When my children were really young, I followed parenting method “learn by your mistakes.” I would give a warning that the stove was hot, or you could slam your finger in the door if you keep playing with it, or that the VHS machine will break if you shove your grilled cheese inside it, but children are curious creatures. The lesson didn’t penetrate until there was a burned hand or a smushed finger or an afternoon without Thomas the Tank Engine videos. After a few lessons learned, my kids would actually consider my warnings and sometimes heed them without question. I want my children to be curious, I want them to explore and investigate and experiment, up until about age 13. That’s the age of my oldest kid of course. At this age, there’s only so many warnings you can give before they actually have the opposite effect. You know the warnings about drinking, smoking, drugging, huffing, whip-its, cutting, naked selfies, kissing, petting, and the list goes on and on. The more they hear “no” however, the more eager they are going to be to explore what you really are warning them about. This is because 13 in general is the age of questioning and challenging authority and that includes parents, and apparently teachers, tutors, pediatricians, dentists, even the mailman who didn’t bring the Game Informer magazine yesterday. Basically they will question anyone who knows more than they do, but it’s not out of disrespect, it’s about finding their own way and being scared shitless on that journey. One of the hardest jobs as a parent is giving your children the space to do just that, mothering without smothering. My son asked if he could go to the movies with his friend after school. He quickly added that a friend who happens to be a girl would be joining them, oh and so would his friends girlfriend. This is how he informs me that he has a “girlfriend.” I had a couple choices here, I could just say no. I could tell him he is too young to have a girlfriend. I could reach out to the other parent and make sure they are on the same page. After conferring with my ex, and the other parent (without really spilling the girlfriend beans), we decided to let him go to the movies with a group of friends. I also explained that he can certainly have a girl who is special to him but that he’s too young for a girlfriend, then I reminded him of a girl who he was really close with and as soon as they identified themselves as a couple, the friendship dissipated and they barely speak anymore. (Sounds almost like marriage, hmmmm.) So he’ll be at the movies today, sitting next to a lovely young lady who will probably hold his hand and share his popcorn, because you’re not supposed to listen to everything your parents say!
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