How in heck are ‘our own back-to-school needs’ and respect/gratitude related?

Well – last year my most hotly asked questions were ‘How do I teach my child gratitude?’ followed closely by ‘How do I teach my child respect’ from parents looking hopefully at me to tell them something they could instill into their children in the 22 days left until Christmas Day.

It really got me thinking, and now that back-to-school is here I see it as a juicy opportunity for us to set our family’s 2018 up to foster respect and gratitude slow-drip right through the year.

In my 11 years working in the parenting field, the families who I have seen sailing smoothest, thriving hardest and loving parenting most, have been those where parents are themselves modelling that every family member is as important as the other, and that each person will get their needs taken care of as best as the family time and budget will allow.

Over and over again – this was a recurring theme too important to ignore.

With the back-to-school period apon us, we will be ensuring our kids are all set up with shoes that fit, extra-curricular activities that they love and which they will learn life lessons in, lunch boxes that are just right for carrying food to sustain them etc etc etc.

The purpose of this blog is to ask what keeps us from putting as much effort into making sure WE are as well set up for OUR year ahead.

Shoes – are you making sure your children’s feet are in beautifully supportive shoes of just the right size, for wearing at all the activities they regularly do? How about for yourself? What shoes will set you up well to regularly exercise and walk places this year? Are you worth looking after too?

We are quick to enrol our children into expensive activities at this time of year that also take a chunk out of the family’s available time for the weekends and after school. What weekly activity do we have planned for ourselves? What do we need? And how will we make sure it gets prioritised and protected the way soccer game day or practice does?

We are checking that their technology is up to date so that they’ve got whatever it is that technology-wise that they need to use for their schooling. What do WE need? Does what we have meet our needs, or are we on kids hand-me-downs that only half cut-it? Maybe it is US that needs a buying trip to JB-Hifi!

Health: It is easy to fall into the trap of making sure the kids chiropractic or physio appointments happen but neglect ours. Why?

Saturday plans. When something comes in on a Saturday, and we already have plans, do we move our plans so they can go to the party? It helps to have an established family way of deciding. For example lots of families I know have a one birthday party per child per weekend policy.

The example of this over-giving and where it comes undone is here. I went to Tresillian when my daughter was 12 weeks old. I was a wrung-out wreck. My daughter would hardly cry and I would go from fast asleep to next to the cot settling her in one single movement. The Tresillian response was to give me ear plugs. I initially found it offensive until I realised they worked for me to only hear the cries I needed to get up for and not every snuffle that I was leaping in a single bound across the room for.
I see now I was setting a precedent. I was going to her and giving out to her more than I could sustain without resentment coming in. And I was wearing myself out. So that’s why I was the ear plugs did help. I missed the small stuff and was more able to be present to her for when she actually did need me. Being given the earplug permission actually helped a lot to know that, “Oh gosh I don’t have to do all that I had been?!” and “Really?! It’s okay that I get sleep too!!??” I was dealt in as an important family member who had needs too, and I was able to connect with her much better once my view of my role was more realistic.

On that note, let’s look at this over-giving we so easily fall into from a child’s point of view to see how the two different vantage points can differ:

Imagine you are a child. The mere fact that you are a child means you will sprout on about things you wish you could have. Nature has you wired that way – to see desirable things and ask for them.

Enter a parent who is so keen for you to be happy/not miss out that they spend a significant proportion of the family budget and time on making sure you get as much as possible of what you asked for (plus all that they want you to also have….and all that the other parents at school pickup and bbqs talk about wanting to provide their kids), and take on almost all there is to do to run the house so you get time to study and do things you love doing.

This parent (like most parents) has been conditioned by the people/advertising around them that childhood is a window in which opportunities must be presented in order for you to ‘thrive’ and ‘get ahead’ and grow up ‘balanced’ and that it is their ‘duty’ to give you all they can. Unfortunately there is a lot of fear within those inverted commas – we will come back to that and the downside of FOMO later.

Anyway – if this pattern of giving and sacrificing so you can have all that they believe you ‘need’ to have happens year in year out then it becomes all you know. You feel entitled to things staying this way since it has been the system that the people around you have set up your whole life. The adults in your life have made Why would you know any different!?

Except ‘entitled’ is not a virtue your parents like the look of and get resentful when you ask for more or different than they are already providing. They are operating at maximum capacity and through having given so much to you have not been prioritising their own needs so they tip quickly over into resentment and the huffy-puffy displays of frustration that come with that.

On occasions that your parents get frustrated you get confused because asking is so often how you roll. In their times of frustration your parents seem erratic to you. They are either give give give without prioritising much for themselves personally, or they are coming down hard on you for not being ‘grateful’ or ‘respectful’. But you haven’t really learnt what grateful is. You feel like it is just something you get told to be rather than having learnt along the way.

Confused you can’t see clear consistent boundaries, and find you are tantruming more often, and communicating generally with your behaviour rather than your words. Your parents see you more and more as an entitled brat and get more and more resentful for how much they do for you that you don’t respect them for.

Essentially it is our mission to all-year role-model to our kids that all family members are important. It is so much fairer on them than giving out to capacity then toppling over and feeling the need to read them the right act about it not being all-about-them.

I know already that people are going to say, “I don’t have enough money for that Mel. I can’t give myself all that I give my kids”.

Exactly!!

Because the kids have been having a disproportionate amount of the family income spent on them, time allocated to after school sports and things like that and not had as much responsibility towards running the house as they are capable of. So yeah, you’ll choose. And it doesn’t need to be that you have really big changes straight away.

If the sound of this interests you then you might just implement something slightly different than you otherwise would have this term.

And then next term, there might be a couple of things.

You’ll do it.