Monday, December 6, 2010

Breaking My Own Parenting Rules

One Kid At A Time.

I've heard more than once that parents tend to get more lenient with successive children. Why is that and is it true? I have to say it was true of my parents. Then again I was the last of 5 and 9 years later. Not to mention I followed two boys. But was that the reason?

I tend to think my parents just got tired.

But I do believe that you have to take the individual child into consideration.

When we started out we were strict parents. Really Strict. Our oldest taught us that you can be strict all you want but that doesn't mean anyone is going to listen to or obey you. What did we do when it came to the next one? We relaxed. A Little Bit. Just a little. For instance giving them a little more personal freedom to get themselves around town at a younger age. Riding bikes to the library and nearby places the kids hang out.
This was at 13 for Mid.
Lit could go with her at 11. So when Lit hit 12 and Mid didn't want to go somewhere we heard a whole lot of complaining...from both of them. Sooo, we let Littlest go on her own.

 How did relaxing things work? Well. It didn't stop Mid from making stupid decisions. Once. Twice on a couple of things. But she straightened up -or shut up and flies under the radar really well. I have highly advanced "Mamadar" as I call it.  Middlest is not very ambitious. Having made a couple of stands I think she realized that partying and sneaking out takes a lot of effort. Now that she has realized the full extent of freedom you can reach as a minor in our home she doesn't do much. Her curfew has been eleven since she turned 17. Most of the time she turns up between 9:30 and 10.  I figured I would up it to 12 after the first of the year because she was heading to graduation and 18 next year. I'm not sure if it's even worth it because she rarely stays up that late.

Where my real laying down of my arms comes in is with Littlest. Not only is she the biggest pain in the butt when she wants something she also has the most common sense.  As younger siblings always do she points out that her sister having a privilege she does not is "not fair." The problem with that is that it is fair. To which she will point out that "I never cause any trouble. I never do anything wrong." Then she will list Everything her sisters have done as an example. She is right about that. The fact is I have let her do multiple things earlier than I allowed her sisters to. Littlest Rarely gets grounded. She is destroying my blog rep. (Note to Lit: That does not mean have at it.)

These were some of our basic rules:

No online social networking until 14
No riding in cars with teen drivers until 15
No car dating until 16
No dating out of you age range- we figured 1, possibly 2 years was fair.
Curfew was 10 P.M. at age 15
10:30P.M. at 16 and 11P.M. at 17.

Now Biggest of course doesn't even count. The basic rule in her teen years turned into "if you come in screwed up and start tearing up the house and threatening us we are calling the cops."

The social networking went out the window when Mid was 13 and Lit 11 because I caught them with My Space accounts that they were using at the library. I noticed they suddenly spent much longer there and did a search. Sure enough. They were in trouble but we discussed it and realized it was safer to have it under our control by being aware of what was going on.

Middlest made some bad decisions a couple of times her sophomore year. She fell in with a bad crowd and I was amazed that another of my kids was messing up though it wasn't even on the same planet compared to her sister. After Biggest anything they come up with seems like an anticlimax to say the least.
 The source of the trouble with mid? The boys she was dating. Now she was 15. She could have boyfriends her age but the environment had to be supervised. So what happened? Well the boys her age that she chose were the kind that think they are sneaky. The kind who have older people ( Moms, can you believe it) willing to drive and pick up young ladies that are sneaking out in the middle of the night. They didn't know they were dealing with an expert. So while Middlest spent most of sophomore year being grounded for grades and being stupid,  I think with her it got old quick. Living on the street or hiding in flop houses doesn't sound as fun to un-ambitious young people. Then when she was almost16 she met a new boy. He seemed pretty nice. A decent enough kid.
Who was getting ready to turn 19 freakin years old. But you know what? I was getting a little tired. We said, ok. On a trial basis.
If he is willing to put up with your tight rules we will see what happens. Fourteen months later he is still around, though I did joke with her when he turned 20 last summer a few weeks before she turned 17 that he was now too old for her and they had to break up until her birthday. The verdict? He is very respectful of her. She has not been in trouble once. She is always home on time or earlier and there have not been any signs of being impaired. Her grades? Well that should be obvious but this year I stop grounding her for them. She is nearly an adult. If she doesn't keep up it is only herself and her future she is hurting. She is old enough to understand that.

Now I did recently find she was committing what I guess would be a mid-line infraction. I'm getting a little tired. I wrote a note that said,
"you have been busted, quit being a dumbass". The End.
She is almost grown up and that is about how much power I have over some of her choices.

Now, where was I going with this? Oh yeah,


Littlest goes to a school that takes up her weekday from 7 am to 4:30 pm. It is 45 minutes away and the kids come from all over our city. The result is that she has very little social life both because of time and also because most of her friends live miles away. There are some parents who are willing and able to spend Every weekend driving around all day for their kids social engagements but we are not among them. Special occasions, of course. Driving and hour both ways to play video games? Um, No. This has resulted in yes, allowing her to ride in cars with teen drivers on a few occasions. Including an hour long ride to visit a Con which also resulted in a slight extension of curfew because the drive was so long. Which made Middlest really mad but whatever.

Then there is dating. Now Lit has liked someone for a very long time but that is going nowhere. She hasn't had a "boyfriend" since about 7th grade which is when she grew out of the like somebody new every week stage of her friends. The problem with Lit is that she is one of those girls whose age is hard to determine. She is conservative with make-up and dresses well. Though she can be a complete goofball, when she first meets people her demeanor tends to be rather serious and mature for her age. She is a cute girl but she isn't the flirtatious type. This tends to make her seem older than she is. While boys her age seem intimidated by her  she has had college age boys drawn towards her since she was around 13, simply because she does not act like she is trying to get their attention. There have been a few embarrassed young men who assumed she was closer to Middlest's age. Last summer, at a club she attends, Littlest met Spike.
Or a reasonable facsimile of.

Spike liked Littlest. And Littlest liked Spike.
What she didn't realize at first was that he was 18.

She was almost 15 but to me 18 or 800 it's all the same. That would be a NO.

But Littlest had already said she would go out with him. Um, what?  You are not allowed to date a boy that old. Knowing teenage girls like the back of my hand I considered the possibility of her sneaking to meet. But this was Littlest. She is a different breed. Now considering what happened with Mid and the fact that forbidden makes the heart grow fonder I told her he was welcome to come to our house and visit with her any time. And that was it. He came a couple times. Then the poor kid starting asking her to go do stuff. She just kept putting him off. I watched for signs of sneaky. I got nothing. The fact was she wasn't ready for a relationship with someone that much older than herself and being an unusually astute girl she realized this herself. She wormed her way out of the situation. She said she got caught up in someone liking her and quickly realized it was a mistake. She wasn't comfortable with a boy that old. She caught her own mistake.

Now report cards were not so beautiful last time around but not a disaster so I let it go.

We just had progress reports though and for the first time Ever Littlest grades are lower than her sisters.
I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because she made it through 9th grade without causing any trouble and decided to relax a little. Maybe she was hoping for a featured post on my blog. She says it's just hard and she's tired. Yet she refuses to go to Middlest's high school which take off substantial pressure.

All I said was "You need to get these grades up." And that's all I'm going to say.

Because I'm tired.

But I'm resting up for report cards.

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  1. Interesting. I'm dealing with this on a younger scale...the baby is six and, by virtue of his maturity and the fact that he has an older brother and sister, has been given freedoms and privileges that the older two did not get at his age. Nature of the beast, I suppose. I think you hit it on the head...while consistency is admirable, each child is an individual and needs to be treated as such. Keep walkin' the walk, mama...even though you're tired. :)

  2. 'You have been busted. Quit being a dumbass'.

    I love you. You're my hero.

  3. Learning that they are almost adults and nothing you say or do can FORCE them to changes is the hardest thing about late teens. Hang on - 25 seems to be a good year!

  4. i've always said the same of my parents... they were tired. and, i was a different breed than my older, rather goody-two-shoes siblings.

    i'm pretty convinced that nothing we do as parents will be viewed as "fair" until they have their own kids ;-)

    also, your christmas banner rocks.

  5. I was the oldest of three girls, and my parents followed the same course with us. Hard ass strict with me. Middle sister didn't push the limits too much, so the let up a teeny bit with her. Baby sister came when I was TWELVE (surprise!), so by the time she was in high school, she bossed my parents around. They were just too tired.

  6. It is TOUGH to find the exact balance as a parent for discipline, rules, and guidelines. It truly is individual, and even that changes over time.

    I have to say that a lot of what you said is very similar to how I did things.

  7. I was the youngest of four and my parents weren't just tired, they were drunk too! Lol.
    I think each child is different. Times advance and you do the best you can with the situation.
    But I sure liked being the youngest. :-)

  8. This post is just perfect for us. We are going through the rules here, one by one. What is difficult is that every single one of out 15 yr old son's friends has had a girlfriend for over 3 years now!

    We won't allow dating till he is 16, in 4 mos, but he's been caught sneaking around already.

    I know it's status to have a girlfriend, but like I told him, "dont' take any tumbleweed that blows your way just to say you have a girlfriend."

    Tough times, I can see that.

  9. Sue: You are right but do I have to keep walking? I just want to sit and put my feet up. Or sometimes I want to run Really Fast past the next 3 years!; )

    Bibliomama: Honestly, in this instance it was the only thing to say.

    GB's Mom: 25, God I can hardly wait!

    Elissa: I think the parents my sisters had were entirely different people than the ones I had..
    And really my husband and I are entirely different parents than the ones we thought we'd be because our kids are entirely different people than the kind we naively thought we'd be raising.

    Sweetest: My oldest siter was a teenager when I was born and I know she had it way tougher than me.

    blueviolet: It is a tightrope. But I think we learn that trick as we move along.

    Angelia: That probably shouldn't crack me up but it did, LOL! I loved being the youngest too : )

    Empress: It can be so hard to stick to your guns.
    In our case with the oldest totally disregarding our rules we had to be creative to prevent a repeat. I know when Mid chose her boyfriend I figured it would pass quickly but he's not much of a tumbleweed. He's more like a post. I'm gonna get in so much trouble for that ; )

  10. You've got to pick your battles, and you're a real life, fantastic Mama! (My mom wasn't able to enforce the dating of my age range ;). Poor mom).

    Love you, lady, hope you're doing well.


  11. Your rules work for me. My fourth kid gets away with so much, and I don't even hear the other kids griping about it anymore, because I just don't care...I'm too tired to care...I've been beaten down...
    So my theory: do whatever keeps you sane.
    Great post! Terrific actually!

  12. My daughter says we're strict. I say we're cautious. You're right, we do change rules depending on the child. They're all so different. Thank God!

  13. i love your brighter, festive look!

    and i think you are right; it's a combo of becoming more lenient and figuring out how to best parent each child.

  14. Peryl: My mom gave up on that one too. Back Atcha : )

    Sandra: Sanity fled ages ago! I just do whatever leaves me the least tired ; )

    Nicole: I am truly cautious with good reason and really they prove me right whenever they decide not to listen. I have to give them credit for admitting it too : )

    Liz: Yes, you're right. I really thought I had a formula that would work and I learned that lesson the hard way.

  15. Haha, that is so funny! I'm always breaking my own parenting rules too :)

  16. no dating out of your age range is a very good one.. my best friend just married a guy 15 years her senior, and now she isnt allowed to spend time with us without him getting upset because we show her 'a different way of life' aka, the life she should be living lol


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