Let’s talk about these.

These articles that get passed around on Facebook full of ideals that sound so good, and everyone’s afraid to disagree with them because secretly we all want to be THAT mom. You know, the one in the picture. She’s dressed super fashionable and her neat, clean, fashionably dressed (or fashionably but bizarrely dressed in that perfectly creative way, wearing homemade crowns or some such) children are laughing while they roll on the ground with the puppy. They haven’t a care in the world. She’s not worried about getting dishes washed, or how she’s going to fit in a few hours of work that day. All she has to do is play with her kids, which she does perfectly. They have a fairy hideout, and probably a wonderously lush garden that the kids take care of all by themselves, while daily discovering such joys as how insects live, or whatever.

The people pictured in Mothering magazine, or any number of AP publications.

But the thing is, these particular articles that got posted around this last week are pretty much fantasy. More than one person has mentioned to me that reading those lists just made them depressed because they can never measure up to that standard.

Hey! Good news! That standard is ridiculous.

10 Ways to Confuse a Child. – http://demandeuphoria.blogspot.com/2011/05/ten-ways-to-confuse-child.html

— If he’s yelling, yell at him: STOP YELLING! IT’S NOT NICE TO YELL.

News flash. When the kids are yelling, there are very few ways to make yourself heard over them. The people who say to try whispering have never tried to whisper to get the attention of yelling children. I have a pretty ferocious “HEY!” that works well. I am the mommy. I get to yell when the situation calls for it. That doesn’t make it OK for children to yell. They need to work out this discrepancy on their own.

— Tell him you can’t afford to buy him the one-dollar candy bar he wants, as you are buying yourself a five-dollar cup of coffee.

Oh, really? Who did the work to earn that money? ME, that’s who. So if I want to buy MYSELF a treat with my own money… well, I don’t see the problem. I think the author might be trying to say that if you consistently aren’t letting the kids have anything fun, while indulging your every whim, that’s a bad thing. But I don’t know too many people who do this. I deny myself plenty, and on the occasion when I want to buy myself something fun and relatively inexpensive, I don’t think that I’m giving my kids some sort of evil message there.

— Tell him he has to share his favorite toy with his sister, but then later when he wants to play with your iPhone, don’t let him.

Are we really comparing a child’s toy with an iPhone? My kids have to share their toys with each other, with a few exceptions. (They are allowed toys they don’t want to share, and they don’t have to share something they’re actively playing with.) I don’t have to share my phone. First, it’s a phone, not a toy. Second, it costs several hundred dollars. Third, you have your own toys!

— Tell him he’s not allowed to quit doing that thing he hates, because it’s important to be persistent and determined, but then tell him to quit asking for that thing he wants because it’s annoying how persistent he is.

OK, yes and no. Not all persistence is a good thing. I want to encourage persistence. I do not want to encourage annoyance, nagging, etc. It’s a fine line, but an important one.

— Tell him not to eat now (when he’s hungry) because if he does, he won’t be hungry later (when the clock says it’s time for dinner).

If family dinnertime is not important to you, then this is fine. If it IS, then clearly, you need kids to be hungry when the family sits down for a meal. This doesn’t mean you need to starve your kids, but there’s nothing wrong with “just wait for a little while, dinner’s nearly ready.” We generally don’t eat snacks within 2 hours of dinnertime. None of my kids have yet died.

— Tell him you can’t do that thing he wants you to do for him because you are in the middle of writing an email, but then get really upset when he tells you he can’t do something for you because he’s in the middle of playing a video game.

I mean, this gets back to who is the adult parent, and who is the child. If I’m in the middle of something that is best uninterrupted (such as an email) and the request is not an urgent one, and let’s be honest – many kid requests are not exactly urgent – I don’t think I should be made to feel guilty for saying Wait. Some of my requests of my kids are the type that they must do immediately and not 5 seconds later. I usually make it clear when I am making those requests. Other requests can wait for the first possible break, but it is expected that it will be completed at the first possible break

I do agree with some things from that list.

— Tell him never to talk to strangers because it’s dangerous, but then tell him he is rude when he won’t say hello back to the cashier at the grocery store.

— Tell him he should never let anyone touch him if he doesn’t feel comfortable, but then don’t intervene when his aunt, who he sees once a year, hugs him against his will.

These are real issues with me. Your body is your body. While it’s OK for mommy, daddy, and siblings to sneak a kiss when it’s a game, I will not force children to submit to unwanted physical touch. (I mean, unless that touch is me holding their hand in traffic or something.) And not talking to strangers? Hey – I will usually encourage kids to make an effort. “Do you want to say ‘hi’?” This helps them start to learn which strangers are the OK strangers, and which are the ones we mean when we say “strangers.” But if they don’t want to – it’s their choice. It’s not consistency here, for me. It’s just that I don’t see this as a big deal.

— If he has just hit his sister, tell him it’s not nice to hit someone, then grab him and hit him.

— Explain how important it is to be honest, and then freak out when he tells you the truth about something he did and punish him for doing that thing. And then later, lie to him about something really important.

These are just – Duh.

Next Installment: Encouraging Real Play. As opposed to, you know, that FAKE play.


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