Note from the Editor- I was recently having a conversation with a some friends of ours that I consider outstanding parents and I asked them what their secret was and they told me that they both parent in very different ways and perhaps that balance was the trick. This got me thinking of how we all do it, how we get through the day, how we handle situations with our children and is there a special secret to parenting? On a quest to unlock the magic I am interviewing parents, the rules are simple:
1. The spouses were not allowed to discuss the answers with one another.
2. Answer truthfully and to the best of their ability.
Lisa and Dimitri are my first victims.
TNF: You are at the grocery store and your child throws a full tantrum, what would you do?
Lisa: Depending on how severe it was, I had been known to leave a cart filled with stuff and leave with my child, or the more effective technique of yelling back at a crying child if I was on the edge of a melt down. As he got older, the consequences have usually been to loose privileges, the favorite toy or activity at the time.
Dmitri: Luckily tantrums are in the past now but I usually kept shopping and as long as he was not destroying anything other than his lungs I ignored the issue. I have deployed distractions of course and reminded him that there are consequences to his behavior with toys taken away back home or other punishments.
TNF: Your child keeps getting out of their bed and trying to get into yours at night, what do you do?
Lisa: Were you spying on us? It only happened from the moment Morgan got a toddler bed, 2.5 to about age six maybe just after he turned seven. Our arsenal of tricks included cuddling, playing music, answering what ever inane question he had. It was about the 4th time of pausing a show we were trying to watch when Dmitri or I would loose our shit.
Dmitri- Our son was not one to try and get in bed with us, however he was very good at refusing to go to sleep. We ushered him back to bed and maybe read a bit, or talked about good techniques to help fall asleep. Calming deep breaths seemed to help him at times.
TNF: A bigger kid at the park keeps cutting in front of your kid to go down the slide first even though your kid was in line. How do you handle this?
Lisa: I would speak to the kid directly to let them know Morgan was waiting. As he got older I would teach and/or encourage him to stand up for himself. If the kid and the parent(s) didn’t care, we’d go to another part of the park.
Dmitri: I would make eye contact with the larger child and let them know either verbally or through body language that his or her actions are not acceptable. If it continues I would ask my son if he was OK and / or if he wanted to go play somewhere else.
TNF: You child doesn’t want to go to a class you signed them up to be at. Do you let them skip it or how do you address this?
Lisa: Morgan understands that he has made a commitment and we have paid for him to have this privilege. A couple years ago he insisted on quitting ballet class 7 weeks before the final recital so I told him he had to tell the director himself why he was quitting. It back fired because Morgan said, “OK!”
Dmitri: We have not had many issues with this, mostly due to our allowing Morgan to tell us what he wants and if reasonable we are able to meet his request. He has usually been game to go to events until the series is finished then let us know he wants to not do it again in the future.
TNF: You child refused to do their homework. What do you do?
Lisa: The gamete; take away screen time, iPod, toys, activities, threaten to email his teacher…email the teacher, parent teacher conferences. Oh, yeah and raising my voice, at times yell.
Dmitri: This is a spot where I struggle as a parent. I see homework as an important cornerstone to a valid education. So I have fought a hard battle to have him do his work. He wants to relax and play at home and I totally get that! Trying to find a balance of fun and work seems difficult. With math, the one we fight the most about, we have resigned to allowing him to play math game apps on an iPad rather than do the assigned work from school. Headed into 4th grade now and I am prepping him for the fact that there will be even more to do next year. (This entire school / homework arena is one where I feel the least prepared and most want him to succeed.)
TNF: Your child is playing with two friends and one is being left out. Do you stay out of it or do you get involved?
Lisa: Depends on how the kids are responding. I let them solve it by themselves as much as possible. If there’s a meltdown, I’ll listen to all sides and facilitate all of them to understand how the other person feels and ask each of them to come up with a solution. Most of Morgan’s friends are also Montessori kids so this technique is part of their learning environment. Every classroom has a peace rug/circle so I use language they’re familiar with.
Dmitri: I get involved. Our son can be very empathetic, especially if it is pointed out how he has felt when he has been excluded.
TNF: Your kid is sad and crying, but won’t say why. What do you do?
Lisa: Holy crap, this is a frequent occurrence! Morgan is very sensitive and takes things personally and to heart. I’ll encourage him to talk to me or name off other family members (dad, Nana, Papa, etc.). If he won’t I ask him if he needs space then let him know I’m here when he’s ready to talk.
Dmitri: I have had the best result by leaving our son alone for a while and letting him sulk. Eventually if I get him some food (a constant winning result if he is not sure why he is sad or mad) he will open up and talk. He is, admittedly, more prone to talk to his mother and often time I get to rely on her better judgment and words to get out what the real issue is.
TNF: What is the biggest life lesson you hope your child learns?
Lisa: Whoa…the most important lesson, especially for a child like Morgan, is to never compromise himself. Self-respect, self-worth and being true to who his is will serve him in every difficult situation he will face in life. By instilling these qualities in him, reflection will be a natural part of his problem solving and communication. They will serve him in choosing healthy relationships and live an honorable life.
Dmitri: I try to impart in our son that the choices he makes are just that, choices. And that choices are not good, bad, right or wrong. There is no reason to feel shame or guilt about choices but to use decisions as an opportunity to learn and make new choices (or the same choices) the next time. If he went through life knowing that he is not a victim to anyone but rather in charge of his own destiny and feelings I know he will be destined for a fulfilling and happy life.
Thanks Lisa and Dmitri. You are pretty much on the same page for a lot of these answers. Thanks for participating in our parenting quest.
If you are interested in being interviewed for our parenting series (he said…she said, she said…she said…,he said…he said…) please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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