Raising kids is certainly no picnic. And maybe I'm not suppose to say this but raise your hand if you sometimes, definitely not all the time but once every blue moon, forget why you decided to have them! I already know it was because they are too darn cute as babies with those cheeks and the toothless, drooly grins and the laugh...oh the contagious baby laughs! But when they start walking, talking and having opinions....lawd give me strength! Complexities of parenting only increase especially when it is mixed with co-parenting. Parenting alone is a constant creative learning experience that does NOT come with a scripted manual for situations that are guaranteed to occur......so much of the unexpected usually leaving you asking yourself, "what the heck do I do now?" As a therapist, I work with families to assist in building family skills and honestly wonder if I am truly being any kind of help because every family operates off of their own customized set of dynamics of ingrained habits and behaviors. So the ultimate goal is to provide a way for the family to create an environment that offers consistent balance based on their specific dynamics while focusing on the needs of the child or children.
With that said, I am a part of a blended family with some interesting dynamics of its own. My husband has kids from his previous marriage, as well as I do. The "other set" of parents, as I affectionately refer to our exes, have different parenting styles. I state this because I have noticed we (me and the mister) have no hang-ups with laying down the law without worrying about whether or not the kids will "like" it. Yes, they are people too and yes, they have a voice and yes, they get to have it heard but no, not when it comes to cleaning up after making a mess, no, you certainly cannot stay up late on a school night to finish coloring and no, you are not going to a birthday party when we already have a family function to attend. Ultimately, no, I am not your friend, I am your parent.
Kids from blended families with different parenting styles may get mixed signals about rules and boundaries. At one home, they may have rules that are more stoic while at the other, they are not held accountable on the same level. In some cases, I recognize the parent who has secondary custody may feel guilty implementing too many rules or restrictions on the child because of the limited time the child is with them. They desire to make that time more pleasant. (pause for sweet, solemn smile) I understand that. Totally. But not at the expense of the child being unappreciative or disrespectful.
Personally, I love hanging out with my kids...all five. I love them to pieces and as the individuals that they are. They teach me to have fun, relax and just be a kid again. They remind me to let my hair down and that it's ok to be silly. I love that about being a mom and love taking them places to just enjoy experiences with them without worrying about responsibilities. At the same time, in real life, we have responsibilities and everything cannot be fun and games. Because we have girls (four, to be exact) let me add, shopping. Everything cannot be fun and games and shopping. We have to be responsible for our actions and work hard for the things we want and need. Otherwise, there will be consequences. In the case of our kids, complete your chores, do your homework, limited TV time, more study time, make good grades, and just be darn "good"! Not necessarily in that order either. This preps them for being responsible when they actually get out on their own in the real world. They learn, I may not like what I have to do, but I am going to do it anyway so I can reap the rewards. Isn't that what we do as adults? We do what we have to because we are supposed to, not necessarily because we want to. Then once we do what we have to or need to, we take vacations or go shopping to enjoy the perks of doing what we had to so we could get what we wanted. But if we give the kids what they want without teaching them how to earn it, what are they learning? Or giving them what they want in spite of them being rude or mean, how will they know there are consequences for their behaviors and actions? School can't teach them everything there is to know about life. So don't blame that system. That's why we are parents. We laid down and had these little people....now handle them!
Excuse me there. I digressed a bit. Let me get back to why I mentioned the blended family, other set of parents thing. With differing parenting styles, the kids tend to get mixed messages. They must know we are all (yes, all sets of parents, all six) are on the same wavelength. When my girls go to their dad's house, they should exhibit the same behaviors they display while at home during the week. When they come back home, nothing changes because they know and understand that mom and dad have the same basic rules. Of course they won't have to complete homework because they visit with dad over the weekend, but by same basic rules, I mean doing what you're told without "lip" or cleaning up after you make a mess while playing. This home training will keep consistency in their lives and enable them to function on a level without any discord. Speaking of discord, if there is any between the parents, the kids should NOT know. Work it out for the sake of the kids and for goodness sake, don't speak bad about one parent to the kid in efforts to make yourself seem better. That's just selfish. Why, you ask? It hurts the child more than anything and threatens to damage the relationship with either you or the other parent. Depends on the child. They will feel pressured to choose sides and that choice may not necessarily fall in your favor. But, all in all, don't add coals to the fire of a complex situation that's already simmering.
What prompted all of this was a conversation I just had with my own mother. I was talking to my mom tonight about various topics that included a situation involving my kids. She gave me some of the best advice that I thought I'd share. She told me to think about the best interest of the kids and explained how important it was to be a united front in this co-parenting thing. It is for them to understand that no matter what, you will respect your parents so that you can be a respectful person.