The first #DadChat of 2012 was held Thursday, January 5. We discussed the differences between raising boys and raising girls. IF you believe many of the PC police, you might think that boys and girls are the same (see The Most Egregious Politically Correct Lies). I assert boy and girls are distinctly different. And, the challenges and joys of parenting them are distinctly different. Exceptions abound, but these generalities tend to be true.
Nobody promised that being a parent would be easy nor were we assured that we’d get kids that were easy to handle. If you’re like most of us, you face regular challenges to your authority, your rules, and the way you expect your kids to behave. As with much in life, there’s room for compromise, but with parenting I suggest that if you stick with your rules it defines your values and teaches your children valuable lessons. The first rule must be that you tell the truth.
It’s a simple idea to tell the truth, but not always so simple to execute in real-life family situations. For instance, what do your kids really hear when you say something like, “If you do this fill-in-the-blank thing, you’re gonna be grounded” with stern parental authority. Most kids will interpret that to mean, “Well, I sure hope you won’t do that, but I’ll forgive you when you do because I love you so much and want to be your best friend.” The result? You haven’t told the truth or stood by your word. The kids then know they can manipulate you.
I’m just a guy without his wife. She is out of town and, gulp, I have to admit I sort of like it. The reason she’s gone I don’t like, as her mother is having some serious surgery, and we’re all concerned. Putting that aside, I must say I’m enjoying the alone time. In short order, I will miss her as I love her dearly and appreciate all the good she brings into our house, for my boys and myself. But, for the moment, it’s sort of cool.
My parents were of that “other” generation. They met when they were 17 and 14, married in their early twenties, and were together EVERY day of their lives unless one of them was in the hospital. EVERY day, for 66 years. No typo. They also had lunch together nearly EVERY day. Theirs was a love for the ages.
Where do our kids get their values? Who is paving the way to teach our kids the most valuable lessons in life? Are you comfortable with the values they learn in public school? How about on MTV, cable or other television? Are reality shows actually reality? Do you think modern music teaches them about love and romance? Maybe going to the movies is better and seeing Academy Award winning movies like “Slumdog Millionaire,” or “Departed” will teach them right from wrong? How about the Internet where they can see their friends post naked pictures of themselves or, if their parents haven’t been smart and restricted access, they can go to any porn site in the privacy of their own rooms. You get the point. The values out there are certainly questionable.
When I grew up, my parents had little concern about what I’d see on television, what I’d be taught in school when politics and values were little discussed, and they felt comfortable that they could inculcate me in their own values and religion. It’s a different world now.
One of parenting’s biggest challenges is when to protect your kids from life and when to let them learn the truth about it. This is a regular challenge for most parents and me. When I was dating, it was unclear how much I should disclose to the boys or when I should introduce them to a woman I was seeing. When their mother abandoned them and literally disappeared, did I tell them the truth about her (mental) instability or gloss over it? When my parents were ill and dying, how much did I share with the boys about the details and how much should they witness? With my 401K now a 201K, how much do I tell them about what we’re all facing in this declining and uncertain economy?