We threw a birthday party for my four-year old at a local kids’ venue. When she decided she was done with her meal, she looked down her nose at the poor sweet teenage staff member and said, “Cake. NOW.”
My eldest has been challenging and debating with me constantly. Her instant response to anything I say is, “yeah, but Mom…” She just won’t let any topic drop without having the last word. I vacillate between proudly telling her she’ll make a great lawyer one day and yelling, “just stop arguing with me!”
They both seem to detest all of my suggestions, even when it’s something I am pretty sure they’re keen to do. For example, I kept trying to convince my eldest to sign up for ballet classes because she loves dancing. She said no. I kept trying to persuade her. She kept saying no. When I told her how much I loved my dance classes as a child and she finally responded, exasperated, “I am NOT your mini-me.”)
These moments of rebellion sometimes give me a twinge of pride and sometimes make me want to tear my hair out.
Where’s the balance?
How do I simultaneously teach my kids to be disciplined, respectful, listeners AND independent thinkers who challenge when they feel wronged?
- If I am always telling them they have to obey adults am I indoctrinating them to be passive followers of authority figures?
- If I always correct them to color within the lines, am I stifling their creativity and ability to think innovatively?
- If I say “because I said so” every time they ask why am I intimating they shouldn’t ask questions or be curious about the world?
- If I constantly harp about keeping their rooms and clothes clean, am I teaching them responsibility or teaching them to tune me out?
- If I push them to do a class or activity they’re not wild about am I stretching them and teaching them to try new things or am I making them miserable and resentful?
My mom was amazing and cool and fun, and encouraged us be independent thinkers. She was also a bit neurotic and freaked out if we had stains on our clothes. She made us scrub our socks until they were bleached white and our hands were raw and red. She never accepted less than As. An A- on my report card was not ok and a B was unacceptable. We couldn’t miss a day of school unless we were running 103-degree temp and vomiting excessively. We had to throw ourselves into being perfect and polite.
Like my mother, I want my kids to challenge themselves mentally and physically, and I want them to have courtesy and respect their elders. I’m glad my mom pushed me as much as she did, because it taught me to never give up even if things were really hard and I wasn’t very good at first.
But I also want my daughters to be rebel girls who challenge the status quo and define their own paths of awesomeness. If they draw designs with permanent ink on their pants or have paint splatters on their shirts and dresses, I’m not going to let myself freak out. I can call that part of their “artist wardrobe.” If they argue with me and refuse to give up a fight, maybe I should appreciate their perseverance.
I don’t know how to do this right. I guess it’s just going to be one of those things I won’t know until they’re adults and the damage is already done.
The teenage years are going to be interesting.