Friday, April 17, 2015

Parenting Via Facebook

If you're enjoying a stress-free, conflict-free day, my advice is to set aside your peace and tranquility and invest a little time on Facebook where someone's always spoiling for a fight.

Click here to read about the latest conflagration, The Kid Who Tore Up His Allowance Money, an online kerfuffle that has the usual suspects grabbing their virtual pitchforks and searching for words synonymous with spoiled, entitled, and over-indulged.

Is that a twenty? I could use this kid's allowance.

I have lots of thoughts on children and chores, children and allowances, children and money. Today is a busy, busy day, so I'll list just a few Lessons Learned.

It's Easier To Do It Yourself

Yep. It's true. At least in the short run. And FYI: The short run is w-a-y longer than you would think. The short run, in short, is not short at all.

Watch a small child tie her shoes, make his bed, empty the silverware. If efficiency is all you're after, well, you probably should have thought twice about having those kids to begin with.

Teaching children to do household chores demands patience and endless (endless!) repetition. Those are both easy to come by when children are little and sweet and so obviously possessing immature fine motor skills. During this oh! so brief period, they try their best and they want to be like Mom and Dad, to please Mom and Dad.

Enjoy this phase. It lasts about two and a half months.

Suddenly they're a little older and perhaps not quite so sweet and possibly possessing perfectly fine fine motor skills, and it can be just a tad more difficult to summon the patience, to persist with the repetition.

"It's like pushing a rope," a friend used to tell me when she'd summon her teenagers to household chores. Herding cats is another apt metaphor for the laborious task of keeping kids on task. Here I should insert one of many hilarious scenes from that American classic, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

"Set the bar low," Rodrick informs his impressionable younger brother in an attempt to school him on the ins and outs of Managing Parents 101.

Rodrick and Greg proceed to wash the van with filthy, grease-stained rags. Dad enters stage right and launches into a tirade before shooing the boys away and declaring that it's easier to do it himself.

Once in a while it does feel like a well-executed, nefarious plot to get you to cry uncle before the lawn is mowed, the kitchen is clean, the room is clean.

It is easier to do it yourself. But you can't cry uncle. Sorry. Find a happy place, employ a little Lamaze breathing, above it all do not utter the words swirling through your brain.

Press on.

Hard Work Really Isn't Its Own Reward

It's a nice adage. Yes, it is. Hard work should be its own reward. And perhaps, just maybe, I will live to see this cheerful saw come true. But as of 6:21 p.m. today, as I am typing this, hard work, in the eyes of 100% of my children, remains just that: hard work.

Nothing Happens By Magic

I think it a good, useful, real-life lesson for kids to see that life doesn't happen by magic. There is no Insta-Vacation, Insta-Move, Insta-Laundry, Insta- Gourmet Meal, Insta-you
get the picture. I'm not Mrs. Weasley with the self-stirring pans and the knives that chop, dice, and produce julienne fries with a flick of a wand. I do have a pretty amazing stand mixer, but magic it ain't.

It's okay for kids to see the effort we expend.

Now, I'm not suggesting we mothers tell our kids to wrap their own Christmas gifts or do anything but lick the bowl to get a birthday cake on the table. But. As they get older it's a healthy thing for children to realize that vacations, holidays, moves all require effort. A reasonable extension is that some of that effort be shared.

Believe me, I am not about sending children down the mines. And Mother as Martyr? Not attractive and not especially useful. Ask me how I know this.

We're All in This Together

Having recently completed the epic chore that was The Move, I have seen how very good life can be when we all adopt an attitude that says We're All in This Together. In between viewing the new house and signing the contract the buy it, we sat down with the older boys to make sure they were on board. They were. And their enthusiasm  translated into helpfulness. They helped with the yard sale, with the packing, with the straightening, with showing the house, with the big move. For the most part, they saw this as a good move for all of us and realized that Mom and Dad couldn't do it alone. Mostly they rose to the occasion.Not always. But mostly.

In a rare, risky financial move, we bought the new house before selling the old one. It all worked out, worked out beautifully, in fact. But we had a few tense months that translated into austerity measures the likes of which the Dolins had never before seen. I explained this to the older boys. I tried to emphasize the fact that  a) God is in control and  b) Mom and Dad are responsible for our financial well being.

On the fiscal scene, they rose to the occasion as well.  For them this meant a simplified approach to Christmas, forgoing school lunches for peanut butter in a brown bag, contributing to more of their incidental expenses on sports trips.

Whining, I'm happy to report, was at an all time low. They got it. We were all in this together.

We were all invested in the move, and investment, I think, matters. Tim's current piano instructor agreed to take him on as a student if Tim was willing to pay for the lessons. Investment matters. Tim is attending a pricey music camp this summer. We agreed to send him if he agreed to pay the deposit (a substantial chunk of change for a cash-strapped seventeen-year-old.) Investment.

Parenting Via the Internet Is an Ugly, Ugly Business

Every six months or so, some parent makes headlines for implementing innovative "discipline" that is, in fact, nothing short of public shaming. Think of the father who shot up his daughter's computer after she whined about the inefficiency of their maid. Think about numerous parents who have ordered a kid to stand on a street corner holding a sign detailing their crimes (I stole from my Grandma! I lie to my parents!).

Are these folks simply being provocative? Let's ratchet up a few likes and shares by showing the world how macho I am? I can't help but thinking it's all about them (as in the parents) when discipline should be all about them (meaning the children). I'm no purist, believe me. I could (but won't) list my parenting woes here. They are legion. It's not easy, this parenting gig. Just this morning Kolbe came from a piano lesson across the street and informed me that he could hear me yelling from the sidewalk and that a car had driven by at that precise second and that the driver had starting laughing.

Go, me!

There's certainly a part of me that understands wanting to shock a truly wayward child into reality. But public humiliation? In the most serious of these situations, I think parents long ago lost the battle, and in the trivial ones I think humiliation will hurt more than help.

The excerpt I read on Facebook indicated that the shredded allowance may not have actually happened. The poster simply posed the question: What would you do IF this happened?

So what if it did?

I can see discontinuing allowances. If the child asked for money, I could understand the parent gesturing to the pile and suggesting she tape it together. I could see taping it together myself and donating it to charity or using it to get a pedicure.

But here's the thing. I had an unidentified child once do an unidentified and fairly destructive thing. All I'll say is that sometimes there's more going on than meets the eye. Perhaps the Facebook child is entitled, spoiled, over-indulged, insert your first world parenting dilemma here. That could very well be true.

Sometimes, however, there's more to the story and our initial, knee-jerk reaction -- while perfectly understandable -- wouldn't be in the best interest of anyone.

My two cents.

No comments: