We have had a lot of opportunity, with the addition of children to our lives, to develop our parenting styles.
Josh is the laid back Dad, he will be firm and serious when he needs to be but he is generally the “pushover”. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, I’ve learned that S (and occasionally London) will go to him with things that I’d probably say no to.
Whereas I’m the strict one, I assign the chores, I’m the first one to remind the girls to do their homework and I determine the “punishment” when they need it. I’m usually the one that says no. But that’s okay with me, because I don’t have to say no very often.
With Estelle, I am constantly saying no. She is in the monkey phase now, climbing things, jumping, running and destroying my living room in an instant. For Estelle no usually precedes “Don’t climb that!” Or “don’t go near the pool!” No is a safety word that I don’t always use for her, but I will.
As for London, it took us a long time to get into the schedule that worked for her. When she first started staying with us we were not as strict because I was still just older sister. There was less responsibility, I wasn’t signing permission forms or taking her to the doctor. But that all changed when our Mom moved across the country. I had to step up to the plate and push through the mess that came afterward. The three months before S came to us were so formative. We exhausted every resource we could to try and help London get back on track.
It was during this time that we really brought out family meetings. London was a teenager, she needed to (respectfully) have some say in the rules of the house but also know that she wasn’t totally in charge and thus the “Living Agreement” was created. A contract, a written, formally typed out page of the way our house was going to work from that point on. I outlined every aspect from reward to punishment, rules and responsibilities for every member of the house and we all read through it. Of course London protested she wasn’t going to officially sign it, but she agreed to it. I still reference the living agreement from time to time, when London tries to push me over the edge.
What I love about the Living Agreement is that it “protects” me from having to say no all the time. I used to get the flat no all the time when I was a teenager. I was an honor roll student, with a part time job, a respectful & responsible boyfriend, but I had a “mouth”. That was the only reason for all of the “nos” I ever received. I didn’t want to be that parent and the Living Agreement backs me up when I get the:
Kids need to hear no. It is so important that they learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Not everything is going to go their way and they have to learn how to cope with that fact.
When S first came to us, I had a really hard time saying no to her. She had always heard no. She had always gone without and for the first month I said yes 99% of the time. “Yes, I’ll buy you candy” “Yes, you can use my phone (for the 10th time today)”. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but I learned how wrong I was very quickly. The more I said yes, the more she asked for and the less control I felt like I had. The last few times she has asked for “rewards” or other recreational things, I’ve had to say no simply because the requests were not feasible at the moment. I think over time she will start to understand that we can’t always drop what we are doing and go shopping or spend money on recreational things (like ice cream) all the time.
I guess what I’m trying to get across is don’t feel bad to say no to your kids once in a while. They will survive and so will you! Your precious children, whom you love so much will understand…eventually.