A couple of weeks ago, I read a Freshly-Pressed blog on how our parents put us to shame in parenting. Check it out, it is a good read.
With all due respect to our parents, and particularly our grandparents, parenting is much harder in the modern age. Parenting has changed a lot, but so has the world around us. For example, if you go back to my father’s childhood.
My grandfather worked. My grandmother didn’t. They didn’t have internet, television, or even radio for quite a long time. There were no babysitters, because my grandmother took care of her kids all the time. They were involved in a couple of activities, probably through school or church.
My father worked, and so did my mother. We didn’t have internet, but we did have television. We had local and long distance phone service, rarely using the long-distance. I had babysitters (normally, that same grandmother that raised my father). I was involved in even more activities, all through school or church.
Fast forward to the current day. I’ve seen figures that over 61 percent of families have two incomes. If you also consider the percentage of marriages that end in divorce, and that single parent families obviously have to work, a large percentage of parents are working. By 1993, a majority of families had two incomes, which means my generation’s parents were both working, so the option of staying with grandma or grandpa isn’t there.
A lot of us have internet, satellite television, cell phone service, and student loans, on top of a mortgage, car payments, and all that other cool stuff we just had to have. Also, in 1955, a box of Oreo cookies was 39 cents. In 2008 it was $4.29. Obviously, inflation is involved, but cost of living has increased drastically.
Meanwhile, our kids now enjoy activities away from school and church. They have dance, gymnastics, martial arts, private music lessons, club sports, and a million other things. All of these activities cost money, both to participate and for supplies, which increases demand for money, and therefore the demand for work. As a result, if you add it up honestly, our kids spend more time with teachers, coaches, friends, and babysitters than they do with us.
Some might say the answer is to get rid of the internet, cell phone, television, video games, all your hobbies, stop eating out, quit your secondary income job and go back to the old days. If you are going to do that, you can stop reading. For the rest of you, like me, who are still here (don’t worry, the others will be back the first time they miss Teen Mom re-runs or Monday Night Football), we have to find other answers.
It’s not easy these days. Our parents and our grand-parents were, short of doing anything illegal, allowed to parent however they saw fit, for better or worse. My grandma would have never had to worry about someone recording her spanking my dad on an iPhone. Now we are bombarded on a daily basis with media about bad parents, philosophies on good parenting, and Dr. Phil episodes telling people they have done it incorrectly. It’s no wonder the result has been for people NOT to parent.
I would like to say I have an answer, but all I can give is simple advice. Stay involved. With all of this stuff going on, it is easy to drop them off at various practices and lessons and not worry about them till you pick them up again. Resist that urge. You wouldn’t drop off your child with a total stranger, but that is basically what we are doing. Talk to the people in charge. Get to know them. If media reports have shown us anything, it is that pedophiles can be coaches and group leaders just as easily as anyone else.
It is easy in a busy world to become a “punishment parent” and make most of our involvement when our kids do something wrong. Guard against that. Let your kids know you see it when they do what they are told or do something well. Don’t let the coaches, teachers, etc. have all of those moments. If the only time you pay attention is when your kid does something he shouldn’t, he will do things he shouldn’t so you pay attention. Meanwhile, all these other people have become a bigger influence on your children’s lives than you are.
Be sure to make time for your kids. Make time to reward and support them, but also make time to discipline them. Be strict, but be loving. Let them know that you care about the things they love and support them in the things they try to accomplish. Always be involved. Know what they are doing on the internet. Know what they are doing at school. I know how their activities are going and be around for them.
In this busy world, time is the most valuable thing we have, and there never seems to be enough of it. But, if you don’t make time for your kids, someone else will, and that someone may be a dangerous person. If all you do is shuttle your kids around from activity to activity, you aren’t a parent, you are a day-planner with a driver’s license.
Most importantly, don’t let Dr. Phil and other things like him make you second guess yourself into parental paralysis. According to Dr. Phil’s ex-wife, he was domineering, wouldn’t let her work outside the home, and made her lift weights to improve her bust-line. His son married a Playboy model best known for posing nude in photos with her triplet sisters, despite Dr. Phil being very vocal against pornography.
Something tells me Dr. Phil didn’t have it all figured out, either.
It’s a new world, and we are all learning to parent a new way. Keep your chin up, and I’ll see you out there.