Compromising with kids

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Halloween in July

Compromising with Kids

Growing up in the 90s, the world was much different. We were in a day and age where you didn’t talk back, you didn’t ask questions and yes ma’am and no sir were the standard. Fast forward 20+ years and life is much different. The children of the early 2000s were taught to think for themselves, not quite bucking the trend too much, but just enough to stay true to who they were. Kids born after 2010, well they will just straight up tell you NO. We could blame this change on generational differences, or on a shift in the standard of respect, or lack thereof. Or even on parents who don’t know how to discipline their children, or aren’t able to because of the enforcement or stricter laws designed to protect children from abuse, but sometime enable kids to misbehave with no consequence. Regardless of what you attribute it to, I think we are all on the same page in feeling that times have definitely changed.

Being raised in a military, very strict Christian household I was no exception to the ‘yes ma’am no sir’ rule. And being that I feel I had turned out okay, I figured I would attempt to raise my children the same, holding them to a similar standard. In 2003 I was blessed with my first child and 5 years later along came another son and I was passing this parenting thing with flying colors. My children were respectful and compliant and as long as they behaved, I was happy and we had a ball and the world was a happy place. And then there was #3… In 2013, the course of the earth’s orbit around the world must have shifted a bit because where the stars had previously aligned in my favor, life as we knew it was changing. On August 10th we were blessed with the most strong-willed opinionated child ever born to mankind. And this is when I had to unlearn some of my most concrete learning as a parent and realized that my future would consist of compromising with kids.

Now let me clarify, my youngest son is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, he’s just well… Landen. And Landen wants to do what Landen wants to do. When they say dance by the beat of your own drum, they are talking specifically to Landen. And not only does he have his own drum, but he has his own band. And not a band that we can all rock to, like an r & b band, or smooth jazz band, or a band that plays back up for our favorite rap artist. But a band that plays a genre of music that I can’t even make out what they are singing about.

Things were fine while Landen was a small baby, but as he grew older, it became evident to me that I would be changing up my parenting style. Where it was fine to give my older two clear instructions and they would comply, I learned that doing things my way wasn’t the Landen way. Many a times I would coerce Landen into compliance with enough fussing, or even a threat or two, but in the end it was stressing me out. I found myself often asking… what is wrong with this child… why won’t he just listen… what is wrong with me? At one point, I thought it was because I was older, and more tired and I had become soft.

Eventually it became apparent to me that Landen wants to write the course for his own life. I eventually had to learn that there’s no harm is allowing my son to wear the shirt he wanted to wear, eat barbeque sauce on his potatoes, or whatever else a toddler prefers. He knew what made him happy and who am I to threaten his peace and stifle his desires. Now we are at the point where, I can give Landen two options to choose from, my idea and the next best thing, and he feels like he has power over the situation and the decision is in his hands. The funny thing is that the older he gets it’s more common it is that he chooses my preference from jump, but the point is he’s happy, I’m sane and the world is a safer calmer place.

I’m sure a lot of people are thinking… I AM NOT compromising with a kid, and that’s fine. I too was that parent who felt it was my way or the highway. There are still things that I don’t compromise on, but for the things that I can bend on a little, why not empower your child to make their own decision? I’m learning that you can’t sweat some of the small stuff. While undoubtedly stressful at the time, I thank #3 for teaching me that lesson – it’s funny the things we can learn from our kids. His stubborn ways have definitely made me a better parent. He prepared me for #4… the girl – whew, as well as other situations that I would encounter as #1 became a teenager.

Recently, my husband and I encountered our first major (really it’s minor) dilemma as parents of a teenage boy. Our son was asking for permission to grow up a little and purchase what I felt (and many would agree with me) to be a highly inappropriate video game – which will remain nameless (use your imagination). On one hand, I’m feeling like NO. This is not good parenting and if I have this many reservations about it, then it must be a bad idea. On the other hand, I’m looking at this kid, who is a great, responsible kid, an honor roll student, a great big brother, and an amazing son, and all he wants to do is have this game so he can play with his friends. What’s the harm in letting the kid live a little?

We literally took almost a year to make a decision, and after a few requests a month from a relentless teenage boy, we finally sat down and really talked it out. In the end, we came to a healthy compromise where he could get the game with some very very clear stipulations behind it. The best part about it was the smile on his face when we finally gave in. It was the same smile that #3 has when he picks out his own underwear or is able to put his own toothpaste on his ninja turtle toothbrush. A smile that says, they trust me and I got this.

In the end, if this hard-nosed army brat can learn to live with a little healthy compromise, then there must be something to it. Landen has taught me a new approach to parenthood. I may not get things exactly how I want them, but that’s okay. If I can empower my children to be true to who they are, speak up for what they want, and own their own happiness, then a little compromise is well worth it. I’m forever grateful for this lesson. Plus, remember #4… the girl, whew… Yeah, she too is a constant reminder that life will be easier when you master the art of compromising with kids.

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