Well, the chaos of the holidays and the start of school term have taken their toll on me, and I have to admit that I haven’t kept focussed on our Family Project as much as I’d hoped.
However, despite my lack of planning this month’s family activities, the concept of respect has been central in my thoughts, and has caused much relief, hope and despair.
The story goes like this: For most of my parenting life, I have felt uneasy with the general parenting techniques that our society uses, namely the culture of reward and punishment, blaming and shaming, and the reliance on external motivation to mould children’s behaviour.
However, I’m also not comfortable with the more permissive, liberal side of parenting either, where we let our children discover their own path, and put their needs first. I do believe that we should teach our children certain ways of behaving, and for them to learn that there are consequences whenever and however we act.
Add to that the recent realisation that I am a perfectionist who feels the need to be in control of everything – especially her children – you have a set of contraditions that are not likely to bring about a safe, nurturing, respectful environment for children to grow up in. Instead you find a mother who is instinctively loving and nurturing but who on a day to day basis uses threats, blaming and shaming with her children (and herself) in the misguided belief that this what you have to do to instill proper values, principles and manners into her children. But it doesn’t work. And because I’m a perfectionist, I blame myself (when I’m not blaming the children!) which makes the whole situation ten times worse.
So when our Family Project focussed on respect I ordered three new parenting books. But I didn’t get what I expected. Instead of learning new techniques to teach my children how to act with more respect, I was told what I already knew deep inside: that it was me who needed to learn to treat my children with respect, not the other way around.
Cue relief (my instincts were right after all), hope (it will be ok when I’ve practiced this respect thing – it can’t be too hard, especially since it is in tune with my thinking) and then despair (it’s sooooooooooooo hard. Habits are hard to change, and my children don’t respond in the same way that they do in the books).
So our Family Project will be concentrating on respect for as long as it takes, and it will involve as much learning, and changing, from me and my husband as it will from our kids. It’s tough, and will continue to be tough, but it feels right. For once I feel like I am living in line with my values.