In my neck of the woods, we parents of school-age kids have just suffered through enjoyed Spring Break. I’ve therefore been out in public more with my brood and had the opportunity to observe others who are similarly emerging from their winter hibernation with their offspring.
In doing so, I’ve noticed that there is a spectrum in terms of the input we offer our kids, and this spectrum could be compared to the earth’s layers – strata ranging from the foamy bubbles atop a pond way down to the boiling lava in our planet’s core…
On the top layer, we have what I’d call the ‘bubble parents’. These are the ones on the sidelines watching their kids budge ahead in the science centre queue, saying ineffectual things like, “Oh, Rosie – there was a lineup!” while taking no action whatsoever. The ones allowing their kids to hit them to get their attention without any instruction on how to do better. The ones whose kids’ demands dictate their every move. This is very much the lightweight approach to parenting; fluffy and fun with no firmness or gravity or depth. Discipline and guidance are pretty much non-existent and misbehaviour doesn’t seem to bother them. They don’t offer reminders for their kids to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or other thoughtful words. The classic line from these parents is, “Oh, boys will be boys!” as their boys are hitting and yelling, destroying property and disrupting the play of others. Their classic move is the shrug.
Way on the other end of the spectrum are the ‘lava parents’; these guys are the complete opposite to ‘bubble’ parents because for them everything matters, and it matters a lot. In fact, most of their kids’ behaviour seems intolerable to them. The classic reaction of these parents is to blow up and overreact; they dish out big consequences for even the most trivial of misdemeanors. The classic move is the eye-roll-exasperated-sigh combo (often with a complementary crossed-arm-fold thrown in for good measure).
These parental temperaments/behaviours are not the exception for true ‘bubble’ parents and their ‘lava’ counterparts; they are the norm. While you or I might occasionally exhibit something like a ‘bubble’ shrug or ignore some behaviour in order to ensure that we’re not ‘sweating the small stuff’, this is not considered, intentional behaviour for real bubble parents – it is their default, and it is often borne of ignorance about the necessity of teaching and modeling responsible behaviour and consideration for others. Similarly, lava parents default to the kind of angry outbursts you or I would be embarrassed about and remorseful over. They simmer with resentment and rage and behave as if their kids are devoid of charm or worth.
I’d say that most of us fall in layers somewhere in between these extremes. And I believe that there’s plenty of room for different parenting styles. Earthy parents, gritty parents, rocky parents (oh, to be so cool!), even flaky parents – we’re all different and we all have reasons for why we parent the way we do; some of those reasons (and the resulting actions) are good and some of them are bad. I yell too much – and I’d definitely be further along on the spectrum towards ‘lava’ parenting – but I will continue to take great pains to avoid allowing this kind of overreaction and anger to my boys’ behaviour to be my standard response*.
All I’m saying is, if we find that our parenting default setting has become I just couldn’t be bothered or everything my kids do bugs me, then perhaps some action is in order.
Maybe if our default is either foam or fury, we should do some digging – and find some middle ground.
*As I’ve admitted, I do yell too much. So I’ve been doing some digging… I have decided to take the Orange Rhino challenge and work towards a more peaceful approach. Recently, at a Mums’ group, I admitted that I’d never allow Westley to speak to me the way I sometimes speak to my kids; so the logical conclusion to that is that I should not be speaking to my kids in a way that isn’t equally respectful and honouring to them.
If you’re struggling with the same thing, why don’t you join me on the challenge, and we can keep one another accountable?
I’m starting with a ten day goal, to be extended as I get better at it!
Thanks for reading,