Honesty and Vulnerability
Why do we feel like we need to know it all? Why can't we accept that we don't know and why can't we share that knowledge with our children?
My 11 yr old and I were doing math homework the other night and I had to stop and look up how to do a problem. She was so surprised that I didn't know how to do a 6th grade math problem. I was honest and told her, "I don't know the last time I used this math and I don't know how you are being taught this math as its changed from when I was a kid". We continued the homework and got it all done but this exchange got me to thinking about the honesty and vulnerability we share with our children.
When our kids are babies there are books upon books and site after site teaching how to deal with colic, when to introduce solids, and the best treatment for diaper rash. As they get older there are even more resources to help us, as parents, potty train and transition to kindergarten. But somewhere along the way that seems to taper off. I have a hard time finding a researched book for how to help your middle schooler cope when someone makes fun of her braces or why my youngest reacts one way when my other two dont even though they were raised with the same rules. I can find charts and diagrams for how much sleep is necessary at each age level but nothing to help me schedule in that sleep between homework and after school activities.
When you bring home a newborn it is expected that you don't quite know what you are doing but slowly that helping hand tapers off and we are expected to know the right answer and have the wisdom to be able to make it all make sense.
Why can't we just admit to both ourselves and our kids - verbally - that we don't know? The conversation can go something like, "Hey, I'm not really sure how much time on the phone per day is to much? When I was in middle school I didn't have my own phone and social media wasn't a thing. Now that I am a parent to a middleschooler, again something I have never done before, I'm trying to figure it out with you." Depending upon your household beliefs and systems this may not work for you, but I truly believe a conversation like this will lend itself to open communication and less "parent rules" mentality in the children. After a week or so of observation and communication we can sit down and talk about how long is to long to be on the phone each night. For my oldest, 1 hour is the magic number. It gives her time to space out, check in with her friends, and get her homework done. Any longer than 1 hour and she gets an attitude. For my other two the answer if different.
Relationships are built on trust, communication, mutual respect, and love. But somewhere along the line that seems to have gotten lost, for some, in the relationship between parent and child. We don't always trust our kids to hold on to our vulnerability and lack of experience and therefore place ridiculous rules and punishments. In a marriage - when a disagreement occurs - we are told to take a breath, give each other some space and come back to communicate after we have had time to collect ourselves. Why don't we do this with kids? When we are frustrated or they aren't doing what we want them to do many times we quickly take it as a sign that they are being disrespectful instead of looking at what they are truly saying or paying attention to what they are trying to get us to see.
In education we are taught "I do, We do, You do". This means that as the teacher I will first model for the students how to work through a problem and verbalize my internal dialogue, second we will work as a group to verbally solve the problem, and finally they will be given the opportunity to work on it alone. As a parent it is our job to prepare our kids to be able to fly on their own, trust their own choices, make responsible decisions, have resiliency, and rest on a secure foundation. If we model that for them in our daily actions, verbalizing our thought processes, modeling for them how to work through difficult situations, and letting them know that it is ok not to have all the answers all the time how much more would our kids be prepared and willing to take on the same challenges as they get older and have to make the choices on their own?