I Am Not Changing My Parenting Because of Newtown


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A lot of blogs – mom blogs in particular – have gone relatively silent since the tragedy in Newtown, CT befell our country, just a little over a week before Christmas. The only thing people posted on Facebook were statements of shock; promises to hug their kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews a little bit tighter. Then came the commitments to attack parenting with a “do what you want” kind of attitude from now on, because who knows what could happen when you send your little ones off to school the next day?

For the most part, this seems to have died down. But still, I see the memes about hugging your kids continue to crop up. I see the posts that were previously about needing to hide in the bathroom and drink straight whiskey to get through the day; now about how guilty a particular mother may feel about being stressed out by her kids. This morning I saw a friend post that Sundays are now “ice cream breakfast days, in honor of the kids in Newtown.”

It is undeniable: the tragedy in Newtown has changed us forever. But I think it’s fair to say that there were other tragedies before that have been slowly changing us. The Oklahoma City Bombing. Columbine. 9/11. As time has gone on, each of these tragedies has worn on us. They have worn on our value systems. They have replaced a strong need to parent with a strong fear of the unknown.

To me, this has only made the problem worse.

Ice cream every Sunday for breakfast? Not yelling at your kids because they did something wrong? Cutting down on the punishments “just in case?” Repressing your own feelings for the sake of being passive? How this all translates into a better, more well-adjusted society is beyond me. I actually think we should react to the Newtown, CT shooting in a different way. We should be looking at how we’ve let our parenting get far too un-parent-like.

I’m not saying that I’m the perfect parent, by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely have those moments of things that I’ve done and now regret; or things I’ve said out of emotion that may have been over the line. But I also am committing to not change my parenting because of Newtown.

#1 There will be no ice cream for breakfast, or “whatever you want”s for dinner

My job is to raise healthy children. Healthy children that understand what healthy living is like. Healthy children that don’t lay on the ground and pork down onion rinds like there’s no tomorrow, unless seven servings of fruit and vegetables have been porked down first. Healthy children that understand the concept of moderation, and more than anything understand the fact that when a particular food is put in front of you, you eat it.

The other day I read an article (by a guy that is neither a parent, nor a parenting expert) in which he claimed “because I said so” is no longer a justifiable excuse to children. Children need “good reasons” to do what we say, he said. We need to spend more time giving excuses for our “requests” to our children, he said. I have never heard more backwards, anti-parenting thinking in my entire life. So not only will there be no ice cream for breakfast, or “whatever you want”s for dinner, but what I put on the table is what is being eaten. Because I said so.

Nothing is more rude and awkward than a dinner party with adults where one of them doesn’t eat their food, because they “don’t like it.” Why are kids being raised to act like this as adults? And it goes without saying that the obesity problem in this country could easily be solved if “I don’t like”s or “give me a good reason I should”s were not an option.

#2 I will continue to yell and administer timeouts, and I will not feel bad about it

When I was a kid, if I got out of line I got yelled at. I’ll never forget the time I was in Girl Scouts and we were on some trip, and all of us got in trouble because we left our hotel room even when we weren’t supposed to. I have never had the fear of God struck into me quite like that day when our Troop Mom was yelling at us. And to this day, I know that her yelling was absolutely and without a doubt the right thing to have done, or we would have done it again.

And did I ever do something like that again, faithful blog followers? Absolutely not. When you don’t yell at your kids, they have no concept of consequences for their actions. I’m not talking about screaming here either; I’m talking about raising your voice.  You know? Making it sound stern, like they did in the 50s? Same goes for punishments: time outs, no dessert, grounded from TV.

I have no idea where our culture got the concept that raising your voice or punishing children for bad behavior was a bad thing, but it isn’t. Positive reinforcement is wonderful, when it works. But there are always going to be times in raising kids that a consequence for a bad action is necessary. And why? Because that’s how life is. Adults reap negative consequences all the time, and if kids aren’t taught the concept, then they run the risk of growing up with a huge misunderstanding about the way the world works.

#3 I will allow myself to feel stressed out, and not feel bad for talking about it

I have always been a firm believer that there is nothing more unhealthy a person can do than conceal their emotions. Positive or negative emotions, they are a part of who we are and to deny them is to deny our selves.

The other day Pookie did two things that reminded me just how much kids model their behavior after their parents. First, she cracked a joke at my expense as we had guests over for dinner. (She said I went to graduate school to do nothing.) Then, she concealed her hurt feelings for a whole day because she thought that my husband had showed her that was the right thing to do.

Kids learn how they are supposed to act as an adult from us. So while I wouldn’t say it’s a good thing to go into a nervous breakdown in front of your kids, and it’s similarly poor taste to chase your bottle of Xanax with the third margarita your kid’s prepared for you; I would definitely argue that hiding your feelings and pretending like everything is peachy all the time is just as (if not more) bad as the former suggestions.

Being a parent sucks sometimes, especially being a stay at home one. It’s OK to feel that way; and it’s OK to express that. You aren’t less of a parent for feeling so. All the tragedies in the world do not change an adult’s need to have interaction with other adults. All the horrific and malicious shootings of innocent people do not make it wrong to still need a break from your kids, and regularly.

I felt like a real jerk after the Newtown tragedy, not because of things I had done as a parent when “one of those kids could have been mine,” but because I mentioned on Facebook that I didn’t understand why people were rushing home to hug their kids. I thought, and said, “shouldn’t we have been hugging our kids all along anyway?” But as I thought about it more, I realized that I wasn’t a jerk. I was just questioning why these tragedies always make us question ourselves. Rather than look at what we’ve done right while also acting with compassion and empathizing with the terrible pain the families of the victims are going through, we’re always turning it into being about us. Do you think the Mom whose child was shot in Newtown is agonizing over the fact that she didn’t let her kid have whatever he wanted for breakfast the morning of the shooting, or that she took away his Nintendo because he beat up his sister? No. She’s agonizing over the fact that her child is gone, and she will never have the opportunity to punish him again. Period. End of sentence.

Now sure, if you really don’t know the last time you hugged your children, well then you do have a problem in the way you parent. But let’s remember that one of the most important ways we should work to prevent future tragedies such as the one in Newtown, is to actually be parents.

My thoughts and prayers continue on for the victims and their families of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I promise to not change my parenting in honor of those children, and in hopes of raising a future where tragedies like that no longer happen.

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9 Comments on “I Am Not Changing My Parenting Because of Newtown

  1. I had the sorry experience of being in a past relationship with a guy who had 3 kids from his previous failed relationship – Whilst I have none (sadly!…yet!) I have been given lots of responsibility with close friends’ kids, so I understand the parenting side. This ex, because he worked away all the time right through their lives and only saw the kids at weekends (even when he was with his ex partner), was of the mentality that he couldnt discipline his kids and had to do everything to please them, because he wasnt around enough. This used to drive me insane, because the kids (being of range between 9 and 18 when we first got together, and spending 4 years observing their behaviour with him) had no respect for him, and would then think they could get away with anything generally, no matter who it was. They had the attutude that it was their right to do what they wanted, when they wanted, and with no thought for the consequences, because they were never punished for doing wrong. It completely goes against my thoughts and actions on parenting. My friends always let me discipline their kids if they did something wrong when i was looking after them, and yet my ex expressly forbid me to even say anything to his, even when they were completely off the rails (his favourite line to me was ‘you don’t have kids of your own, so you have no idea how to parent’ – I think I had more idea than he did, tbh!). I would not want his kind of kids growing into adults, with arrogance, dismissiveness, and lack of discipline as their main traits.
    God help the world if kids grow up thinking they can do and say whatever they please with no consequences!
    Those who have boundaries and guidance as kids grow into much nicer adults with morals and manners.
    I can only say to all those parents that raise their kids the way you do – Good on ya!!! (and i hope when i have my own, that I do as good work as you do)

  2. I completely agree! I make sure every day to hug my son, kiss his cheek, and tell him how much I love him. I also make sure to put my foot down, make him stick to the schedule, make him finish the food on his plate, administer discipline as needed and how I see fit for whatever he has done wrong, and will continue to do all these things no matter what. My job is to make him be healthy, help him grow up loved and happy, and make sure that he succeeds as much as I can possibly help him do so. By NOT doing these things because of a tragedy like Connecticut, we become total failures as parents!

  3. I work in a preK- 8 school. I see kids from age 3 to age 15 everyday. The biggest problem most kids have are their parents. In the case of the Newtown shooter, his mother was the biggest issue. Why? Because she could not accept that she was unable to reach her child by just being his mother, so she ignored his mental illness/special needs issues. Had she survived, there is a likelihood that she could be held criminally responsible. Why? Her failure to secure her weapons from a mentally unstable person. Mrs. Lanza was right there with her son when he murdered those children and their teachers. One mother’s failure cost 26 people, most of them children their lives.
    Do we need more gun control or do we need to improve how we as a society handle/deal with mental illness. This one should be a no-brainer.
    I have never seen a gun operate without human intervention. I have seen kids screwed up by their parents.

  4. This is a huge problem. I know that I’m not a parent, but I’ve gone through not one, but two, teacher education programs, and the parenting and teaching books say the same thing that I DO NOT agree with. You need to give them choices. And explain your reasoning for everything (even when the kid is a year or two old). I couldn’t get behind it in college. I couldn’t get behind it in grad school. And this is one of many reasons why I’m not a teacher. *sigh*

  5. Like what you said – I agree. We are way to easy on kids. I said my kids have this sense of entitlement – who gave it to them? Me! And I’m taking it back as we speak…and have been the last year or so. We had our own little crazy world here for about 5 months and things did get rather lax. My kids had to learn life goes on and yes, you do have to listen, and no you’re not going to be catered to, and yes you will eat your dinner or go to bed hungry.

    Glad you said what I know a lot are thinking!

    Cheers!

  6. Bravo! I agree whole-heartedly.

    I was confused by some of the reaction to the Newton tragedy. Go home and hug your kids? I do that every day, bitches! Every night before they go to bed I hug them and tell them I love them.

    While it’s true that, tragically, tomorrow my children could no longer be here, the odds of that happening are slim. I’m not going to allow anarchy in my home just so they’ll love me more on the offchance that something horrible happens to them. I went my sons to grow up to be responsible, well-adjusted men. Ice cream for breakfast and a total lack of discipline is an utter disservice to them.

  7. I love this. It echos may of the same thoughts I have had, and I feel sorry for the kids whose parents are freaking out right now. There is a lot of weak parenting in our culture right now, and I fear that the Newtown tragedy has made it even worse. Deep sigh.

  8. Very good post, to many adults are not parents, they are trying to be a friend to their children. This does not provide the proper guidance to the child. In case anyone ask I have two teenage boys.

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