Tag Archives: parenting

Lions Do Raise Lambs: Embracing Your Child’s Personality

Lions Do Raise Lambs

Years ago, I adopted a phrase that a friend’s mother used to say “Lions don’t raise lambs.” I thought it was a powerful statement to make and soon made it my parenting motto. That is until I decided to take a look at myself. Who was I kidding? The only lion I was like was the Cowardly Lion or Alex the Lion from the movie Madagascar. After all, I’m the one who had to sleep with the lights on after watching The Sixth Sense (it’s not even a horror film).
The more I thought about it, I realized that this statement reflected my relationship with my mother. My mom is one tough cookie who is sweet and loving at the same time. She’s the kind of lion that would hug you and warn you that you’re about to be mauled.
As a kid, my mom tried for years to mold me into, well.. her. I was a skinny tomboy who enjoyed doing everything she wished I wouldn’t do. I hated dresses, the color pink, dolls and anything remotely girly. I was also a quirky and wildly imaginative introvert. Yet, my mother prevailed. She was determined to make this square peg fit into a round hole. What she got instead was an octagon, the confused offspring of a circle.

I can understand how why mother felt the need to mold me into something else. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate my strengths and my interesting character, she feared that if she didn’t refine some of my rough edges, I would be a walking mess. Even though secretly she appreciated all my antics, she worried that I would be a wild card. As her only daughter, she wanted to ensure that she gave me the proper tools to become a woman of substance. She longed for me to be ladylike and proper. The one thing she didn’t consider is that I’m not like her. Although she wanted to create a clone of herself, my mom never made me feel that her love was conditional or that I was good enough. My moms loves fashion, makeup, gardening and baking. My mom is cardigan, skirt and heels and I’m Converse, jeans and a t-shirt. Funny thing is that my mom was never critical, she was just hopeful. For all her lioness efforts to not raise a lamb, she got an alpaca, which is much worse. Have you seen an alpaca?

It took years of power struggles for my mom to understand that I wasn’t going to change. While she admired my independence and self-reliance, she was annoyed by my non-compliance. Although some of her refining methods work, deep down I remained that quirky girl who rather hang out with the guys. I remember thinking as a young woman, “I hope I don’t have a daughter, because I would screw her up.” Pretty dramatic but it was how I felt.

Which leads me to why I abandoned the “lions don’t raise lambs” way of thinking. What would that have meant for my son? It wouldn’t have been fair to him to try to make him someone he is not. I’ll be honest that since I was raising a child of the opposite sex, it was easier to let it go. The truth is lions can raise lambs or whatever animal they choose to raise. The beauty of having a child who is different from you is that you can appreciate the world through his eyes. As parents, we are the strong force in the development of our children’s confidence and self-esteem. When we start to lean towards creating clones, we deprive our children of their self-discovery and self-awareness. Character building is about working with the child you have, not changing him to the child you want him to be. I knew that I wouldn’t want to do anything that would negatively influence my son’s perception of himself.

Whenever I was worried about whether I’m doing things in the best interest of my son, I would allow him to show me the way. Now that we have two sons, it’s interesting to see the difference in character and personalities. So this alpaca takes it all in stride and enjoys the journey of raising a badger and a eagle with her bear, which makes our home an interesting place.
If you’re ever in doubt if your parenting expectations are clouding your ability to see your child as whole and self-reliant, remember the words of Kahlil Gibran:
On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Repost from The Good Men Project

The World According to Little Kids

The World According to Little Kids

Walls look so much better when they are decorated with artwork. Markers and crayons work best.

The living room is so much better for running around and making noise than your own room. A couch makes a great trampoline.

Things that belong to parents are made to taken apart and explored.

Just feel the music and dance. Don’t worry about how you look.

I won’t play with that kid just because you’re  friends with his parents.

Stop asking “Why did you do that?” I don’t have an answer.

Some of us like to play quietly and some of us like to run wild, don’t judge.

Weekends are made for waking up at 6am.

It’s fun to flush stuff.

Parents are confusing. They tell you not to speak to strangers, then when you meet a stranger, they tell you to say hello.

Saying, “You look like Squidward from SpongeBob Squarepants is really a compliment.

No matter how many times I watch the same TV show, listen to the same song, read the same book or watch the same movie, I can never really get tired of it.

You can never have too many Thomas the Tank Engine trains, Hotwheels cars or Lego pieces.

I don’t like to hug or kiss certain family members. Ask me to do it again and I’ll embarrass you.

You are responsible for  the whereabouts of all my toys.

Even though I  have my own bed, I just have to sleep in my parents’ bed.

If parents laugh when I say bad words, I’ll just keep saying them.

I am never tired. Never.

I may hear you say, “Who wants ice cream?”, but I can’t hear when you say, “It’s bedtime.”

I may not know time, but I know when all my favorite tv shows are on and that it’s too soon to leave when I’m having fun.

Clothing should  always be optional.

Never tell me anything you don’t want me to repeat in public.

Farts are funny.

The dirtier, the noisier, the faster, stickier the better.

I am deceptively simple.

Why do I need to know how to tie my laces, when there are velcro straps on my shoes?

Scarves, gloves, hats, and sometimes jackets will get lost at school.

Five minutes is a long time to wait.

Sand and mud are fun.

When I’m on the move, don’t get in my way.

Don’t try to figure me out.

Why should bread have crust?

There’s alot of things to do in the bathroom.

Keys, credit cards, and cell phones like to play hide and seek.

A french fry is a vegetable.

One day I will climb that wall.

I am invincible.

 

FYI (if you’re teenage girl) A Response from a Mom of Boys

20120915_132929Dear Mrs. Hall,

My letter is in response to your post: FYI (if you’re a teenage girl).

Mrs. Hall, I congratulate you in doing a fine job in raising great men. It is always a pleasure to meet another mom who is leaving a legacy of compassionate, respectful and responsible men. I read your post and thought it was a well-written and thoughtful  letter to teen girls.  I appreciate how you approached the topic with love and candor.  Your letter was indeed a wake-up call to teen girls and their parents.

It’s unfortunate that so many people missed the points you were making because they were obsessing over your picture of your sons in swimsuits.

I wanted to share some thoughts with you( mom to mom) about how we can all help teen boys and girls to have self-respect, make better decisions, and use social media responsibly.

We were teens (not that long ago) and fortunately we did not have social media to capture some of our antics or poor decisions. I can speak for myself but I remember wearing short skirts to draw the attention of boys. I never went to the extreme but when my friends and I noticed what guys liked, we would make subtle changes to get attention.

As a mom of two boys, one a teenager, I want to believe that my sons will always make the right decisions. But let’s be honest, a teen brain isn’t fully developed and teens can make less than rational choices. Although, we are instilling in our sons  the importance of love,  integrity, honesty, and empathy, we are not living in a teen boy’s world. As much as our teen son shares with us, there’s still some information he keeps to himself.

There are many honorable, respectful young men out there but even they sometimes get caught up in doing less than honorable things. I’ve worked with teen boys and most have been honest enough to tell me that they have passed along to their friends private photos of teen girls..  They felt they were claiming their alpha male status and didn’t see the harm in sharing the picture.

We have to ask ourselves: Why do these teen girls feel the need to take half-naked pictures in sultry positions? Perhaps instead of putting the responsibility on girls, we have to talk with our sons about objectification of women. There is a culture standard of sexy that teens feel they have to live up to. When teen girls see themselves as  “parts of a body” instead of whole and complete, they justify the need to be an object of desire for teen boys. We need to teach our sons to see these girls as “whole” and not just body parts. Yes, easier said than done when dealing with teens and raging hormones.

We can not dismiss the fact that as a society we contribute to this objectification and our sons aren’t always innocent bystanders.    We need to explain to them why these girls are taking these pictures. Yes, it’s important to tell teen girls to be a “real beauty inside and out” but we also have to teach our sons to be gentlemen.

Have you asked your sons what they think about these pictures or do you take it upon yourself to voice your disapproval? I would hope that they would take it upon themselves to block these girls as oppose to you doing it for them.

Our kids are living in a different time and are exposed to the media’s continuous objectification and sexualization of teen boys and girls. We can’t just expect to block people or sites to protect them. We must have honest conversations with our sons about sex and porn. We have to bear the responsibility of what we’re teaching our sons and daughters about the opposite sex.

Let’s continue the good fight to raise men and women of character.

Walking in the Eye of the Storm With My Son

Storm

The best thing about a new year is that it’s like a reset button, you get to start anew.  I’m happy that I am not looking back at last year with resentment or anger. As the saying goes, “I can be bitter or I can be better”. I know I made mistakes, missed some steps and pretty much didn’t live up to my words.

I can’t help but reflect on how much I learned in in a year. It was a year of surprises, joy, pain, and grief.

The year was difficult for my oldest son and I felt helpless because I didn’t know how to help him. If you’ve ever had to deal with a child’s depression, then you know how many sleepless nights and restless days I had. I worried about him whenever he was not in my presence and I worried about what he might do if I wasn’t around. I wanted to save him but didn’t know how. On top of all of this, my husband had just returned from his third deployment and shortly after my father passed away. It didn’t make for a peaceful life or home.

Every time I prayed to God to relieve my son of his pain and relieve me of my worry, the problem intensified.  Therapy helped but there was still that nagging feeling that all was not well.  I finally learned that it wasn’t my stubbornness or resistance to let go of control that was the problem, it was my refusal to take the journey with my son. It was my fear of walking through his pain, my fear of facing his daily emotional anguish, my fear of seeing the world through his eyes. I was so afraid of my son’s pain that I wanted to move past it instead of live through it.

God didn’t let me off that easy. I had to take the journey with my son in order to understand his pain and to get him the help he needed. Fortunately, God took the journey with both of us and showed us the way.

I can’t say that I don’t worry about my son anymore or that the fear doesn’t creep up on me whenever I see him sad.

Although he’s much better now, I still check in to make sure he’s ok.  I have to take that journey with him as often as he needs me to.

I pray that God gives me the strength to make the right decisions, be more patient, and to trust my instincts. I’m sure I’ll fumble through 2013 too, but I’ll emerge a better and stronger mom as a result of it.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Mind Your Parenting Business

Frusturated

I can’t believe that in 2013 we still have silly online debates about parenting styles or lifestyles. It seems that some people will look for any reason to anonymously berate,  judge and criticize others for their life choices. Whether it’s single parents vs married parents, working moms vs stay at home moms, tiger moms vs helicopter moms, breastfeeding moms vs non breastfeeding moms, and any other group I’ve forgotten, people are vehemently accusing others of being bad parents.

Why do you care? Unless a parent is endangering the life of their child, their parenting choices are their business. Parenting is a tough job without people criticizing you for doing what works best for your family. Some parents are struggling to make ends meet, find good schools for their children while maintaining their sanity. None of us is perfect and we’re not raising perfect people. We are shaping lives and if this is how parents are behaving, it’s no wonder why we have a bullying problem.

It’s gotten to the point where you read an article and don’t want to bother with the comments because people use it as their soapbox to tell others how they’re wrong. Shouldn’t our time be spent teaching our children how to become better citizens of the world instead of wasting time online being mean and judgmental?

 

4 Things To Do Instead of Yelling at Your Son

LoudYelling

I don’t like to yell.  I didn’t grow up in a household where my parents yelled, so when people are yelling around me it makes me uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I raise my voice when I’m angry or trying to get my point across but yelling just for the sake of yelling seems pointless to me. Yet, yelling works for some people.  However, the frustration of feeling ignored may lead you to start yelling to get your son to listen.  Here are a few tips to avoid yelling at your son and further conflicts.

1. Learn to Respond, Rather than React. Yelling at your son to get his attention, may actually result in a negative reaction. Instead, get your son’s attention, look at him in the eyes and say what you have to say. Constantly reacting to behavior contributes to misbehavior just to get attention. Kids crave attention whether it’s for positive or negative behavior.

2. Keep Your Anger in Check. Even though we hate to admit it, we sometimes have to won our problems. Your son may not know that you had a bad day at work. Give yourself a few minutes before responding. Ask yourself if the situation is important enough to address or to let go. If you need time to yourself, explain to your son that you are not in a good mood and that you will speak to him when you are feeling better. Be honest about how you are feeling to develop a level of trust with your son.

3. Give Clear Directions. After asking your son to pick up his clothes several times, they’re still on the floor. Younger boys may need help getting into the habit of doing a task on a regular basis. Make sure your son is capable of doing the task by himself. Your son may not admit that he did not understand instructions. When dealing with teens, use the word “I” instead of “You.” For example, say, “I notice that you did not pick up your shirt,” as opposed to, “You keep leaving your shirt on the floor.” Starting a sentence with “You” takes on a accusatory tone and can lead to defensiveness.

4. Take Care of Yourself If you are addressing your son when you are tired or hungry, then your needs aren’t being met, which is contributing to your frustration. Unless a situation needs immediate attention, tend to your needs before addressing your son.

 

How to Stop Your Son From Being a Bullying Bystander

bully

Whenever my teen complains about a situation, I ask him “What are you doing to change it?” It always makes him think about how his actions or lack of action impacts those around him. This is especially true when it comes to bullying.

We can’t turn  a blind eye to bullying because it affects us all. You can’t turn on the news without hearing either about a bullying incident or about a child who has taken his or her life as a result of constant bullying.

Bullying is not new to us as adults, but the forms and tactics kids are using to bully others is foreign to us. We try hard to understand what it is like to be a kid  today and it scares us. We don’t think about how bullying affects a child until it is our child.

I talk to my son constantly about his duty as a human being to speak up and speak out when he sees injustice. It’s very easy to stand back and watch as another child is humiliated, ridiculed and beaten down physically, emotionally and mentally. However, if we don’t teach our kids to intervene and speak up  for the bullying victim, we’ll be raising a generation of wimps.

Recently, a boy was bullied on the bus and instead of helping him, the other kids recorded the incident on their phones. What will become of the next generation, if they aren’t empowered enough to help another person? It saddens me to think that our children are lacking compassion and empathy.

It’s time for us as parents to address the real problem of bullying: Bystanders who look away or stay quiet. Is this what we want for our children? If not, we need to help them to make the right decision and tell them that they must “be the change they want to see in the world.”

We have to change their mindset and get them to realize that speaking up is not snitching. We have to earn their trust and confidence to confide in us about bullying situations online and at school. We have to remind them that they are either part of the problem or  part of the solution.

What are you telling your son about bullying?

 

Image Courtesy of Flickr

What Kind of Parent Do You Want to Be?

4233374822_df07a1ebb4

"There is no such thing as a perfect parent so just be a real one."- Sue Atkins

I often wondered what would happen if the real families were like sitcom families. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could resolve conflicts and discipline issues in 30 minutes or less? Unfortunately, the real world doesn't give us a laugh track or writers to ease the challenges of parenting.

Once we are initiated into parenting, we are left to our own defenses.  We seek parenting advice from books, experts, family and friends and often get unsolicited advice from strangers. After years of muddling through and having snippets of success, we realize we're as clueless during the teen years as we were during the toddler years.

Very few of us will admit our parenting mistakes or that sometimes we don't know what we're doing. We want to give the impression that we have it all under control, until our kids prove us wrong.

I didn't give much thought to my parenting style until I asked my son what he thought of me as a parent. The wonderful thing about asking kids for their opinion is that they'll always be brutally honest. The truth was difficult to hear, but it gave me the opportunity to see myself through my son's eyes.

It helped me to realize that my parenting wasn't as fluid as I thought. If your parenting style is rigid and unchanging, you're in for a rude awakening. Your role changes along with your child's developmental stages. You go from guiding to delegating to collaborating. It's easy to think about what kind of parent you want to be but much harder to live up to the goal.

What kind of parent are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Source: Flickr

11 Things I Want My Sons to Know Before They Become Fathers

034

I have a funny pin on Pinterest that pretty much sums up my responsibility as a mom of boys.  I think sometimes we get so caught up in raising our sons, that we forget that these boys and young men will one day be husbands and fathers.

We forget that each moment we share with our sons are teachable moments. We forget that we’re not just raising children, we’re leaving a legacy. I want my sons to learn from my accomplishments as well as my failures and challenges. I want them to understand that parenting is not a chore but a responsibility.

1. Love=Action

I want my sons to know that although gifts and words are nice, nothing spells love like spending quality time with your children. Don’t try to buy your children’s love by lavishing them with gifts. Your children are not a burden.  The time you spend making money for your family can never replace the time you spend with your family.

2. Don’t Be an Enigma to Your Children

Take the time to talk to your children about yourself and your life. Don’t keep them guessing who you are. They shouldn’t find out things about you after you’re gone. Let them get to know you. Tell them your story so they can share it with their children.

3. Share What You Know

Your children will learn more from your mistakes than from your success. Give them insight into what you’ve learned. Share your skills, experiences and your talents.

4. Keep Your Children Out of Adult Conflicts

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t put your children in the middle of your conflicts. Even if someone else is doing it, be the bigger person. Don’t force your children to choose sides.

5. Be a Husband and a Father, Not a Baby Daddy

Things happen but I hope that you’ve been paying attention enough to know to protect yourself.  Make sure you know who you’re getting involved with before you make a commitment to a relationship or parenting. Make sure your relationship is healthy and balanced. You want to bring your children into a home filled with love and peace.

6. Change Your Vocabulary From “Me, Mine, My” to “We, Us, and Our”

Once you become a parent, you relinquish your right to be selfish. You can not expect life to go on as normal. You can not expect others to pick up your slack. You have to compromise and make sacrifices.

7. Have Realistic Expectations of Your Children

Your son or daughter doesn’t have to like or enjoy the things you do. Your children are not miniature copies of you. Don’t try to live vicariously through them. Support their dreams.

8. Parenthood is Not About Perfection, But About Trial and Error

You’ll never really get it right. No book, expert advice can help you as much as being active and being involved in the lives of your children.  You’ll make mistakes. Your children will challenge you. You’ll have power struggles and disappointments.

9. Your Children Will Learn More From Watching You Than Listening to You

Practice what you preach, otherwise your children will think you’re a hypocrite. They’ll watch everything you do and how you treat others.

10. Listen More Than You Speak

Your children need you to listen to them and respect their thoughts and opinions. Your children need to know you’re paying attention to them. What your children have to say is just as important as what you have to say.

11. Don’t Let Society Define Your Role as a Father

Society and the media will present to you how you should think or behave as a father. Do what is best for your family.

I do my best each day to walk the walk as a parent. I know that my sons need me to guide them and give them the tools they need to become great fathers.

What do you want your son to know before he becomes a father?

 


Simple is the New Complicated

My mother made raising a son seem effortless. I’m sure other moms of that era can attest to the challenges of raising a black boy in New York City during the 70s and 80s.  My mother made sure my brother had a strong foundation in order to avoid peer pressure, drugs and violence.

She stressed the importance of love, self-respect, self-control, faith, integrity, and education. There was never a doubt in my brother’s mind that he would be successful.  My mother laid the groundwork at an early age and because of her love and support, my brother is quite successful.

My mom never made it seem that it was hard to raise my brother. Giving up was not an option. Failure was a learning lesson. There were always second chances. My mother prayed, listened, directed, supported and waited.

Now that I’m a mother, I realize that I took parenting for granted. What I thought was simple is very much complicated. Children don’t always follow the rules. Respect is not one way. Your child may disappoint you. You don’t always have the answers.

Yes, parenting is not as simple as it looks. So to all those who offer unsolicited advice, take note. Unless you live in the home with our children, you are in no position to judge or comment about our parenting skills. If you think parenting is so easy, we’ll gladly let you raise our children for one year. Your only options are teen or toddler years. Good luck!

What did you think was easy before you became a parent?