Sunday, August 25, 2013

What You Owe Your Kids - Resolutions Parenting Session 1

Since we moved to Houston, we have been almost constantly surrounded by kids. For those who do not know, we have 16 nieces and nephews (12 boys and 4 girls), and all of them are from my husband's side. One day, we are hoping to be parents as well, and, looking into the future, we do not miss any opportunity to learn about parenting. I guess this way we are hoping to be proactive and prevent some of the potential problems that may arise later. Of course, we will not know what works for sure until we have a chance to experiment with our kids, and some things may work better than others. Every family and situation is different, but the basic principles that we learned from Curt Williams of Youth-Reach Houston last Saturday do sound good. 

http://www.resolutionsparenting.com/

During the first session of his Resolutions Parenting seminar, Curt shared  his list of The Five Things You Owe Your Kids:

1. Food
2. Clothing
3. Shelter
4. Access to medical care
5. Access to education

When he tried to understand why a lot of kids these days reign over their parents, disobey, and misbehave, he found out that part of the problem lies in all the blessings that kids take for granted. Internet, cell phones, and brand name clothes that most kids have are extras, not the basics, and they feel entitled to have all those things. He said that we all want the blessings of obedience without obeying, and parents often reward kids by giving them stuff when they disobey. So, Curt talked to a social worker to find out what minimal conditions parents are legally bound to provide to their children in order not to lose their parental rights. The result was a list of five things mentioned above. 

1. Food - we are talking about very basic food, like chicken breast and frozen veggies, and not about Gatorade, candy, pizza, and nuggets that kids prefer. 

2. Clothing - kids have to have two pairs of clothes, size and weather appropriate. Only TWO! Walmart brands will do. 

3. Shelter - a covered and screened structure, with hot and cold water and heat. Nothing said about A/C, personal rooms, or even beds. Curt suggested kicking out kids early on to teach them the rules of your family. When his young son did not want to brush his teeth and go to bed, Curt put him outside in the pouring rain for a little bit to teach him a lesson. When he opened the door to see his kid several minutes later and asked what he wanted, the boy said, "To brush my teeth." He learned that if he wanted to live in Daddy's home, he had to obey. 

4. Access to medical care - once again, very basic. Parents do not have to take their 16-year old daughters to plastic sergeants to increase their breast size. Apparently, that happens.

5. Access to education - public schools or home schooling are fine. Private schools and tutors go well above and beyond basics. Also, parents should let kids fail in school if they do not want to do their homework. Children learn from failures and not from success. 

Eye opening, isn't it? Of course, this is a minimal list that is meant to show parents that anything beyond the basics is a blessing. If you provide all the extras to your kids and they behave well and obey you, great! However, if they do not listen to you and do not appreciate all their blessings, it is time to change something. Here are some suggestions of things that are extras:
- Cell phones                                - Video games
- Internet                                     - Extracurricular activities
- Brand name clothing                - College
- iPods                                          - A car
- Stereos                                      - Social life 
- Computers                                 - Concerts
- Trips and outings                      - Pizza/soda

Curt Williams told us a real life story of a small Latin single mother and her huge 15-year old son who was abusing her. She absolutely could not control him and did not know what to do. The last drop was when he pushed her against the refrigerator. Poor woman, fearful for her life, called Curt and asked for his advice. He suggested warning the son first that if his behavior did not improve, he would see some changes in the home. Of course, this warning did nothing to change the boy. So, one day, when he returned from school, he found his room empty, with only a pillow and a blanket on the floor and two sets of clothes from Walmart in the closet. Boy, did he rage! He stormed out of his room, screaming, "Where is my stuff?!" Mother quietly replied that this was the change she had warned him about. Bad behavior - no stuff. The boy (probably, after watching too much TV) flipped his phone and tried to call the police on his terrible mother, but... his service was cut off. Infuriated, he ran to the land phone and called 911. The policeman came, and the three sat down on the couch. The boy told his story of an unfair mother who took away all HIS things. The mother explained her approach to try and tame her abusive son. The policeman leaned behind the boy's back and hi-fived the mother. Then, he took the boy outside and warned him that if he heard from him again, the boy would go to jail.

Do you think this calmed the guy down? Nope. Since he could not have his stuff, he decided to leave home. And he left. The boy went on to his friends, sleeping on the couch, but no mother would want to have an extra 15-year old mouth to feed. His mother called Curt Williams and told him how wonderful the house had been since her oldest left and asked what to expect next. Curt told her exactly what would happen: the boy would return and try to bargain. Four days after he left, the son came back home and said to his mother, "Fine, I will come back home, but only if you give me back all of my stuff." "You must be out of your mind!" exclaimed the Mom. "Why in the world would I want you back in my house? Since you left, the younger kids stopped fighting, and I no longer worry about money disappearing from my purse. If you want to come back, you will have to change." The boy returned and slept on the floor for several weeks. Then, he started helping his Mom around the house with the chores. After a while, he asked for his stereo back. "No," said the mother, but she returned his bed. Every time he would ask for something back, she would say no and return something else instead to show him that she was in control. Over time, he learned that if he wanted to live in his mother's house and enjoy all the blessings, he had to follow her rules. Fast forward several years: the boy is in college and absolutely cherishes his mother, treating her like a queen! 

This puts a tear into my eye. What a great story! Hopefully, we will never let our future kids run the show at our home, and it won't get too far that we would have to take radical measures. But I absolutely agree with the idea of teaching kids to appreciate what they have and not to feel entitled to things. Curt Williams also suggested taking your children along when you travel to other countries and show them how other kids are much less fortunate than the average Americans. If you cannot afford to travel, start volunteering at a local shelter and see the real life there. Teach this to your kids as soon as they start understanding the concepts of rules, obedience, and consequences to their actions. 

Giving things to children:
- Robs kids of ambition and initiative
- Removes from the parent the ability to reward
- Doesn't prepare kids for the ruthless nature of our society, where everything must be earned. 

Kids are told that they are unique and special, and they grow up feeling entitled to all the blessings of the world. Yet, reality is different. I am sure you know what I am talking about if you have ever looked for a job. There are many other people who you have to compete with to get the spot under the sun. By guarding children from all the troubles and failures they create weak people who grow up unable to make a change in the world. A wind blown tree is a tough, strong tree because the stronger the wind that blows on it, the deeper and stronger its roots grow. 

When we were growing up, we also did not have much. My sister and I lived with my mother at a communal apartment in Kazakhstan and were struggling. Our grandmother helped, and that was a blessing. My mother worked at a government job as a fire fighting unit dispatcher, and she was often paid her salary in... food or clothes instead of money. I remember when she was given 300 cans of pork, which is similar to American Spam. We had to eat it every day, because there was nothing else to eat otherwise. My Mom would sew us clothes, and we hated it because we just wanted to fit in and wear store-bought outfits. Now, I love when Mom sews us something because it is unique! Very interesting how perspective changes as you get older. We were never really given things, and from a young age my mother told me I had to study well if I wanted to go to college.  The only way I would continue my education was getting a scholarship. We learned to work for our blessings. There was no other way to get things we wanted. That is why I studied hard and got a full-ride scholarship at a private American university. Now I see that our poor childhood was Lord's blessing in disguise. I know that our children will be far more blessed, so it will be upon our shoulders to teach them to be great, God-loving people who do not take things for granted. We cannot wait to be parents!

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