Thursday, January 16, 2014

Child-Centered Parenting? Not in This House...

I have a google ad. Well, not me- my book has a google ad. Every little bit helps to spread the word, right?

My google ad came with a google ad rep for the first month. I had weekly conversations with Lyle, who helped set up my google ad, and did all of these googley things to it to help send the right people to my book. Lyle also taught me the ins and outs of google ads, because one day I would be set free to take over and make changes myself.

During one of our phone conversations, Lyle taught me how to look up what search terms people used to find my book. He taught me how to add certain terms that I don't want associated with my book to a list so that google knows not to display my ad when those words are searched.

Lyle: Mean mom...
Me: Yeah, keep that one. It has me curious (laugh).
Lyle: (laughing) Okay. I figured you'd like that one. What about 'child-centric parenting'?

I shuddered.
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Me: No. Definitely not. Let's remove that one, please. I don't need anyone trying to find a book on child-centric parenting to think my book has the answers. I advocate locking yourself in the closet to hide from your kids when needed entirely too much for a person wanting to practice child-centric parenting.
Lyle: (nervous laugh) Okay. I'm not exactly sure what that is, but I'll take your word for it.

Oh, Lyle. Sweet, young, life-fully-ahead-of-him, google Lyle. We definitely didn't have enough time in our weekly 30 minute conversation for me to explain to him even the basic ideas behind the term.

Before I go jumping into this subject matter head first, I'll offer a small disclaimer here for people who find this article searching google, or for those who have never been here before and don't know me or how I see the world. I wrote my book, Tatted Mom's Guide to NOT Screwing Up Your Kids, with the idea that what works for one family won't necessarily work for another family, and if it works for your family, and your kids are safe and healthy, then rock that parenting style, regardless of what others say. I don't judge parents for having different parenting styles, but I am opinionated about what has and hasn't worked for me as a parent.

This is just my opinion, though. Always keep that in mind.

Alright, fasten your seat belts. Let's roll...

Child-centric or child-centered parenting, when boiled down to its basic core, is just as the term states: The child, or children, are the focus of everything. The family revolves around the child(ren).

Think back to the 1950s. The father was the head of the household. What he said was law in the house. Children were not the center of the family. They were rarely seen, and never heard. That is what's known as
parent-centered parenting. Children were told what to do, when to do it, and that was it. Kids didn't have a say-so in pretty much anything.

Fast forward 60 years, and the child-centered parenting trend has taken over. Instead of parents telling kids what to do and what not to do, kids are now telling parents what they will do and what they won't do. The parents are taking a back seat to their kids, letting them run things, make major household decisions, take control of everyone's lives in the house. Instead of whatever the parents say goes, it's now turning into whatever the kids say goes.

Younger kids are breast-fed or carry around a bottle until they decide they want to quit. Toddlers are allowed to sleep in the parents' bed until they decide to sleep in their own bed. Kids refuse to go outside and play in favor of sitting inside and playing video games, and the parents submit, too scared to upset little Jimmy or make little Suzy cry or anxious. Moms are more stressed than ever because they feel like they are no longer an individual- they are only "so-and-so's Mom". They feel they can't leave their children with a babysitter long enough to have a cup of coffee with a friend because little Timmy doesn't want Mommy to leave the house. They eat McDonald's every single time they go out because little Sally refuses to eat anywhere else. They only watch whatever shows the child wants to watch on TV. They never encourage their kid to go outside of their comfort zone or even push themselves to slightly greater limits.

In my eyes, it's gotten pretty ridiculous.

We are not a parent-centered parenting house. We damn sure aren't a child-centered parenting house. When my kids were younger, they got the majority of the attention because they were babies- helpless, couldn't do anything on their own. They needed us to do everything for them. We tried to schedule trips out around nap times, not because we didn't want to interrupt our child's beauty rest, but because trying to grocery shop with a tired, crying baby sucked. But I still took time for myself, Hubby still took time for himself, and we still took time and certain steps to focus on ourselves as a couple, too. And as our kids grew older, we gave them more and more space, teaching them to respect the family unit, but encouraging them to branch out on their own and figure out who they are themselves.

Which meant more time for me to have coffee with friends. My kids weren't attached to my ass, wondering what I was doing every second of every day, I could pee alone, and they grew up with a pretty good understanding of family time and space and individual time and space. It was a win-win in my eyes.

There are things in our house that are democratic, now that my kids are almost 12 and 9 years old. We vote on the movie for Family Movie Night, we decide when we will spend time together as a family or doing our own things, we do vote on restaurants or take-out, and I get everyone's opinions on the weekly food menu before I go grocery shopping, but in the end, my kids know that Hubby and I will be making the ultimate decision, no matter what they wanted.

My kids also know that there are many things that are non-negotiable in our house. If they screw up, there will be consequences, and they won't be easy ones. Their homework and chores will be done before anything else is even asked about. They will not backtalk us. They understand fully that they are the children, and Hubby and I are the adults. They test the line every now and then, and they quickly get reminded of who is ultimately in charge.

I, personally, don't understand child-centered parenting. I don't understand why any person would let another person completely rule them, especially when the ruling person is a child. I don't understand completely sacrificing your wants and wishes for another person. I don't understand not giving a child rules, and boundaries. I just don't get it.

Are my children the absolute center of my world? No, they aren't. Would I sacrifice myself to save my children (like when the zombie apocalypse begins in the not-too-distant future)? Of course I would. If either of my children needed anything from me that would end my life to continue theirs, I'd gladly give them whatever organ, body part, or all of the blood in my body, they needed. If we only had enough food left to either feed my children or me, I'll starve to death.

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But, do my children tell me what I will be cooking for dinner each night this week? Hell no. I make the menu. I'll give them the decision of potatoes vs. rice, but they don't order me around. They won't tell me what to do and what not to do. They won't manipulate me for their own wishes.

These, of course, are extreme scenarios in child-centered parenting. I have seen child-centered parenting with my own eyes, and it wasn't pretty. Stressed mom, spoiled brat of a kid who dictated where the family ate, shopped and what they did on a daily basis, broken marriage because the child slept in the bed and the husband slept in the guest room, and the ruler of the household was only 3 years old at the time. I honestly couldn't handle it, and I was just an outside spectator, so I removed myself from the situation pretty quickly. People who are firmly set in their belief that child-centered parenting benefits the child don't really see things any other way. They know they are stressed, but they make excuses as to why things have to remain the way they are. God forbid they upset the toddler.

I'm a strong supporter of finding balance in life, parenting, everything. Tipping to one extreme or the other in any scenario can be detrimental. So, just as child-centered parenting isn't healthy in my eyes, neither is strict parent-centered parenting. I don't believe a child should be seen and not heard. I don't believe a child should be pushed to extremes that are miles outside of their comfort zone just to benefit the parent. I don't believe the child should be left on their own to figure everything out in life, with just strict rules and guidelines and no explanation under their belts. I don't believe a child should just do as they are told because Mom and Dad said so, with no other justification or understanding. And I definitely don't believe parents should continue life as if they never had kids, prematurely exposing children to the adult world, or making them grow up on their own.

So, no, as my book, or what I preach on my website, or even what I personally believe, has nothing to do with child-centered parenting, and has everything to do with finding a balance in your life and for your family, Lyle and I went ahead and removed "child-centric parenting" from the list of search terms that causes my book to be shown to googlers. If "parent-centered parenting" were to show up, I'd remove that one, too.

But I left "mean mom." Hey, I do have a sense of humor, thank you.

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  1. Ya' know a lot can be said for that parent centered parenting. There wasn't a whole lot of back talk in my house growing up, hell, we had to raise our hand to breathe and our opinions mirrored our dad's - could be the Italian thing, who knows. He made the rules, we followed 'em, with no questions asked. Thank God he wasn't a freak and we all turned out okay in the eyes of the world. And I think with that parent centered parenting there wasn't a whole lot of crazy gun toting kids running around either.. I didn't parent that way with my kids. I was a single mom of 4 for many, many years. I was always the boss, always but I gave them the gift I wasn't given growing up, freedom to speak - respectfully - what was on their minds. We're not always right as parents, we're not always fair, I was open to suggestions and who better to get those suggestions from than the ones I was leading through this crazy life? It's been an interesting journey and like me and my siblings, my kids have turned out pretty good. No prison sentences, no drug sales, prostitution.. I'm good with that. Turning out intelligent, decent, kind and loving people into the world, it's all I wanted.. I think as parents it's all we can really hope for.

    1. That is definitely what we hope for as parents. Sounds like you parented the way that I try with my kids. They know Hubby and I are the boss, but we do let them speak. So far, so good with my 2. Knock on wood, lol. ;)

  2. What I want to know is what's going to happen to Little Johnny and Little Susie when they get older and realize that the whole world isn't going to revolve around them? Even just going to school! The teachers aren't going to let the students decide what they learn... When they are teenagers... When your teen wants to stay out until 3 am doing all kinds of hormone driven shenanigans... Parents are just going to let them!? Seriously, I really want to know why parents decide to let the child run the household.

    1. They turn into the kid who cheated on their SATs and got caught, and when they got expelled, the parents sued the school system. True story. Read about it a year or so ago. That's what our future holds... o.O

    2. I can tell you what happens: the kid turns out directionless and a washout. My cousin practiced this type of parenting by default: she didn't know how to parent so just let her daughter tell her what to do, when, and how. I remember a car ride in which the kid was around 3yo. Cousin was driving and we were attempting an adult conversation while kid was in the back. Kid kept shouting for Cousin to turn Britney Spears on louder. "LOUDER!" And Cousin did. It got so freakin' loud we couldn't hear each other so I finally reached over, dialled it down and told the brat that her mom and I were having a conversation so she'd just have to suck it the hell up. The kid is now 17, failing everything in high school, not graduating with her peers and still skipping classes like nobody's business. She swears at her mom and tells her to shut up and go away all the time. She works part-time at Victoria's Secret but that's about all she has going for her.

  3. Completely agree that it is the balance that needs to be attained. I see both extremes: sometimes parents are completely neglegent but then also, others revolve around their children. In both cases, it is not healthy for the kids..

  4. I love this post. There's always a healthy balance that my husband I strive to maintain. I know plenty of parents that would benefit from reading this. Thank you for putting things in perspective and reminding me that there are other parents out there that don't have lives that revolve around their children 100% of the time.