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A Month Discussing Parenting: The Results

Thursday, September 29, 2011

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A Month Discussing Parenting: The Results | Faith Permeating Life

You may remember that Mike and I have been spending this month discussing parenting ideas. Every other day, I would send him an idea, my thoughts on it (why I thought we should do it or pros and cons), and a link or two to an article or a blog post of other parents' experiences with it. Then the following day we would discuss it.

The discussions went well, for the most part. Mike even said he's interested in continuing these kinds of discussions after the month ends. In some cases he'd be in agreement, no question; other times he wanted to think or learn more about it and discuss it again in the future; in a few cases he had a knee-jerk reaction to what he thought was a stupid idea, and we either talked through it or I just said that was fine.

Here are some of the decisions we made:
  • As a general rule, we won't have food and drink in our cars, except water. This rule will be bent if we're going on a long road trip, so the kids understand it's a special occasion.
  • We want to use a baby carrier/sling/something of that sort rather than a stroller. However, since we both have physical limitations (I have back/neck problems, Mike has shoulder problems), this is going to be more of a try-and-see idea.
  • We don't plan to keep pop (soda) in the house, but we won't forbid our kids from drinking it.
  • We won't ever force our kids to eat what we make for dinner. However, if they want to eat something different, they need to make it themselves (once they're at an age where they're able to do so). We plan to involve them in food prep as young as possible, even if ineffectively, so they learn and are comfortable in the kitchen.
  • If something really troublesome happens, like one of our belongings getting stolen by one of our kids, we don't want to place a lot of emphasis on finding out who did it and assigning blame. Our main goal will be to sit down with our kids and talk why what happened was bad and how it makes us feel. We want to focus on the literal and emotional consequences of their actions over the "punishment" consequences.
  • We don't plan to give our kids an allowance. Our kids will have regular chores they're expected to do as a member of the family, just like us; however, they can earn extra money by doing things beyond their regular chores.
  • Our kids will get three presents each for Christmas (with a fourth from Santa). Up to a certain age, they'll get one present for each year old they are.

If any of these are familiar to you, either as the parent or the child, please share your experiences in comments! It's always possible we will change our minds as we learn more or as we see what works with our kids.


  1. Wow, you guys are totally superplanners! :) (Please don't take this as a negative, I can be like that too, with certain things)

    It's like my coworker, who was married 2 days (delayed honeymoon) and asked me if I knew anything about Montessori schools! I said "Whoa, you're way ahead of the game!" She told me "I like to research things ahead of time, especially things I can't do yet." Meaning: even if she were pregnant now, a child doesn't go to school until they are almost 3, so she'd have it done ahead of time.

    Personally, I think it's great to talk about these types of things, but we're more organic about it, like after we see a misbehaving child in a restaurant, we'll talk about what we would do/wouldn't do. Honestly, I think C might wonder if I was OK if I told him that for a month I wanted to have serious parenting talks. But everyone is different. A lot of "planning ahead" topics frighten him, but that's because with his life experiences he's had plans and then tragic things have happened to him that threw everything off track. Also, me bringing up certain topics makes him feel like I'm rushing him [that could be HOW I approach him! :)]. And we've seen first-hand, that you can't always plan out everything especially with kids.

    But I do have to say that when I see people planning like this, or doing other "smart" things that we don't do, I feel like I might be doing something wrong. You've talked about this feeling before, I think in posts about not kissing or having sex before marriage...how other people react/feel when someone does something different. I need to remember that doing things differently isn't always wrong! :) Uh, unless it's unsafe or illegal, haha.

    I say that, and then I remember that I was talking to him about something (don't remember if it was breastfeeding or cloth diapering, it was something to do with infants) and in the past he made weird comments about the topic. But for whatever reason, when I mentioned it that time, he TOTALLY had a different opinion. That made me feel so much better.

    Do you guys talk about this stuff now so that when the time comes, you aren't scrambling to figure out what to do? Especially with the gift giving? While I'm sure some might look at this topic of discussing things far in advance as odd, it CAN be good. Obviously you and Mike were raised in different households with different ideas about gift giving. Why wait until your baby's first Christmas to find out that his family went all out and into crazy debt with gifts while yours was more subdued? That right there could be a huge argument starter--"you must not want our kids to have a great Christmas!" or "OMG we're going to be paying off these bills until NEXT Christmas!"

  2. @Rabbit
    I wrote a little bit at the beginning of the month about why I wanted to have these conversations. We do have a lot of informal conversations about raising children, but I had wanted to make it an intentional focus for a month of my Happiness Project, and Mike was game.

    I don't have any illusions that we're going to do everything exactly like we discuss. There will be a lot we'll adapt in the moment. But attempting to be on the same page at the beginning is a good idea, I think. And if we adopt kids who are a little older, then 1) they can sometimes need a little more structure than most kids, so we'll have our house rules laid out, and 2) they're more at risk for something like Reactive Attachment Disorder where they might try to pit us against each other, so the more we can be in sync and be consistent, the better.

    I remember a teacher once talking about the process of finding out that your spouse has different expectations by giving the example of Christmas Eve, when your kid is in bed and one partner says, "OK, time to wrap the present from Santa!" and the other partner says, "What do you mean? Santa's presents aren't wrapped."

    I do think discussing things ahead of time, when you're not in the moment and nothing real is at stake, can be good preparation for dealing with situations when they become real.

  3. I think not forcing kids to eat a particular food, but saying that anything else they want they'll have to make themselves, is a good idea for older kids. But unless you adopt kids who are (a) big enough to reach most things in the kitchen and (b) experienced enough to cook and cut safely, you'll have a long season in which the kids cannot make food for themselves. Some people handle this by designating a section of the fridge and a section of a low cabinet for ready-to-eat foods the kids can have, which I think is fine in terms of discipline and family harmony, but it can lead to a lot of food waste when some of the foods go bad before the kids eat them.

    My mother mostly handled this issue by putting a variety of foods on the table, including at least one thing each kid reliably liked, and encouraging us to try some of everything. It worked pretty well.

    In my family now, we tend toward one-pot or two-pot meals and serving off the stove, to reduce dishwashing and also because Daniel and I like many types of mixed-together foods. But we are finding we can get Nicholas to eat more of what's for dinner and a greater variety of foods if we separate them more and serve him a little of each in separate portions on a plate, or in small bowls if they're saucy. For example, last night I cooked some frozen spinach ravioli, cooked some frozen vegetables (broccoli, green beans, yellow carrots, and red peppers together), heated up some homemade marinara sauce, and sauteed some mushrooms with garlic and herbs. Daniel threw all these things together in a bowl. I put mushrooms on my vegetables and sauce on my ravioli. I served Nicholas each thing separately except that the vegetables were mixed. He tried everything and decided he did not like the broccoli, green beans, peppers, or mushrooms, but he ate all the carrots and asked for more, and he dipped the ravioli in the sauce--but we know from past experience that he gets upset if you serve his sauce ON his ravioli.

    An issue you may want to discuss is whether you'll allow television while eating. We slid into allowing much more of this than we were really happy with; there were days when he was eating both breakfast and lunch in front of TV! Now we have a rule that there's no TV in the morning on school days (listening to a story CD while eating at the table is allowed) and Nicholas is typically choosing to have all of his daily TV time right after school, so he eats his afternoon snack in front of TV but is at the table for dinner. I am much happier with this, and his behavior has improved.

  4. @'Becca
    Excellent points, as always! I think serving several things separately is a good way to go; that's the way my mom always serves meals unless it's a pasta dish, but I've separated out certain ingredients before when we've served pasta to guests. Also, we have talked about adopting kids who are a few years old, so that may cut down on the window of time when they can't make something for themselves.

    We have talked about TV while eating before. Mike and I rarely watch TV--actually, we don't even own a TV because we have an HD projector that we can use for video games and to watch movies. On rare occasions we will eat dinner while watching a DVD (we're slowly going through the BBC's Planet Earth right now), but neither of us like the idea of having the TV on at dinner. The TV is pretty much constantly on at my parents' house, and we don't like that environment at all! We've discussed solutions such as only having a TV in the basement, so it's completely separate from the kitchen/dining room, but we probably won't end up doing that. So we don't have any concrete rules yet, but it's definitely come up for discussion several times.


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