There are two ways to look at parenting standards – (1) what is the mutually agreed upon “standard” between each parent regarding investment in raising the children; (2) what is the standard of “how the children act” that is communicated and accepted by the parents?
I posited my expectations on parental investments in the “all in mentality” blog, so I will not delve into that in this post. However, I will share that it should be clearly and commonly understood what each parent will offer as the kids are growing up. Often implicitly perceived and generally understood, it is worthwhile to make clear in certain/specific areas such as schoolwork, relationship/sex education, sports/activities and driving, for example.
The second part is what I would like to write about in this post – acceptable standards of “how your child acts.” Very much dependent on each respective parent, their upbringing, experiences and expectations of the children. Variable, unique and one of the more controversial and sensitive topics amongst parents, family and friends. Particularly if you perceive the kids as “bad.”
I am not here to tell anyone what those standards should be but offer my views and how my wife and I went about both establishing standards and best enabling our girls to adhere to them. If you read previous blogs, you understand it started early, included clear parameters and meant full investment from me and my wife. Without those prerequisites, we would have been perennially chasing them vice being in front of them.
After that, it started with discipline. My wife and I shared views on both its importance and methods to instill. Once the girls understood the difference between yes and no, we began “instilling.” Both of us believed in utilizing all reasonable means – raising our voices, taking toys away, restricting them to their room or inside and as a last resort physical discipline. This expanded or shrank in varying ways through their teenage years, and in terms of physical discipline, applied less often if at all. One approach that became more prevalent as they got older was the threat of embarrassment. That last one, especially for a teenager, was important. Being “cool” is always a thing, but the fear of mom showing up at school, or being pulled from a sport because of what they didn’t do or even being caught in a lie or disappointing us became more impactful. Discipline underpinned both adherence and respect for authority. It was not militaristic, but it was known and accepted as a matter of living in “the White House.”
Once we got them to a point where they listened, at all ages, we could teach them the lessons that defined our expectations of them. Including manners, demonstrating respect, work ethic, academics, sportsmanship, talking with older family members, interacting with adults in leadership positions (i.e. coaches, teachers) and resolving disagreements, to name a few. We took it as our responsibility to teach and define what each of those mean, if not proactively, definitely reactively.
After we taught them, we then assessed if they understood the lessons by how they acted in those situations. If they didn’t “act right” then we first determined if we taught them, then if they grasped the lesson, and lastly if we needed to discipline them to clarify the respective importance and our views.
One example involved house chores. This occurred twice, both with similar ramifications. The latter was when they were pre-teens. The girls tended to get distracted from folding and putting up clothes by the television. When they hit the “tipping point” my wife took the TVs out of their rooms (for good) to eliminate the distraction. To this day, they don’t have TVs in their bedrooms, and expectations about completing chores was no longer in doubt.
That is how my family went about setting parental standards, obviously there are other methods, but each seek the same end … well behaved children who are able to reach their full potential as adults.