It is no secret that my 8 siblings and I grew up in an abusive household. My childhood is one of the reasons I never want to have children of my own. However, I still do put a lot of thought into what I would do if I did raise a family. I do watch families closely to see what is working and what isn’t. My career is one where I must interact with children on a daily basis.
Through these varied experiences, I’ve developed some points that I believe are non-negotiable. A lot of my insight is based on my childhood (being the 3rd oldest of 9) and the repercussions of the way we were raised that I continue to see affecting myself, my siblings and the relationships we have now as adults.
1. I will not allow my children to tell on one another. Nor will I ever reward tattle-tailing. This causes a rift between the siblings that will carry on to their adulthood. Ratting out one another encourages disloyalty and distrust. These are not building blocks to a strong, loyal and dependable relationship.
2. I will not discipline my children via text, email or any indirect methods. We live in an increasingly disconnected world. Of course, I’ll communicate with them via text, snapchat and whatever new app is the next big thing, but I will not allow my disciplining and any resulting discussions or arguments to take place anywhere but when we are face to face.
3. I will not focus on punishments, but instead I will focus on good intentions. Growing up, we lived in fear of being beat, of being told on and, more often than not, the good we did went unrewarded. Or if it was rewarded it was at the expense of putting down a sibling. We learn from our mistakes and I believe children should analyze their mistakes to find the lesson hidden within it. Turn the mistakes into learning moments and a point of progress instead of as another reason to punish.
4. I will not have the “I’m the parent, you’re the child” relationship. That only leads to mistrust and disconnect. I will be open. I will invite a level of understanding and I will always explain myself to my children. There is no place for “because I said so” or “because I’m your mom” in my family.
5. I will not shelter my children. I didn’t know the exact mechanisms of sex until I was 17 and a friend of mine from across the world was the one to break it down to me. I believe adults need to stop treating their children as though they’re better off not knowing what’s what until it’s too late to reach them. The first people a child should hear the realities of life from are their parents. Not their friends, not the TV and definitely not the Internet.
6. I will not put them down. I will not criticize my child for something they have no control over, such as their height or cognitive abilities. I will not obsess over what is wrong with them or how they should be. Instead, I will always try push them to be better versions of themselves, by (you guessed it!) always striving to be a better version of myself. When I says “versions” I am taking into account the abilities and capabilities of each child as an individual.
7. I will not force them to see things the way I see them. I will value their views even when they are different than my own. I want my children to grow up in a household where their individuality, opinions and beliefs are welcome. I grew up in a family that didn’t value any of these things and the result is a painful battle of esteem and confidence issues that I am still fighting. Obviously, I will be there to guide and mentor them, but it isn’t my job to force my views on them. I want my home to be an environment where my children feel free to communicate their thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment or disapproval.
8. Ownership will not exist in our home. This is not my house, this is our home. This is not my candy bar, it is ours to share. We never shared as siblings and had this extreme sense of owning what we had even if it was a Barbie doll or a small bag of chips. This mindset has no place in my life. Yes, we have responsibilities, but we also have each other to help and share with.
9. I will not beat my children. Don’t give me your shit about how physical punishment works. I was beat as a form of punishment for almost every mistake I made. It got to the point where I’d rather be beat than hear a lecture, because it was over faster. Just like the lecturing, the beating did nothing to make me feel bad for what I’d done. It made me more in contempt of my parents. And guess what, I was hurt most when I realized I’d disappointed my mother and she did nothing but make her disappointment known, than when I was lectured for an hour and beat.
10. I will not lecture my children. This kind of piggy backs off of #9. As a teacher, I’ve been told not to “lecture” because children don’t learn that way. They tap out pretty quickly. And I got so used to “tapping out”. I became such a pro at it that when I took an Arabic course in university, I struggled to “tap in” to the lectures because the man had a similar voice to my father and he would just talk and talk for the duration of the class. What does this have to do with that? As a teenager, I figured out how to deal with my father. I would let him rattle on about what I was doing wrong and would just nod from time to time. During his lecturing, my mind wandered on to better things, like what I was going to blog about, or what I was reading or a number of other nerd related things. Of all the things I did while he lectured, listening to him was something I did not do. I also realized that if I acted like I agreed with him I had less of a chance of being physically punished. This doesn’t mean I won’t have long discussions with my children. Of course, I would. But these will be discussions that foster communication and understanding. They will understand why they are being punished. They will understand why I’m disappointed. They will not be physically harmed or lectured at.
Many may disagree with my views, but I know that I lived through each and every one of the rules I’ve set for myself and they did not work for me or my sisters and brother. I’ve also watched my friends raise their children. I began to formulate my opinions and views through what I’ve experienced as well as what I’ve observed. I’m not sorry for my views and don’t tell me “You’ll change your mind when you have kids” if you even think that then I feel bad for your children.