Parents Need Principles
You would think that after 11 children, and the youngest now being 16, I'd know something about how to parent.
I do, actually, know some things. I have learned a lot. What I have learned, though, is that effective parenting must be done by principle.
What I know for sure is that there is no manual for parenting. I don't have any rules, or advice, for anyone. What I know is that I have 11 children, and I can say without a doubt that each child is totally different. What I thought I knew after one child was obviously not what I needed to know for the second child. By the time I got to the 11th child, it was glaringly apparent. There are no hard and fast rules that work -- at all -- period. Some things work with one child, and maybe even with two or three children. But there will come a time when you think: Oh -- this is THE answer -------- and it won't work at all in the next situation.
The only thing that does work - and work consistently -
is when I remember to think about the "principles" that apply to parenting.
Principles help us see clearly.
Principles help us gain new perspective.
Principles help us focus on what is really important.
A principle is, by definition, something that can be used as a guide, something that is a standard of code, conduct, behavior, or belief, that can help one as they decide what to do.
Principles will not tell me what to do. They are the "code," or "standard" that I will use to base my actions and decisions in this situation on. We need to understand principles so that we can understand what it is we are trying to achieve, underneath all the confusion of circumstance.
Parents need principles.
Children need to know that parenting decisions are based on principles.
Parenting decisions can seem arbitrary. At first in my parenting journey, I thought I could come up with rational reasons for the "why" questions.
WHY is bedtime at 8 p.m. and not 9 p.m.?
WHY can't I go to Sydnee's house after school today? (I could yesterday.)
WHY do I have to practice the oboe (flute, piano, trombone, multiplication tables....)?
I won't do it, and you can't make me. (Can you? Are there principles for this?)
Everyone else is going to be there - are you really going to make me be a loner?
So I'd try very hard to think about my decisions, and to be sure that I had reasons for them. But that was exhausting - absolutely exhausting. Sometimes I didn't have a good reason. Was my child really going to listen to my reason -- which was, "Right now I am too tired to think, and I just want to be in control." No, that wasn't going to work very well...............
And then I'd feel worried, and think I was inadequate, and not cut out to be a parent at all.
You have to go to bed at 8 because you need sleep.
You can't go to Sydnee's house because you have to get your homework done.
You have to practice because...............it's good for you?
I will make you do it, because I know it's good for you............?
I don't want you to be a loner - but I know going there is not good for you.................?
Then I'd KNOW I wasn't cut out to be a good parent.
It can be different. Use principles.
We need principles.
One of those principles is that everyone in the family plays a different role in the family dynamic. There are parents, and parents have certain responsibilities and jobs. There are children, and they have specific pieces in this relationship too. Both are important, but both are not the same. Therefore, the parents have the role of defining boundaries based on principles and standards that are carefully chosen and thoughtfully used. Roles are important.
Principles keep ALL of us safe. Principles are points of connection that keep us connected to a path, a goal, and are the guides we use to choose how we proceed.
The purpose of this blog is to show how principles work in various situations. That's why you can trust principles. It's not advice to state a truth, a guiding statement that can help us think things through just a little differently. The beauty of principles is that it allows you to take into account YOUR situation, YOUR experience, YOUR feelings, YOUR thoughts, YOUR viewpoint -- and then consider how principled guidelines apply.
You are the parent of your child. You are the one entitled to make decisions, and to choose direction. You are the one to stand up, be strong, and be courageous. You are the one to be confident. You can be, if you are guided by principle.
Principles are what we lean on when we are not certain, but have that "gut feeling." Principles are what we lean on when we know that we can see long-term, and our children cannot. Principles are what we use when "all the other parents" are doing it the "other way." Principles are what we use when we have absolutely no idea what the best course of action is. We just proceed, with principle, and we'll figure it out eventually.
Principles work. They build confidence. They are true. I invite you to learn about parenting -- but not learn about "how to parent" -- learn "how to identify and establish principles" in your home. A principle is not only true for me - it will be true for you too. We can all learn principles, and apply them in our own circumstance. What we DO may look a little different, but if we look closely, we'll see how principles keep us on the path of courageous, vital, healthy parenting and family relationships.
I invite you to take a class. I teach classes on parenting, emotions, and communication. They're all related subjects. We have to communicate in order to be an effective parent, and any parent knows that emotions matter to the quality of life in our home. Go here for info.
I am a certified mentor for Teaching Self Government, the method designed and taught by Nicholeen Peck. She's an absolutely brilliant woman who has four children of her own, and has done foster care for troubled teenagers for many years. She has been able to distill concepts that are principle-based into a system that she calls "Teaching Self Government."
When you think about it, we really want our children to become self-governing. That's the goal. Nicholeen's "TSG" method is absolutely phenomenal in its ability to distill parenting into simple principles that really do work to create harmony in the home. I have used TSG in our home for so many years, and love helping families find the peace that these principles bring. It has made all the difference.
Sign up for our free newsletter about parenting principles here.