George and I have been discussing priorities lately. Our discussions focus on two areas, our children and our marriage.
As parents, he and I have very similar views regarding priorities for our children. During the week it is homework, family dinner, showers and bedtime. Our girls are all in the third grade. Two of them, K & C need significant sleep to function. When K doesn’t get enough sleep, she has difficulty focusing on homework, chores and getting along with others. C’s lack of sleep usually results in her retreating somewhere by herself and then going to bed. The third girl, G, does well with structure in her life. Chaos and loose ends weigh heavily on her little mind.
Recently, we have had to make some choices regarding extra curricular activities after school. Activities that interfere with homework, dinner, showers and mostly importantly, bedtime. We certainly do not feel children should be denied time to attend some of their meetings, outings and other extra-curricular activities, but we do not believe they need to attend EVERYTHING.
It seems to us that in recent years there has been an emphasis on letting children do everything they want. Running children from place to place at all hours of the day and night. Dinner and lunch provided by fast food drive-thru windows. Weekdays and weekends. To hell with what they need, let’s give them everything they want. And to hell with what the other members of the family need, as long as our little angels are happy.
I realize that many parents will never understand our commitment on this subject. Just as we will never understand why parents spend hours in the car, eating on the fly, losing themselves and their marriage, and even ruining themselves financially while trying to give their children every experience possible. It is ok to say no sometimes. It is ok to spend the day at the park being silly. It is ok to tell your children to read a book. It is ok to be honest with them and tell them that some days there is not enough time for everything. It is ok to tell children that sometimes mom and dad simply can’t afford to do something. And it is more than ok to say no because it simply isn’t the best thing for them or the family.
Along the same vein, we are both believer that our children are NOT entitled to material things. First and foremost we give them food, clothing, shelter, emotional support, love, compassion and understanding. We teach respect and manners. THINGS must be earned. And since they don’t have jobs, we own EVERYTHING, so we have the right to take it away.
I recently read a post from a Facebook friend entitled 9 THINGS WE SHOULD GET RID OF TO HELP OUR KIDS. These jumped off the page for me:
1. Guilt: Often we give into our kid’s requests out of guilt. We need to stop feeling guilty for not giving our kids everything they want. It’s hard to swallow, but we foster the attitude of entitlement in our homes when we are ruled by a guilty conscience.
2. Overspending: I think it’s good for our kids to hear us say, “We can’t afford that” Or “We will have to save for it.” Because that’s real life. We don’t have All The Money to Buy All the Things. I’ve known families before who are working multiple jobs to keep kids in extracurricular activities, when honestly, the kids would probably be happier with more family time.
4. Making our day-week-month, our world about our kids-Working in the non-profit world has redirected our extra time. We simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ. Child-centered homes don’t help children in the long-run.
5. The desire to make our children happy (all the time). If you visited my house, you’d find out pretty quickly that someone’s always unhappy. It’s not our job to keep our kids happy. Don’t carry that impossible burden. Typically when our kids are unhappy, it’s because we are standing our ground. And that makes for much healthier kids in the future.
7. Fixing all their problems: I don’t like to see my kids struggling. There’s a part of every parent that longs to make things right in their child’s world. But it’s not healthy to create a false reality. You won’t always be there to do so and not only that, if you’re doing it all for your child, why would they need to learn to do it themselves? Fixing all their problems is really only creating more challenges in the future.
9. Unrealistic Expectations: My girls are always asking for manicures. I didn’t have one until I was married, pregnant and 27 years old. I’m not opposed to the occasional treat, but it’s the attitude of expecting it because you as a parent or others have it. Just because I have an iPhone, doesn’t mean my children will get one. We don’t have to give our kids everything we have. It’s okay to make them wait for things in life.