By Jason Menard
It’s a fact of life. Chances are that the larger your family gets, the smaller your circle of friends will be – and differing views and tolerances on child-rearing is often the catalyst for change.
Some mothers do have ‘em. It’s not just the title of a British television comedy – it’s a simple fact of life. There’s a reason why couples with children tend to lose friends over a period of time – friends can last through thick or thin, but differences in how you raise your kids can be the straw that permanently breaks the camel’s back.
There’s no way to determine how people are going to react to becoming parents. There’s no indication that you can gather during your youth or the formative years of the friendship that can give you any sort of inkling as to what their parental style will be and, more importantly, how that will mesh or clash with your own views when you both have children.
The biggest problem is that everyone thinks their way is the right way. And this intransigence can drive a wedge between the longest-standing of friends.
In any relationship, when forced to choose between your kids and your friends, your offspring will win each and every time. It’s a foregone conclusion. The best intended criticisms and suggestions will never be met with understanding when it comes to raising our children. So it’s almost better not to say anything except for the resentment that carries. Eventually that simmering pot will boil over and what happens is that the list of excuses as to why you can’t drop by gets increases, while the level of enjoyment of this shared time decreases.
Everybody has different standards for discipline and child-rearing expectations, and when those don’t mesh with your own, it creates an environment that’s intolerable. My wife and I know are strict with our children. We have high expectations for them and their behaviour, especially outside of our own walls.
Kids will be kids, but there’s a time and a place – and there are limits. We’ve set clearly defined limits for our children and we expect them to follow them – if they don’t there are consequences. We don’t hit our children, nor do we believe in corporal punishment, but we also aren’t afraid to express our displeasure with them when appropriate. We will raise our voice at times to indicate the gravity of a situation.
We’re not perfect and neither are our kids – nobody is. But we’re confident in taking our children out of the house. We know we can go to a store, visit friends and family, or enjoy a dinner out with the confidence that our kids will be well-behaved and respectful. We don’t expect them to be robots or sit poker straight and not talk – and we don’t ask of them anything we don’t expect of ourselves.
But that view isn’t shared by all of our friends – and this is the issue we couldn’t have anticipated. Whether it’s constant screaming, refusals to eat food, or rudeness and aggression, things that aren’t accepted in our household are tolerated in others. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some people we know who condemn other people’s children for being unruly, undisciplined, and unwieldy are blind to the fact that their own little hellions are running around behaving the same way.
So what is one to do? Disciplining other people’s children – try it once and see how well that works! The only way to deal with it is for the parents/friends to be on the same page when it comes to child-rearing, and that’s a compatibility test we often don’t get to take until it’s too late.
Are we wrong? Are we too strict? Is it too much to expect that saying no to a kid 10 times may result in some action (or at least some appreciation from the other parent as to respecting the rules of our house)? Are we wrong in believe that while kids should be allowed to be kids, running around like free-ranged chickens with no restrictions is a little counter-productive towards their long-term development and appreciation of a life with rules and regulations?
As our families grow our circle of friends get smaller. We have friends lamenting the loss of their single friends without realizing that if their obnoxious offspring are taxing on those who already have children and understand the trials and tribulations, why would someone without the first-hand experience of child-rearing want to subject themselves to this torture? The visits become infrequent, the phone calls are fewer and farther between, and, eventually, they stop outright.
The same goes for those friends with children. Raising a family is tiring enough and subjecting yourself to a visit marred by unruly children and indifferent parents is not high on your list of things-to-do. So you withdraw little by little, distancing yourself from what you know is going to be a negative experience. Eventually, time and distance proves too much and you can cross one more person off your Christmas card list.
There are some lines that just can’t be crossed. While friends and family are the keys to life, they’re not always compatible. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing that until it’s too late.
2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved