The other day, I took all five of of our children to an appointment. At one point they were all sitting and playing quietly with small toys that I brought with me. The lady asked me, “How do you do it? They’re so good.”
I wish I could say that they are a product of genetic perfection. My husband and I breed a superior race and they are perfect toddlers… much like Christ was. But that’s just silly… my children are decidedly not overachievers. None of them can read, they count to ten by saying “one, two, three, ten”, our 18 month old is too curious for her own good, and our oldest who is five barely even talks.
But I’ve been told many times in various ways, “You have good kids.”
So when I told the lady, “I don’t know.”..it was totally a cop out. I knew when she asked she didn’t really want to hear my parenting philosophy so I didn’t whip out my soapbox and give it to her. Besides, I’m not sure I really have a parenting philosophy, per se.
Am I allowed to say that? I haven’t got a library of parenting books because I was told when I was pregnant with our oldest that I should read books on development and parent according to their development.I liked that advice so I took it.
I did read and recommend one parenting book;The Strong Willed Child by James Dobson.
And while I may not be able to tell you the exact formula for a well-disciplined house, I can tell you unequivocally that I DON’T HAVE GOOD KIDS. My kids are sinners and they need guidance but I’d be selling them short if I left out the part where I tell you that my kids are delightful and they make me laugh.
Since she asked, I’ve been trying to think of what it is that I do differently than many of my parenting peers. I think it’s the little things that add up.
We eat at the table. Meals and snacks are always contained. Sometimes they sit on the floor in the kitchen and, other times, I send them outside with their vittles.
Why? Because I have five children and not as much time as I need to clean up after snacks and sticky things that are scattered to the wind but, more importantly, I think this is an essential boundary. Children like boundaries. They feel safe within those boundaries.
We watch very little television/movies. We got rid of our television nine months ago. They don’t miss it and neither do I. We let them watch a few shows on Netflix Watch Instantly to buy ourselves a few minutes without interruption. The children might watch 3 hours/week.
Why? While it would be easier to sit them in front of the television, I find that they are whiny and demanding afterwards. They ask for their favorite shows over and over again after just one 45 minute episode. It helps them learn self control. They don’t always get what they want.
We take naps. My four year old still takes a ninety minute nap and sleeps ten plus hours at night. My three year old takes three hour naps. And our eighteen month old takes a ninety minute morning nap (but she’s about to grow out of those), a three hour nap, and sleeps twelve hours at night.
Why? Children need more sleep than grownups do. Their behavior is a direct reflection of the amount of rest they’ve had. I see cranky, tired children everywhere… let them sleep. Sleep begets sleep and if your child wakes up at a pin drop, have them checked out by a competent medical professional. I know a gal whose three year old NEVER slept more than ninety minutes consecutively… that’s not normal. He was lacking an important hormone.
We don’t eat (much) sugar. They eat boring low-sugar (less than 3 grams a serving) cold cereal for breakfast, their peanut-butter-and-jellies are just peanut butter, their oatmeal is plain, they don’t get syrup on their pancakes, and they probably don’t even know the word “dessert”.
Why? I tease sometimes and tell people that I don’t give them sugar because I’m too lazy to deal with the sugar high. That’s part of it but the other big reason is that I’m sensitive to sugar.
I’ve found that I get a high then a subsequent crash with just a few grams of sugar. That’s in-part because I’m hypoglycemic and if that happens to me and I weigh significantly more than they do, I figure that they can do without those undulations. My hope is that they won’t be addicted to sugar like I am when they grow up.
As far as I know, those are the really peculiar things that we do at our house.
Note from Jill: Until two generations ago it was standard practice for most mothers to follow Clara’s guidelines!
Clara blogs at Letters from the Armory about life with her husband and five children five and under.