Where’s the Instruction Manual?

Parenting and discipline is not for the birds.  It’s a never ending responsibility that requires unrelenting strength and patience. And for some reason I didn’t expect it to be this way.  After all, I’d watched countless families before my girls were born and I knew exactly what NOT to do.  If I just did the opposite of everyone else, my kids would turn out great. Right?

I did get a little nervous about how to raise a child right before Mariah was born, so I did what I do best, I looked for an instruction manual.  I needed a plan to follow.  A formula.  A + B = C   I read the book most recommended to me from families with well behaved children – Babywise. It was full of formulas and so were the mom blogs and online forums dedicated to this way of child rearing.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at using the advice given in the book itself – to use it as a flexible guide, not a rigid routine.

I like routine, so unpredictable children threw me for a loop.  Why were they doing this TO ME?  Why were they out to get me? How should I change the schedule to make them sleep all night again?

Those were the questions I asked constantly during the first year or two.  Nick would always remind me “They’re just babies, they’re not out to get you.”  But it was so hard for me to accept that reality.  With Lana I was better at not being slave to the routine and I let go of Babywise.  But it wasn’t an easy shift.

Then came the obedience “training”.  The discipline part of raising children.  Babywise said to “start as you mean to go” and train them right away.  No hands in mouth when learning to eat baby mush from mama’s spoon, telling them no and giving a hand squeeze so they learn where limits are, teaching them to say “yes mama” and learn first time obedience, and give time outs. It all went pretty well with Mariah.  She made us look like amazing parents.  When really, now that we have Lana, I think it’s just her personality.

And now we’re into the moral training phase with my 5 year old.  Training her heart is what I call it most times. I’m lost.  Completely lost.  Because apparently 5 means 15 for this girl.  I’ve been dreading her teenage years since she was 2, but I thought I had more time before the rebellion and slamming of doors started.

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Lana picked a book off the shelf at the library last week.  Unconditional Parenting it was called.  I thought, what the heck?  I need all the help I can get.

I couldn’t put the book down.  (Well, lately I’m not very good at putting any book down) It made me think about my parenting style in a whole new light.

It has me thinking so much that I’ll be sharing my thoughts over a series of a few blog posts to break it up a bit.  So stay tuned.  For now, you’ve got the background.  A teeny glimpse at where I’d been coming from before the book came into my hands.

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