I remember changing cloth diapers (we had four of our kids in them at one time) and dreaming of the simpler days ahead when my kids would be older and easier to parent. Oh, what a fool I was! Seven years later, and parenting has become exponentially more difficult. For the most part, I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of parenting, but we have made mistakes, mistakes caused by impatience, fatigue, frustration, and of course plain old bad judgement. In this article, I want to focus on my seven worst parenting mistakes (so far). Not because I like to focus on the negative, but because mistakes provide a greater opportunity for all of us, me and you, to learn and to improve and become better parents. By sharing my parenting mistakes, you might not feel so bad about yours and perhaps you may even avoid some of them altogether.
Allowing Electronic Devices to Rule
I don’t so much regret introducing electronics to my kids, as much as I regret allowing those electronics to dominate their lives. Electronics these days are just as ubiquitous as food, and the appetite for both are difficult to control. You can’t live without food and you can barely get by without access to electronics.
By far, the thing I regret the most, is buying tablets for my kids. But it’s not just tablets. My kids also fight over the three computers (we bought six but three are dead) that were purchased for School Only. When it comes to our smart phones, we can’t put them down without one of our kids scooping it up as if it was their special toy! Apparently my kids also believe in a “mi computer, es tu computer policy”, which is wrong, wrong, wrong!
My kids spend most of their time either on electronics or fighting over electronics. As a result we are experiencing a severe outbreak of angry couch potatoism! The two main symptoms are kids constantly fighting over chargers, and kids who lay on the couch staring at a tablet for hours on end. This has to change!
My Own Addiction To YouTube and Social Media
I’m pretty sure that YouTube was created by the devil to keep us distracted from what we really should be doing. My particular vices are watching disc golf tournaments, music videos, and online sermons on that video app we all love. But really anything that looks interesting draws me in like a trout to a spinner. I’ve wasted hours upon hours watching videos. Video watching also plays perfectly into my desire to learn new things, like, will a taser penetrate a parka, or can a person really eat a Ghost P epper without throwing up! These videos and many others have helped me build up a plethora of absolutely useless knowledge.
I know why I am addicted to my phone and computer. I also understand that I’m completely avoiding attending to my kids’ needs, to their school work, and my deadline to get this post completed. It’s way too easy to put the engine in neutral, close my office door, and sip on a cup of coffee until noon. For me, and for probably a lot of you too, electronics provide an escape from stress and responsibility, but in the end, I eventually have to come back to reality. A reality that’s all the more stressful due to all the time I wasted doing absolutely nothing for three hours.
In the end, I end up neglecting my family, and my productivity takes quite a hit. This has to change!
Teaching My Kids To Expect Instant Gratification
It was the summer of 2006, More Love Mama (back then her name was still Carrie) and I were driving to Wyoming from Houston. On a stretch of road in Northern New Mexico, we had a long discussion about all the ways we were going to be perfect parents to our soon to be daughter. The first thing we decided was that we would never feed her junk food or fast food (more about that later). The second thing we decided was, that we would not shower her (and subsequent children) with presents, ala Dudly Dursley. We also vowed to lay down the law with the grandparents that they had to limit birthday and Christmas presents to 1 (ONE)! Our children were going to learn the value of relationships and service, education and experiences. They were not going to be materialistic consumers.
Isn’t it cute, when you hear people without kids describe how when they have kids they will be different from all the rest of us losers? Yeah, that was us twelve and a half years ago.
Walk through my house today and you will see all sorts of electronics and toys. You’ll see broken toys, toys with missing parts, toys on the floor, many of them rarely played with, of course. How did this happen?
We forgot the most important rule. If you don’t want your kids to expect instant gratification, you have give it up yourself. That means, we had to learn how to put off things like credit cards, and drive through windows. We had to be willing to leave a cart full of groceries at the store if our kids were misbehaving. If we were on our way to a restaurant, we had to be willing to turn around and go home if the kids were out of control. If we wanted something that we shouldn’t have, like snacks from Buc-ees, we needed to pass on it. In short, we needed to model the behavior that we wanted to see in our kids. We didn’t, and that needs to change!
Getting My Kids Addicted To Fast Food
I am an absolute fast food junkie! Burgers, fried chicken, tacos, pizza pizza, you name it, I love it all! If I’m super hungry, and want to eat right now “Lets have fast food.” Tired and don’t feel like cooking? “Lets have fast food.” Craving fried chicken (which is nearly always) “Lets have fast food! Don’t feel like begging, cajoling and fighting with the kids over kitchen chores? “Lets have fast food!”
Yep, I’m 100% responsible for getting my kids addicted to fast food.
Using Curse Words Around My Kids
I hate to admit it, but my mouth always gets a head start over my brain. Whether I stub my toe or walk into the bathroom to see the dog eating (yes, eating) from the toilet, my mouth goes into action before my brain can restrain it. Because I have six children, there are sooo many opportunities for me to lose my…..you get the idea.
I developed an extensive vocabulary of unacceptable language in college. No matter how hard I tried to tone it down, I was never able to rule my tongue. Since becoming a follower of Christ, I have had more success, though there are still times when my tongue wins, especially when my daughter puts cream in the coffee maker, or when my lawnmower finds my missing screwdriver.
Unfortunately, kids only have to hear those embarrassing words once, before they decide to recite them as well. As a homeschooler, I have the disadvantage of not being able to blame their use of foul language on public school.
Yelling at My Kids
No doubt, we all wish that we didn’t yell at our kids. Some of us are better than others about keeping the yelling to a minimum. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into that group. I’m a yeller.
Take this morning, for example. One of my sons is prone to anxiety and is easily overwhelmed by complex tasks or large assignments. I was super busy this morning, so rather than doing our usual flash cards, I printed off a math worksheet instead. He took one look at it and flipped out. Then, because he flipped out, I flipped out (do you ever do that?). When all was said and done, it would have been faster and much less traumatic for the two of us if I had just stopped doing what I wanted to do and have our normal flash card session.
This is a perfect example of me passing up a connecting activity for the opportunity to yell. Ingenious!
Homeschooling, feeding, and cleaning up after six kids is super time consuming. Throw in this blog and several cups of coffee and I am often in a frenzy. I often miss the chance to help or console a crying or distressed kid because I’m too busy or just need another minute. In the end, another opportunity for connecting with my kids has been missed. At the time, I’m actually irritated at the kid for getting stung by that wasp (I know, crazy, but true). Later I realize my mistake and try to make amends. Which is usually too little, too late. You might say I’m way too much Martha and not enough Mary. I know I’m wrong. This has to change!
I Wish I Could Get A Do Over
Have you made any of the same mistakes I have? Well, don’t beat yourself up, we are all guilty of of having bad habits, making bad decisions, and acting illogically. The key is to recognize our mistakes and then to make changes to the way we parent and otherwise relate to our kids.
No, we can’t go back in time. We don’t get a do over. There are few mulligans in life. But, don’t despair, your kids are resilient and you aren’t too old to change. I can make changes to the way I parent, and so can you.
The first step is to recognize your mistakes. Maybe you will want to make a list of things you know you can do to improve your parenting. That’s what I did here. I risked putting myself out there so you could see that even a blogger who writes about parenting can stand to make some course corrections.
Your Guinea Pig
I write this blog because I love to learn and then share. I’m a stay at home dad of six homeschooled kids. I can’t think of a more interesting thing to write about than my experiences. That doesn’t make me an expert. I’m in the trenches with the rest of you. Because I’m not an expert I only have my experiences to share. Over the next months and years I plan to tackle the seven parenting flaws that I outlined above. I accomplished the first step by identifying them. I hope that you will stay tuned as I take each of these issues head on. I’ll share both my successes and my failures. I hope that you will continue to follow my blog. Maybe you can share it with your friends. Hopefully we will all get something positive out of it.
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