Recently, I discussed the concept of a parenting bible with a group of parents in my workshop. A bible, they all thought, was full of gems that everyone must follow. I told them that as soon as they argue about it, it is no longer a gem. I believe that in parenting, there is no “one and only one” bible and what is a rule of life for one parent may not be for another, so there is no point arguing about the rules.
Deciding what to do, what not to do and how to do things in your life (in this case, in your parenting) depends greatly on your circumstances, your beliefs, values and needs and the destination of your life’s journey. There are no two people on Earth, not even twins, whose life circumstances, beliefs, values, needs and destination are identical. Therefore, we all need different sets of rules.
In parenting, this is even more so, because there are no two people that have the same circumstances, beliefs, values, needs, destination, as well as a relationship with the same person (with the same circumstances, beliefs, values, needs and destination) and the same kids (each with the same circumstances, beliefs, values, needs and destination). Can you see how complicated it is to fit a single set of rules to every parent?
Here is t a good example to understand this. I will write just a few variables that have contributed to my parenting bible and there is no chance you share all of them:
- I was born with a physical disability
- I grew up in a big family (4 siblings)
- I was in special education at school
- I was a very bad student during most of my school years
- I am a special education expert
- I studied a lot about parenting formally and have been growing this knowledge every day for years
- I have been with Gal (the same partner) for 30 years
- I have 3 children (a girl, a boy and a girl)
- My kids are 6½ and 5½ years apart in age
- Each of my kids was born in a different place in the world
- My kids are bilingual
- My kids play musical instruments (Gal does too)
- I have done well financially (since I was 25)
- My kids have travelled the world and lived in different countries
- I have moved house about 26 times during my life
- My oldest daughter moved 16 times (she is 22)
- My kids have grown up most of their life away from their extended family (what a pity)
Can you see that if you do not have Gal as your partner for 30 years, you would need different parenting rules? Can you see that living right next to your parents changes many things?
If I argue with someone about the right way to parent, I actually tell them they must believe in the same things I do, without having the same circumstances in life that have brought me to that position. It just does not work.
A parenting bible is meant to help you make decisions, refine them and read them when you circumstances change and you are confused. In a sense, it is meant to prevent you from arguing with yourself. On the other hand, arguing with others about what to write in your parenting bible means you did not understand how to make good use of it.
I am writing my parenting bible not that you copy it, because you cannot. Physically copying my rules does not make them part of you. It is implementing them and living by them that make them “biblical” for you.
Finding ideas you can start adopting is just a start. I will add another 10 today to give you more ideas. Feel free to check any one you wish until you convince yourself it can get into your bible.
- If your kid does something bad, it does not mean it will become a habit – when raising kids, do not play fortuneteller, because you are not. Do not tell your kids (or yourself) that if they eat with their hands at the age of five, it means they will grow up to be rude grownups with no manners. When you are saying to yourself, “If I let him stay late one night, he’ll think he can stay late every night”, notice you are playing fortuneteller and stop yourself (keep your day job).
- Comparing between kids is natural, but if the results of the comparison are always to one child’s advantage, give it up! Kids do not need to live up to their siblings’ standards. They did not choose to be born into a family with a smart, talented, athletic, genius, friendly sibling, so do not make it worse by comparing. This is how lots of sibling rivalry starts.
- I do not have to repeat my parents’ parenting style – at any stage, I can choose to adopt their commandments or reject them. I know they did the best they could and with awareness and adjustment, I can have a better bible, one that matches my philosophy and works better for me and my kids.
- I tell my kids I expect them to question my parenting style and come up with a better parenting bible – I tell them that if they do exactly the same things I do, it will be very disappointing. It means they will not evolve and they will not improve. Every parenting style needs to survive the test of reality and my reality is different to theirs.
- It is OK to change my mind – if I had a commandment at some stage and it is no longer what I think I should do, it is OK for me to change my mind. If my son says to me, “But you allowed Eden to do it”, I have every right to say, “When Eden was your age over 6 years ago, I thought differently”. When Eden was young and wanted to have her ears pierced, I was OK with it. Years later, I started considering ear piercing (or any piercing) a form of self-abuse. I have 3 piercings in my ears. I did the first two when I was 5 or 6 – our neighbor did it to all the girls. Some families did it to their baby girls when they were 3-6 months old. My neighbor used a sewing needle sterilized with Vodka. I did the third piercing when I was 18, but at the age of 30 (even before people started piercing every place in their body), I decided it was bad for my body. Eden said to me, “How can you say you are against piercing when you have 3?” I told her that I am now a person and a parent who cares about my body and that now I would not even pierce my ears, because I have changed my mind about it”.
- The teenage years are wonderful and fun – teens are not monsters because of hormonal changes. What people call temper tantrums, I call cries for help and signs of confusion. The teen years can be the most wonderful years of anyone’s life. Do not ever treat them with fear and do not join others in the game of complaining about your teens. It is a contagious disease and spreads quickly. Teens are no more hormonal than moms with PMS.
- Kids are more flexible than their parents – do not avoid doing things because you are afraid your kids might not cope with them. Notice that you are afraid yourself and you are projecting your fear. Kids are very flexible and get used to things easily. Do not be afraid to move a house, rearrange their room, change their bed or leave school in the middle of the semester for a family vacation. Kids are amazingly adaptable!
- Technology is great, but it does not mean I have to own every gadget to be a good parent – high-definition TV is awesome, but I do not have to have one at home. Mobile phones are wonderful, but it does not mean my kids must have them (from 4th Grade) just because everyone else has them. MP3 players and iPods are magnificent, but we listen to loud music at home, so there is no need to buy them just to fit in.
- Parenting rules change with kids’ age – the rules I have for raising a 6-year-old are not the same as the rules for raising the same girl when she is 15. Use birthdays as a change point for the rules. Not that there is a biological magic in the birthday, but it is the easiest date to remember. From time to time, allow your kids to ask for a change in the rules to suit their needs.
- My way of wanting or showing love is not the only way – every generation has a different way to show love. My parents showed me love by giving me services. I tell my kids verbally that I love them and I write them love notes. Gal hugs them and spends time with them. Teach your kids there is more than one way to express and feel love so that they can recognize love in everything you do. Hopefully, they will be able to show love in different ways, too.
Join me next week for the chapter about parenting role models.
This post is part of the series Ronit's Parenting Bible:
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Who’s in Charge?
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Love
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Food
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Babies
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Change
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Role Model
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Manners
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Gender
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: School
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Money