26 March 2008

My Shell

I took it off last night.

It went OK.

But it also confused me.

A few things I believe:

1. Kids need routine and boundaries to feel safe.
2. Dogmatic adherence to rules and boundaries is unproductive and foolish.
3. Consistency is one of the cornerstones of good parenting.

Beliefs 1 and 2 are in contradiction to one another. In theory, it makes sense to me that the rules and boundaries are there as a starting point, but all situations are fluid and exceptions will need to be made. If you realize that you are making exceptions all the time, it might be time to revisit the rule or boundary.

If you are always revisiting your rules and boundaries, then you are violating belief 3.

What's a girl to do with all of this?

22 comments:

Tiffany said...

Kids do need and crave routine and boundaries BUT it is ok to change things around from time to time. The little one will still to sleep if you skip the bath one night here and there.

Goddess in Progress said...

Hi there, I've come over via Giovanna's blog (also an MMOTA person).
Anyways, I know what you mean about those three things being in seeming contradiction to one another. On the one hand, being consistent is of critical importance. On the other hand, sometimes you just have to let go and be flexible. And as soon as you think you've got it figured out...
This parenting thing is just plain crazy sometimes. I guess all we can do is be as consistent as possible on the "important" things, but be flexible when necessary. Now, if only there was a manual somewhere that would give us the answers as to when is the right time for each of those!

dana said...

In my experiecne as a teacher, it helps to develop as few and as simple rules as possible - our three classroom rules were "Be Safe" "Be Respectful" and "Be Kind". By being a little vague, it gives you room to interpret each situation as it develops.....

Kizz said...

It's a balance thing like, I don't know, surfing maybe. It's about finding which boundaries work for you guys which involves trial and error, too. For me, I'd rather have black and white answers for everything ('cause I'm a Capricorn, and from New England, it's just IN me) but life is all gray area, vast plains of freaking gray area. It's hard, but doable. You know your kids, you can surf this beach.

Mendy said...

AS the mother of 6 children from 20 - 1 yrs old, I find that I am constantly having to reign myself in... either from being to structured, or to unstructured. However, I can say that #1 and #2 are really not in contradiction with each other if you know where your priorities lie. For example, my 1 and 2 yr olds have a 8:30 bedtime UNLESS their daddy is late coming home from work. In that case, time with their dad is much more important than their routine- so the routine is abandoned. Likewise, if a child is sick he/she can sleep in our bed even though that is normally not allowed. In these apparent examples of inconsistency, we are, in fact, being consistent in our most important belief - that relationships matter more than routines.

BTW, love your blog and have been reading since directed here a year ago by Lisa at Twinkle Little Star.

Mama Nabi said...

Just as LN likes to waffle all the down, I think I end up waffling for the sake of the same 3 rules up there. Consistency. Rules. Boundaries. But she's going through a tough transition... so little flexibility here and there. So I end up being consistently flexible about being consistent. Sigh... Seriously, I wish each child comes with a manual customized per his/her temperament. Isn't science ready to develop a mechanism for such manuals??

Mama Nabi said...

huh... I meant "all the time"... not "all the down" (I don't even know what THAT means!)

Rachel said...

I see your point. There are certain things that aren't open for negotiation or compromise, usually for safety reasons. (Carseat, holding hands in parking lots, etc.) But beyond that, I think it's okay to make exceptions now and then.

I try not to give in when Bella is in the middle of a tantrum, because in the long run that just leads to more tantrums. But I try to learn from the situation, and avert the tantrum the next time by avoiding whatever led up to it. (Too many errands, not letting her choose her own clothes, etc.)

Hope that makes sense.

katszeye said...

Well, the answer is --- you are right. Both 1 and 2 are correct and they are in contradiction. The fundamental problem is that it takes a lot of work to set and stick to boundaries while at the same time maintaining a little bit of flexibility so that you (and your kids) don't go insane trying to fit everything into a rigid system. You simply have so much on your plate (and are doing it alone) so that it seems impossible.

For example, you need to have a set bedtime so that the kids don't get overtired AND so that you can plan to have some you-time. Then let's throw a wrench in the whole thing by having, say, daylight savings time or a cold or vacation or whatever and then you have a schedule that needs to change. The problem is, you are probably just too tired to be able to roll with it. You can't hand the babies off and go take a nap when their schedules change. I am not trying to reinforce that you are alone. I know that you know that and I feel so badly for you. I want for you to appreciate how well you are doing.

Your kids need their routine to be as similar (not the same, but similar) as possible each day. They will buck up against it, but you need to stay strong. Tough times will pass. It's so easy to think that "if only the house was neat and clean and everything put away, I wouldn't feel so stressed." Umm, right, that's a good idea, but you end up being stressed out trying to make the house neat and clean. Anxiety and fear about how you are performing (as a parent) can easily stem from exhaustion.

Ami

Amy said...

I believe in all three of those principals too. And #2 is not a contradiction as 'life happens' and we have to deal with it.

For example kids get sick, we go on vacations, we have company. Strict routines must go out the window in some situations but in general I find kids thrive when routines are followed.

When my twins were young my entire day was routine/routine/routine. Could not have survived it otherwise!

buddha_girl said...

Although 1 and 2 may seem to be contradictions, either one, taken to the ninth degree, will be overload in one's life.

I've learned through trial and error how much structure Buddha needs and try not to apologize for veering from his schedule. It's tough, but I'm working on it.

We're on spring break right now, and he's been going to sleep LATE. I mean HELLA LATE. *shrugging* He's also sleeping great because of all of the activities we get to enjoy because of NO work! Hooray. And no apologies.

twingles said...

I think what you are really afraid of is - if you change things up, let things slide,even once - you'll never get the normalcy back. But...if your kids are on a good routine (like yours are) things should be ok even if you go off the res once in a while. But I think you are already good at that from what I have read. Just don't panic when things like the sleeping issues come up. It doesn't mean all is lost forever.

Rev Dr Mom said...

One of the hardest things I had to learn was that I really couldn't make exceptions as freely as I would've liked--they really do set up expectations in ways that aren't always positive. And that I needed to be very very consistent.rmvuj

The key is I guess, to set rules and boundaries in such a way that there won't be frequent need to make exceptions.

But it is hard...very hard.

Mijk said...

I am lousy with routines and my kids crave it! So the one thing I do when I step oput of it is naem that loud and clear. Today we are going to do it a bit different. So they know I haven't gone crazy and forgot how the world works..

kcrsummertime said...

I find, when I'm saying NO a lot, that I try to figure out whether it matters or not. Like, honestly, do I care if my daughter eats cereal out of her play dishes? No.

So like one of your posters said, I try to have few, vague rules, and be consistent on those, but spend most of my time asking, "How important is this?" before I say something. Because once I've said "No," that's it, and I hate it if I've drawn the line over something stupid.

I think it was Emerson, but maybe Thoreau (hell, I learned it in 11th grade - give me a break here...) who said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Lara said...

There's nothing wrong with being flexible. And you CAN be flexible and consistent and have boundaries all at the same time.

My kids know they can ask for whatever... even beg a bit. But no whining. And if I say no, then it means no. The flexible means I consider their requests, and sometimes give in. The consistent is that if I say no, it won't change.

Rules that I set? Not a lot. I kind of set them on the fly as I saw they were needed. But a few examples:

1) Leave it like you found it or better. In other words, even at a young age, kids can begin to pick up after themselves. Flexibility? Maybe that means we get out a huge mess and clean it all up together when we are done, instead of me rigidly insisting they pick up everything BEFORE getting out the next thing.

2) You eat what I make for supper; I don't cook two meals. Flexibility comes in because I couldn't force #2 to eat... he would starve himself. So the rule was he had to taste the meal, and then he could make a sandwich or eat leftovers. The boundary/consistency line - no taste meant he goes to bed hungry. He is still picky but he has learned to try things, and sometimes even does it on his own initiative now.

3) Show gratitude for gifts. I once left a store with #2 (my limit pusher obviously) and just outside the door gave him a firm talking to. The sales clerk gave him a balloon and he refused to say thank you. I told him that if he EVER refused to say thank you for anything, it went back. Even birthday or Christmas gifts. He may forget at times, but he has never refused since. He knew I meant it.

You only need to find your boundaries. Stand firm on them, and let your love for the kids fill in the rest.

Jen said...

hi dude..

i finally decided to take a chill pill (i.e. i ate a chocolate bunny) and check out some blogs. thought i'd comment since i believe i witnessed some of this and i think that if you didn't KNOW that you were battling with these three topics.. you'd never know it. you come across as being incredibly down to earth and stable with the kids.

you can stop laughing now. hey.. i'll bet you're saying "hey.. if i didn't KNOW it.. i'd never know that you were afraid of people".. right?

you're hard on yourself.. we all are to some extent.. or at least those of us with good intentions and a brain (did I say that out loud?).. but your kids are thriving.. are they kids who do kid stuff.. of course.. but i see them close to daily and they are two of the smartest and most gentle and polite yet fun kids i've had the pleasure of knowing. (although we have to watch maddie's rocket of an arm.. :)

Jen said...

i have to comment again. i know that i have it on my blog too.. but the little "word verification" thing drives me nuts.. first off.. it's not a "word".. second.. it causes me a great deal of stress because it makes my eyes go googley...

Edited to add: This is going to be the THIRD time i've tried to submit this comment.. i KNOW i'm supposed to "Enter the letters as they are shown in the image"... URGH

ok.. now the fourth...

Megan said...

I heard something funny recently...a dad said that he knows that all the rules of parenting say that consistency is the answer, but he maintains that the road to success is inconsistency. He said if they know what is coming then they can do a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, whereas if you are inconsistent, they never know what is coming and they are more likely to stay within the boundaries.

Being a dog training person, I don't know that I can fully agree with him, but he does raise an interesting point. Especially with older kids.

halfmama said...

(I'm in the final stretch of spring break but I'm taking a break to comment...)

I think this post ties in closely to your other post about perfectionism, something with which a lot of us (as parents especially) struggle.

The only thing I can tell myself is that parenting is a constant challenge of starts and stops, and readjustments. Instead of believing that these readjustments are necessary because of something I'm doing wrong (because yes, I do tell myself that), I have to remind myself that for the rest of my life, I am going to have to readjust our rules and boundaries and also, manage my expectations of myself as a parent.

It's okay to revisit earlier rules and boundaries... sometimes it's just necessary. Maybe it's something that contradicts an earlier belief, but sometimes we just have to do what we have to do to maintain sanity!

I wouldn't recommend this to parents who are always inconsistent and who never set boundaries, but clearly you are not this parent. Maddie and Riley are in good hands, and changing the rules once in awhile won't change this fact.

And just to put it out there... I struggle with my own advice, believe me.

franay said...

Best piece of advice I ever got about this is:

"Relationships before rules."

Rules are good, but not if they come between you and your kids. So enforce away, but make sure it isn't hurting that ever important mommy-babies groove.

Betsy Bird said...

What's a girl to do? Her best. That's all you can do. If one day you think you're too rigid and the next that you're too flexible, then odds are you've got it about right.