Let your children punish themselves – no, really

When it comes to parenting, there is no right or wrong answer. Most people are just taking it one day at a time, and when something comes up that they don’t know how to handle they usually have people they can turn to for advice. Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook looking for advice on a parenting issue; here is her post (with her permission and names changed to protect the innocent):

Parenting moment: I've been a broken record over the years about putting the Nerf guns away and not leaving them out in the yard to be rained, snowed or peed on. And, it's gotten a little better, but a pair of guns has been in the yard all week. I'm trying to be patient, let them make mistakes, but hate to see expensive toys neglected. So, I picked them up and told Voldemort and will tell Malfoy this afternoon that they are going to goodwill today. Voldemort is in full on meltdown! Trying really hard not to back down. Should I let him buy them back with his Xmas money? Here's the gut-wrencher: he's not totally upset on his behalf. He's upset because it's the favorite gun of our neighbor who likes to come over and play with the boys. Hmmmmm....

My responses:

If they get ruined, you may take the position of not buying more for them. If they want more they are free to use their money to buy them. Take yourself out of the argument and hand the problem back to them.

(she asked for more on this)

The point is to make it their issue, not yours. You tell them of the consequences ahead of time and can then be a support system when they jack it all up! They will most likely be pissed at themselves. You give them two choices – leave them out to rot or take them inside. The choice is theirs and it is no longer your problem.

Before you hear the rest of my thoughts, I will tell you that there were a plethora of competing viewpoints and parenting styles.  None were wrong, just different than mine.

Here are my thoughts on the issue:

We need to let our kids mess up and EXPECT it to happen.  When you expect these things to happen it lessens the anger response.  You just think to yourself, “Oh, ok, that’s the screw up I was expecting and I don’t need to get all worked up.”  These are learning / teaching moments that you actually want to happen. Children must learn that shit happens and that there are natural consequences when shit happens, especially when it is their fault. Do not rob your children of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to figure it out on their own. Quit inserting yourself in their teaching moments. Get out of their way and be happy that you don’t have to get pissed off at the situation; this is what you expected to happen! As my friend wisely said, “they aren’t trying to be assholes.”  

You have enough on your shoulders already, let them handle their own mistakes.  Please don’t be the punishment that they can bring on themselves.  This isn’t true for all mistakes, obviously, but for these smaller infractions, let them be the cause of their sorrow and you be the love and support.  The end result will likely be the same - no more nerf guns. The difference is that instead of the punisher, you can be the safe place they come to for comfort while they learn their lesson.   

If you need help dealing with parenting issues, I would love to talk to you! Reach out today

Adoption Isn't for Everyone, and That's OK!

One of best friends had a baby this week.  She’s beautiful and healthy and the whole family is overjoyed!  For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call them Jason and Julie.  I introduced Jason and Julie about ten years ago. To this day, they are my only successful set up, but, hey, I’ll take it!  They fell in love and got married on a beautiful beach.  They suit each other so well, they are a wonderful couple.  Jason was a little older and so they decided to try to have kids right away, but it didn’t work. Julie didn’t get pregnant, so they started the doctors visits to figure out what was going on.  I won’t get into the all the details, but if you know anyone who has dealt with infertility then you know the story.  So many visits to the doctor, so many procedures, and so much money.  They did eventually go down the IVF route.  After one miscarriage about a year ago, they were on to their last viable embryo.  And has the gods would have it, this one worked! She got pregnant, carried to term and just delivered an amazing little girl.


This whole process took place over the course of about six years.  And while they have a happy ending, their journey was not an easy one.  Over the course of those six years, I’ve had countless conversations with one or both of them about the process, journey etc.  I’ve been thinking back to a conversation we had about a year or two into this process.  Someone in the group asked Julie, “what about adopting?”, and her response threw me for a huge loop.  She instantly said “no way, I could never adopt.  I know that I would never love that child as much as I would love my own kid.”  I was, to be completely forthright, horrified.  I couldn’t believe that she said it and more so, I couldn’t believe that she felt that way.  My husband and I hadn’t started our own adoption process yet, so I didn’t feel personally attacked or insulted, I was just so completely floored at her response.  It bothered me for a really long time.  


A few weeks later, I was with another friend who had been present for that conversation.  I told her how upset it made me and how I just couldn’t believe that she could say something like that.  My friend said to me “Thank God she knows how she feels about it.”  “What do you mean?” I asked her back.  She told me that she was thankful that Julie knew how she felt about the situation.  She told me that many people may feel that way but don’t have the courage to say so out loud.  She helped me see that knowing how you feel about your own journey into parenthood is so important.  She asked me to imagine what it would be like if Jason and Julie had adopted a child, only then to figure out that she couldn’t love that child as much as she could her own.  What if that child only represented what Julie perceived as a failure to create her biological children?  I was immediately struck by how selfish and closed minded I had been to Julie and Jason.  I saw adoption as an amazing opportunity, they saw it as a sign of failure.  Neither of us is right or wrong.  Furthermore, Julie’s ability to be honest with herself about her feelings was so important to be sure that they did not take on a life that they could not commit to loving 110%.

This story has stayed with me and reminded me to honor everyone’s journey, whether they choose to have children or not! The best thing we can do is be honest about what we really want and have the courage to make that choice. If you are struggling with adoption, infertility or anything else having to do with being a parent and want to talk to someone who is going through it, please reach out to me. I would love to help you get through the emotions that come with parenthood.