One of the things that really helped me understand my role as a parent was when the kids would cross some boundaries. Quite often there have been boundaries, that I didn’t think we’re too hard to identify, that they have crossed. But kids are kids – and they will do that from time to time. Yes – I wish, at some level, that my kids were always well behaved – but that’s just not going to happen! And, quite frankly, it’s those times that they go too far that are some of the best opportunities to connect with them and teach them. Invariably, someone is going to talk back to me or to their mother, pinch their sibling at church, or tell their grandmother that her lasagna tastes disgusting. (Yes – all of these things have actually occurred) It’s just going to happen.
But at some point- relatively early on into parenthood, I realized that testing those boundaries is really their job! No kid – with their nascent and underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex is going to learn what is acceptable and what is not completely by instruction or vicariously. No, they really need to probe those boundaries and learn some lessons the hard way! I just hope that it is these smaller mistakes they use to learn – as opposed to just someday making a really big mistake that has irreversible consequences.
When I was in law school I participated in the criminal law clinic – where we represented the indigent of our community. I was happy to learn in this environment – because I knew there were limited, if any, consequences for me making a mistake – since everything I did was under the supervision of a practicing attorney. This was where I wanted to make my mistakes – because they would be caught and corrected. Much better to make mistakes there as opposed to when someone’s freedom is potentially on the line.
So I am okay with my kids testing the boundaries. I can better remain calm and un-emotional – because I now know and understand that it is my role as their father to make sure they find those boundaries!!!
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