Before I became a parent, I would often observe other parenting styles and create my own ideas of how I would do things differently. I would see parents offer their children iPads while dining out or on an airplane and vowed that I would never do such a thing. Instead, I'd offer my child a book or something to play/draw with, or encourage them to partake in social interaction. I would see parents give their children treats with sugar and unhealthy ingredients and vowed to only feed my young ones organic, whole food. I would see kids get away with manipulating their parents into giving them something, like a toy, and the parents would cave. Not me, I thought.
It's funny. When you actually become a parent, you realize how unfair those judgements against other parents actually were. Now that I have Lincoln, I find myself doing ALL of the things that I promised I wouldn't. The bottom line is that creating stringent "rules" for your child may not only drive your kids crazy, but may also drive you crazy.
I had a dentist appointment the other day and had to bring Lincoln along with me. I hoped he'd sit there like an angel and that I wouldn't have to give him my iPhone to watch a show while I had a teeth cleaning. A few minutes into the appointment, he was bored and started whining, disruptively grabbing at tools and making a bit of a scene. Yes, I could have let him continue on that path which might have taught him how to entertain himself while his mom was busy doing other things. However, in the midst of my anxiety, I couldn't handle the worry I felt that he would bother the people around him, or even worse, what if he got hurt. Thus, I wasn't enjoying the appointment at all (not that you enjoy the dentist, but you know what I mean). I was so worried about what he was doing that I couldnt take a moment for myself to do what I needed to do. Thus, I gave him the iPhone. Yes, I gave in. But let me tell you - he sat there like an angel for the remainder of the appointment; no worries from me and no peeps from him.
Sometimes as parents we set unrealistic expectations and guidelines for our children. We strive to do what is best for them by setting strict limits and regulations on things we think may negatively impact their growth. What I've realized is that these strict guidelines may sound good initially, but they also can drive a parent crazy! Parenting is definitely about helping your child succeed and with that comes the process of setting boundaries, but setting boundaries so strict that neither you nor your child can enjoy certain moments may in fact hinder our growth as parents and their growth as children.
Wall Street Journal has an interesting article titled "Why You Should Let Your Children Break the Rules Sometimes." The article goes into further detail on the subject matter encouraging parenting styles to maintain flexibility. One of my favorite quotes:
“Rules are good to a point but if you keep them around too long, the child isn’t going to learn to set his own limits."
For more on the article, you can check it out here.
Don't be too hard on yourself as a parent. Remember that raising children is a gift and something to be savored and enjoyed. Setting too strict of limits will not only drive you crazy, but will also drive your little one crazy. Let's encourage our little ones to have a little bit of "grey" in the lives while they learn to build their own independence and healthy decision making skills.