The last couple weeks I’ve been blazing through episodes of Mad Men on Netflix, and while this saga has obviously proven to be entertaining, it has also lead me to take a closer look at how I parent.
In the series, Don Draper (a successful businessman) descends into perpetual drunkenness and infidelity, while his frustrated wife (Betts) chain-smokes, quickly remarries and becomes emotionally and physically abusive to their kids. And while the disintegration of a seeminglyhappy marriage is hard enough to watch, it became increasingly difficult when the parents’ discourse began to affect the childhood development of their oldest daughter, Sally.
I watched Sally go from an inquisitive little girl playing with her Mother’s make-up to stealing, cutting her hair, sexual exploration and then running away. Sure these are all the makings of a maturing young girl testing her boundaries, but when done without the safety net and watchful eye of supportive, cohesive parents, the child’s behavior can go unmanaged and be misconstrued as deviant.
Sally’s behavior forced me to think back to my own struggles growing up in a blended family. When my mother married my Stepdad, we moved into a new home, I started a new school and learned to live a new life. And while my parents struggled with their own transition, my very subtle developmental changes went un-noticed, and as a result, my attempts to understand the world around me were made manifest through obsessive compulsive behavior (i.e. tapping the table 3 times, giving mommy multiple hugs, repetitive statements). I know…I know…some might say I was certifiably mad, but it’s not uncommon! If a child feels as if their environment is unstable, then they will try to create stability for themselves. Some kids might act like Sally and some might behave as I did.
Like most parents, I’m trying unceasingly to give my girls what I missed in childhood and I don’t mean a surplus of baby dolls and other stuff. I’m trying to give them intentional parenting.
Well, how the heck do you put that on your to do list?
Here’s how I’m putting intentional parenting in action:
Monotony… Monotony… Monotony
I know, most of us hate routine, but we subconsciously love it! In a world with so much uncertainty, it’s important to adhere to a daily schedule. Kids especially require a regime for a sense of stability. Also, routine is a powerful parenting tool for pinpointing change. Is the missed nap to blame for the tantrum? Did a late bedtime and tardiness to school equate to a poor math grade? What’s behind the late arrival home from school? Was I short with my kid because I missed lunch?
Family Chow Time
As a stay-at-home-Mom of 2 baby girls, it might be a little easier to make family dinner a priority because I can shape my schedule. But that’s not to say that it can’t be done in a different scenario. Having at least 1 parent available who is actively engaged in sniffing out change over a casual dinner conversation can do a lot to circumvent potential developmental challenges. Still it should be a team effort to provide guidance.
The All –Seeing Owl
Okay…so maybe being a bird of prey might be a bit much, but you’d be surprised at how much you learn from simply watching your child’s behavior (when they’re not looking). Are they suddenly changing their appearance? Have they lost interest in a particular toy, hobby or friend? Are they suddenly more or less aggressive verbally or physically with their siblings? What are their actions saying?
Listen to the Voices Around You
We think we know our kids better than anyone else, but sometimes we’re just too close to really see them. It’s important for a parent to hear constructive and objective perspectives from Grandparents, teachers and other adults in the child’s sphere.
Don’t be afraid to ask for HELP
We parents can be so prideful. You can’t do it all alone, whether you run a 2-parent home or a single parent home. Sometimes you just need a little bit of help and guidance.
Having a stand in Mommy and Daddy just aren’t enough these days. Parenthood requires so much selflessness and diligence, and despite the fact that you get the kid that God has given you, you’re still entrusted with all of the pruning and gardening required to help your kid grow.
We all know parenthood is a marathon and not a sprint…but are you equipping yourself for the race?
Side Note: I no longer tap glasses or repeat phrases…I’ve grown out of my OCD (like most kids do), but I still have a tendency to give my Mommy tons-o-hugs!
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