adolescence, communication, expectations, family, identity, marriage, raising kids, respect, school, self esteem, teenagers, toddlers, trust

All we expect is respect.

It seems to me that kids have a lot of expectations put on them today.  Expected to perform at high levels in school, in sports, and basically in life. When raising our children, my husband and I tried not to put a lot of expectations on them. We have found a foolproof way of transitioning through each phase of our children’s lives with just one thing expected: respect. We certainly didn’t set out 22 years ago as parents with any theories or agenda… we have navigated ourselves along with one simple basis for everything. Our three children, now 22, 18, and 17 were raised with my husband and I nurturing them, guiding them, and respecting them. We in return felt we deserved respect and used it as the foundation for each and every stage of their lives.

When they were young, even before the age of 2, our children were taught to understand respect. Even without language yet, there was unspoken communication happening. When they were told not to touch something, but they did anyway and looked to us for a reaction, we were teaching them then how we would handle such things. We were being tested, this set a basis for our forever relationship. If we were to say “no” to something, the follow through we exhibited was crucial to our bond and our trust. If we had not stayed true to every word we uttered to them as toddlers until this current day, I believe the trust and respect we share today could not have existed. Our oldest son said something to me once… I remember the exact spot we stood in the hallway by the kitchen, at the age of 16, towering over me… he said, “Mom, I don’t always like what you say, but I trust it.” That coming from my oldest child, at my first attempt at parenting a teenager, was a monumental moment for me. I knew in that moment that all the years of being true to my word was helping us in one of the hardest transitions of life.

We have honestly displayed to our children since day 1 of their lives that all we expect is respect. When they became school aged children we did not put great emphasis on grades. We did not have expectations set for how their letter grades on report cards should look. Our marks were always based on respect for teachers and authority at school. By learning that we had expectations of certain behavior at school the grades would easily follow. When they would uphold themselves a certain way and respect the school and the classroom, they learned respect for themselves and the learning happened.

When it came to sports we didn’t have expectations of how they would perform on the field or the court, it would be expected that they respect their coaches, the officials and their teammates. Their performance level would grow and grow due to them respecting themselves and others, and always working hard.

Our children’s social lives have always been nurtured as well. We have always put great emphasis on respecting relationships and friends. We have always welcomed their friends into our home as family members. I believe my marriage of 22 years is stronger everyday because my husband and I respect what each of us do financially and emotionally to contribute to the growth of our family. Our children are witness to that and it helps them to be better people.

Our society today puts so much emphasis on the wrong things. Raising children with morals and values and to have self respect will equip them for most anything. I am blessed to have been a stay at home mom until our youngest was five, caring for other people’s children to help out financially. If people could find ways of putting more effort into their families we would have stronger communities and stronger communities translates into even bigger successes for our entire culture. When people begin to realize that emotional wealth is more important than financial wealth. Our children’s well being should mean more than the car we drive or the house we live in.

When paying our monthly bills, I often strategize with numbers in hopes of paying more monthly to the principal of our home mortgage to pay it off earlier. To do this we would need to cut money in certain places, it’s always the “extras” that would have to go first. The “extras” in our life right now are weekend social expenses … that translates into our weekend trips to watch our son play football at college, visiting our daughter away at school and treating her out to a nice dinner, and/or the expense of buying pizzas and drinks for our 17 year old to host friends over for game night in the basement… Each and every time I consider cutting those expenses I know that we are doing the right things with our money. The investment in our children’s emotional well being far outweighs any desire I may have to cut some years off of our mortgage. What I see these days are bigger homes, fancier cars, fancy vacations, and kids who feel lost and disconnected. I have a strong wish for things to be different for future families. We need to get back to simpler times, less material things, and family togetherness.

I believe if all things could begin and end with respect we would all be better off. The definition for respect is ‘a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.’ Kids can learn to respect their peers, their parents, and most anyone. Teaching people to set aside ego and find things they admire in others can boost self esteem enormously. In today’s world we have to be careful to teach our children that you don’t respect someone just because they are your authority, respect is earned. It is important to learn respect for yourself as all other relationships hinge upon the one you have with yourself.

Finding ways to show our children they are special and important is the key to them learning to respect themselves and others. When we take time to really be present in their lives, they feel it. Being at sporting events, plays, or concerts… anything that is important to them makes them feel they are important. Photographing them at special times and just ordinary times shows them we care… then looking through old photos together bonds us and helps them to grasp the beauty of moments past and those yet to come. We always have had grand birthday parties, celebrating them and finding great joy in their existence!! We still have grand birthday parties at the ages of 15, 16, 17… Everyone loves a party!

We have found ways in our lives to honor and respect our children and they in turn learn how to do the same for us. Children have their own sets of woes and worries and when they do not feel like they are ‘less than’ just because they are ‘kids’, they feel respected. Let’s face it, the problems and obstacles they encounter each day are all relative to the ones we face.

“The family is the nucleus of civilization.”  ~ Will Durant

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adolescence, communication, family, teenagers

“From little acorns mighty oaks grow.” ~ American Proverb

oak-tree

In this American Proverb we learn that great things come from small beginnings.  When referring to my children this is indeed true.  With our oldest son, 20, currently 6’4 and playing football at the Div. II college level, our (biological) daughter, 17, is 5’11 and still growing (she loves tennis & basketball), our (foster) daughter,17, is 5’9 and though we didn’t begin with her from an ‘acorn’ ~ the growth we’ve seen in her is magnificent and then our youngest son, 15,  is desperately wanting to surpass his older brother and is seeming to do so, as he is bigger every morning when I see him emerge from his bed.

When we speak of coming from ‘small beginnings’ we don’t only have to be referring to physical size.  Our children have grown in amazing ways, way beyond their height!  I often take time to explain to them that being an adolescent is an amazing growing time in their lives.  I want them to understand that when you watch a baby grow in it’s first year, or a toddler grow from age 2 to 3, it is easy to see physical changes and to see the amazing developmental growth of that little guy or girl.  But what about them… What about the adolescent that is growing at that same speed but it is not as noticeable so others forget!

We forget that they are developmentally absorbing all their life’s lessons everyday ~ making connections in their brain, forming ideas, forming identity ~ we forget.  We as parents allow them more freedoms but forget that they still need guidance, daily love and daily support (even if they pretend they don’t need it, they do!!).  This is how I explain to my children why I may seem different from “Johnny’s mom”… I am very careful to explain my point of view, my reasons for rules, my reasons for caring. Whether they want to hear it or not, I explain WHY we are making the decision we are making in that instance.  All my children have always respected my husband and I to the fullest, children learn respect from a very, very early age.  Why do they respect us?  They respect us because they trust us. Trust begins when your child is born.  They begin to know right away by both words and actions if what you say is the truth.  This may be a topic for a whole other post… I may be getting away with myself here (I will remember to do a post on creating trust and respect with your children…afterall, you don’t need anything else!!)

I was talking about acorns growing into mighty oaks.  They sure do… those little ‘nuts’ become the most amazing, strong rooted individuals you could ever imagine.  As teenagers, they begin to nurture you and your spirit if you do it right.  Teenagers get such a bad rap, they only mean well and want to do well, but when you’re not understood and you haven’t been taught to trust others and respect others, how do you expect them to act?  My children have been taught respect and trust.  My children are amazing!!  I tell them daily!! And they believe me!!

I am so proud to say that there are days I need to stand in the shade of my ‘mighty oaks’  and they are happy to provide it for me.  They were once small helpless acorns and my husband and I have watered them, nurtured them and have been proud to watch them grow!  We are so proud!!