We are far from helicopter parents over here. My oldest three kids (ages 9, 7, and 5) have the freedom to bike the neighborhood without an adult with them. I can let all five kids (the youngest are 3 and 1.5 years old) play outside in the field behind the house together while I pop my head outside every so often to check on them. I can leave my oldest two at home alone while I run errands.
Friends often ask how I can have so much trust in my kids. Strangers comment daily about how respectful, kind, and considerate all of my kids are. I generally laugh it off because the strangers don’t see the regular fighting and messes that also happen here. But the truth is that my kids ARE trustworthy, helpful, and giving. (They also understand boundaries and rules.)
While there is still a lifetime ahead of us in child-raising, looking at our children thus far has me realizing that we are guiding GOOD people.
I yell. I yell a lot at this stage of motherhood. I’m in the thick of it all, and I know it. I can see the light though – having an almost 10 year old, independent thinking, amazing kid allows me to see that these last few toddler years will pass quickly. But that doesn’t make them any easier, right? Even in these moments, I apologize, regroup and explain how imperfect I am, though.
I’ve been watching and listening to how my husband is living this stage of fatherhood. While the toddler side is exhausting, he is thriving. As a kid comes down the stairs, he always greets them with, “Well hello there, my friend!”
Those simple words have made me see that our children are growing and blossoming because of how we have treated them. They never had to earn our respect and we never had to earn theirs. We have never treated them as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.
This mindset led us through a mix of attachment parenting and gentle parenting, but it also created a balance containing parenting with expectations. Yes, WITH expectations. Go ahead and blast me with how wrong we are to ‘expect things’ from our children…. but then look at them close and watch them make appropriate choices, treat others with respect, and find the beauty in everyone.
Let me explain further…
Our kids make mistakes every single day. Stupid mistakes. We expect them to. We also understand that they are capable of learning from these mistakes if we help them learn. We expect them to fail again. and again. and again. Each time, though, they grow and become more capable of controlling their actions and considering their options.
Most parents justify their children’s actions with, “It’s age appropriate! It’s ridiculous, but it’s funny. He/She is just immature still – they’re just being a kid.”
We don’t roll that way over here.
Someone commented recently that our kids probably don’t ever have fun… and that it sounded like a crappy childhood. I don’t need to compare my children to others to know how wrong that is.
I spent that afternoon truly watching my kids enjoy life. They jumped on bikes and tore through the neighborhood, built a fort with friends, read books together, made crazy messes and cleaned them up. They looked pretty damn happy to me – and didn’t have to disrespect anyone’s personal space to do so.
We believe in natural consequences. We believe in respecting public spaces and places of business. We believe our children are capable of so much more than what is deemed ‘okay’ for this generation.
It’s amazing to watch our kids choose friends, and see how they gravitate to other fun, intelligent, and respectful kids. They stick up for others. They speak up when others are disrespectful. They are confident, happy, and true to themselves. Watching the oldest two solve problems and address their mistakes, as our 5 year old is on the cusp of doing the same grants us such excitement.
We are excited for every future age and stage of life with our kids. There will be crazy hard lessons they learn – and we learn as parents. We are hopeful that we are setting good examples and sharing real life with our kids. We don’t hold much back from them because we always want conversations to be open and available without hesitation.
All of this to say – You can hold your children accountable for their actions without spanking them. You can also parent gently while also laying out expectations. You can fail and teach failure. You can yell and apologize; you can be friends with your children while also guiding them. You can let go and trust when your children are able to naturally understand expectations.