Today’s announcement that Samsung has been ordered to pay Apple upwards of a billion dollars (I can’t help but picture Dr Evil from Austen Powers, but I digress) has got me thinking. How do we make sure our children grow up and don’t become the kind of people who think plagiarism is okay?
I have a confession.
When I was ten years old, I stole a Bar One from the corner shop. This is the first time I am admitting to this crime. The shame of that moment not only overshadowed the joy of eating that forbidden chocolate, it has remained with me all my life.
I am profoundly grateful that I stole that chocolate bar because the experience of guilt and disappointment in myself at age ten has largely shaped my actions as an adult. I never stole anything again – not because I was scared of getting caught, but because I never wanted to feel that shame again. Kudos to my own parents for fostering that strong moral compass in me. If they hadn’t taught me how to listen to my conscience, I don’t think I would have felt that shame quite so acutely.
To say my job, as a parent, is daunting would be the understatement of my life. As parents, we have the gargantuan responsibility of building up, in our children, that same self-regulation that my parents built up in me. My ultimate goal, as mother to my three children, is that they grow up to be adults who make solid choices for themselves. It’s my hope that the values that hubby and I foster in them today will be carved indelibly into their psyches and guide them in the direction of happiness and success.
How do we do this?
You tell me! One set of parenting gurus tells us to never punish our children, to never raise our voices, to never hit. Another set tells us to reason with children as though they are mini-adults. The next says create boundaries. The opposite camp says boundaries are restrictive. And where do we stand? Somewhere in the middle, scratching our heads.
My plan? Educate myself as extensively as I can. Read books, but more importantly learn from my “Mommy” friends whose parenting I admire. Emulate my own parents, who to this day still guide me and nurture me endlessly – look back at the things they did that worked and follow suit.
My mother and I were discussing just last week an incident from my childhood. It was fascinating to hear about it from her perspective for the first time.
Here’s my side of the story: My brother, sister and I were all in the bath (age 8,6 and 4) and being a little cheeky. My mother pretend-shouted at us and then stomped her foot “angrily” right into the bath. We, of course, fell about laughing and to this day, it is a favorite memory of ours. We remember a funny, not-too-serious mother who made us laugh. My lesson from this and similar experiences, as a parent, is to never be afraid to play the fool with your kids, to always laugh laugh laugh.
Here’s my mother’s side of the story: It had been one of “those” days. We had been driving her completely nuts and she was exhausted. She got us into the bath and we were being naughty. She completely lost it – that kind of disproportionate anger we sometimes feel as mothers when that last straw is piled on – and started to yell and scream. As she was yelling at us, she looked down at the bath and saw three naked, frightened, wide-eyed children staring at her. She thought, “What am I doing? They don’t deserve this reaction.” So, she calculatingly stamped her fully clothed foot into the bath, flipping the situation on its head. The laughter turned a potentially very unpleasant childhood experience into a really happy memory.
This is our power as parents. It is awesome and frightening.
I don’t want my children growing up doing the right thing because they are terrified of the wrath of Mummy. I want them to remember their childhood with a smile and I want them to make the right choices because hubby and I have shown them with love and laughter and our own honorable behavior (most of the time…) what being a good human being is all about.
I wish sincerely for my children that when they steal a chocolate bar, cheat on their homework or tell a lie, their self-inflicted shame is what sets them right. It’s my job to help them turn up the volume of that inner-voice that tells them which path to take. It’s also my job to one day let them go and hope I did half as good a job as my parents.
If you liked this post, please share, in the comments section below, how you guide your children. Your advice may help other parents navigate their way through this beautiful and terrifying journey. Please also take the time to click the thumbs-up button below.
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