we never sit down, they can't climb up and talk. I told lots of stories at night (sometimes I fell asleep while telling them!) It is so important to BE a protector and teach children to become protectors so that they can counteract the predators and the possums.

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  25. We struggle with this. Currently it's around bedtimes. BigR's friends are 'allowed' to stay up later primarily because they stay in bed past 5.30am. We tried letting her stay up later in the hope it would shift her wake up time but to no avail. She was just up early and cranky all day! I'm sure this is the first of many more challenges to come for us :)

    hope you have a fab trip!
    xx

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  26. These are some loaded questions! And you have already received some wonderful words of wisdom from other readers. Parenting is the hardest job in the world and unfortunately, there's no instruction book. It seems to me (from what I see on your blog) that you and your husband are doing a great job of raising independent, intelligent, curious kids. Children need rules and boundaries - as much as they may protest about those, it really does make them feel secure. There'll always be the comparisons to other kids and other families. My standard reply is, "That's nice for them, but in our family, we _____." I also think it's important not to bail children out of every little situation, but to encourage them to solve it themselves. Acknowledge their feelings and then ask, "What do YOU think you can do about that?"
    I can think back on my raising kid years and think of all the mistakes I made, but I have to remember that ALL parents make mistakes and it's really a learn-as-you-go process. I think the most important thing is for children to know they're loved and safe with their parents - and I do feel good knowing my boys at least knew and felt that.
    Hope you're having fun on your road trip!

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  27. I think you have to start worrying when they Stop asking questions! That your children feel comfortable asking you questions demonstrates how secure they feel, that they can expect their questions to be taken seriously, and that nothing is 'taboo'. X

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  28. I think it is an ongoing thing to feel comfortable with who you are at any age. It is good that they question and even better than you answer. Your two little ones are going to be fine as they are growing up in a loving and engaging family.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  29. It's a long time since our children were at that stage, but like you we tried to set clear boundaries, explain our reasoning and encourage them to think for themselves and not be overly swayed by others' opinions. We wanted them to grow up to be thoughtful, independent and considerate adults and I think we succeeded. Now we're watching with interest as they try to do the same with their children. :)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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