Parenting is a tough gig. Working 24/7 in a sleep-deprived haze would be unheard of for any other job. And yet we do it out of love for our children and out of a desire to raise these young ones into happy, productive adults one day.
But just because parenting is a sacrificial act of love and service, it doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our sanity. All around the internet I see parents complaining about things like not have a moment’s peace, even in the bathroom, or having to make four different meals at supper time because of picky eaters.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We’re meant to be parents, not doormats. Giving our children boundaries when it comes to what they get from us teaches them that they aren’t the center of the universe, and gives them a great sense of how they can respect the space, time and energy of others (especially their parents!).
To that end, and also to maintain my sanity, these are the things I don’t let my kids do:
1. I don’t let them come into the bathroom with me. When we’re at home or at a friend’s house, there is no good reason for me not to use the bathroom alone, with the door locked. Unless we’re somewhere that is potentially unsafe (ie. a mall bathroom), the kids always stay on the other side of the door. Yes, that means no dawdling in there for me when I have young ones in the house, but that two minutes of privacy is essential to my sanity.
2. I don’t let them expect to be entertained all the time. There are many times when I need to get things done that don’t involve sitting and playing with my kids. If I’m making dinner or working, they need to play on their own, either with each other or all alone. I believe they’ve become more creative and self-reliant because of those times when I wasn’t there to give them plot lines for their make-believe or ideas for their crafts. That said, when I’m doing laundry or vacuuming, they are more than welcome to pitch in!
3. I don’t let them complain about the food they’re served. This is an ongoing battle, but our rule is that you don’t have to eat, but you may not complain. They need to sit at the table with everyone else and contribute to the conversation, but they are not allowed to tell me that they hate broccoli.
4. I don’t let them stay up too late. There are weekends and special days, but their bedtimes are pretty consistent overall. And we put our kids to bed earlier than many of their friends go to bed. We need that time at the end of the day to zone out, watch TV, or actually talk in more than just soundbites. As well, they need the time to sleep or even just lay quietly and read a book until they’re tired. Our sons have amazing conversations with one another after the lights are out and they don’t know we’re listening ;-). If they stayed up late every night, they’d miss that chance.
5. I don’t let them disrespect their parents. The youngest is still learning this one, but we’ve always tried to make sure that our kids know that it’s not okay in our family to talk back to us, insult us, hit or otherwise physically hurt us, or be defiant. We’re teaching them how to respect others by respecting us, and that will serve them well throughout life.
What would you add to the list?
What don’t you let your kids do?