Friday, November 30, 2007

Reactive Parenting

There are two types of parenting when it comes to raising children.  Proactive and Reactive.  The proactive parent is involved and aware, cognizant of what the child is doing, setting guidelines and using discipline to teach the child what is right and wrong.  The reactive parent is also aware but let's the child experiment in an somewhat open arena, leaving the child to learn from his mistakes and deal with the ramifications that are involved.

Now, in order to be an effective parent, you do have to be a combination of both.  Finding a balance between the two is THE challenge.  However, to be an extreme in either category is NOT a good thing.  And, being a dad that's constantly on the move with the kids, it's easy to see fall into the "reactive" category, which I thought I did *A LOT*.

Until yesterday.

Taking the kids to their activities, I have a lot of opportunities to watch other parents. 

Yesterday,  I realized something about reactive parenting.   Some reactive parents give their children too much extended freedom.  Basically, whatever consequences come from the child's action is supposed to teach the child proper and appropriate behavior, regardless of how it effects the environment or others. 

To illustrate, I ask - is it my responsibility to tell another person's child that they should be using their "inside" voices?  Especially,  when it is obvious to all the other parents that he's distracting and behaving inappropriately.  It's also apparent that other parents are reluctant to over step their bounds.  So, am I the consequence that the child is supposed to learn from or do I remove my children from the situation and let the kid continue on?

I see two problems with the reactive approach.  The first, what and from whom does the child really learn?  Did he actually learn that he should be quiet and stop horsing around in order to respect other people's space?  I don't think so... from the kid's reaction, he learned that I'm a mean guy who ruins all his fun.  His real parent didn't stop him, the other parents were too passive, and I'm a complete stranger...  I have no leverage to teach this boy much.

The second problem is that the parent ends up having to deal with the consequences of the kids' consequences.  In my case, the boy's parent had to deal with the embarrassing situation of another parent, namely me, appropriately disciplining  their child.  It must be easier to say "sorry" to a stranger, than to say "no" to your child.

Where does the line get drawn between being a reactive parent versus a lazy parent?

Sher and I prefer the more proactive approach of consistent discipline.  It was not so much a conscious choice, but rather something that make sense to us and came naturally.  We find comfort in knowing that when we do give our kids the freedom to learn from their environment that our kids will not stick their hand on the stove, not because they've done it before and learned that fire is hot, but because we taught them that the fire can harm them.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lego Bricks - potential weapon?

Lego bricks are great. Such a simply toy, with so many benefits. What other toy allow your kids to truly imagine and build, as well as give them a tool to debilitate their parents in one felt swoop? I experienced a shock this morning, when headed to the basement to bring up some laundry. Yup, you guessed it... first step down, a Lego brick. It was a 2 x 2 brick, the size just perfect to hit the arch of your foot and make a grown man flinch in pain and do the one legged hop dance. Evil little buggers! Lego = WMD? maybe...

Meaning of Life

An unfortunate person is one who tries to fart but shits instead. A miserable person is one who truly enjoys a fart but can't.
I would really like to pretend that I know the meaning of life, and that I have all the answers. And there is a pressure to show your children that you do know everything that is astoundingly strong. But the truth is that there is no answer for any of it. You just make the best of what you have been given. That's it. Everyday get a little bit better at determining the best path for your life. Sure you are going to make bad decisions and mistakes, knowing how to make reparations for those mistakes is what will get you through the end of each day.
There are days when I put my kids down to bed at night, when I just want to "get it done quickly", pushing them to brush their teeth, don their pjs, and pop into bed quietly. It very rarely goes this smoothly. Rush, rush rush. There is often just as much frustration in the "getting them to bed" mode as in the "getting them up and ready for school mode". It is just the way it is.
I find that I have to constantly remind myself, that these are the times that I am going to look back on when I am 80 years olds and in my rocker. I will not get a second chance at enjoying their childhood, this is it - right now, and it will be gone before I know it.
So, I take a deep breath, smell their hair, their smooth skin on their cheeks, look into their innocent eyes and just love them for who they are right now. My beautiful kids, with all the perfections and imperfections of life, they are gifts bestowed to me, and I cherish them.

Diary of a mad man?

Recently, I've been doing a lot of self evaluating and trying to home in on a particular aspect of my life that I would like to write more about. In this day an age, we as individuals have a lot of responsibilities and wear many different hats. For example, I'm a father, husband, son, brother. I'm a business owner, sales person, janitor. I'm a technology junkie, programmer, fixer of computers. I'm a music lover, movie lover, book lover, artist, photographer. I'm a scuba diver, skier, gamer. Throw in the fact that I'm a typical 30-something year old guy, what do we have? The potential making of a mad man. Of all these roles, interests, hobbies, etc. what brings me the most joy (albeit with some frustrations) is being a dad. So, welcome to "Daddy Needs a Drink". This blog is my journal as a father of two highly energetic kids. Both of whom, I love very dearly. My, lovely, wife is an author here too. I'm trying to get her to write more... this might be the impetus. If you're looking for the other blog by the "other" me... check it out here.