Don't Try This At Home

Photo by Jürgen François/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Jürgen François/iStock / Getty Images

They were with me, everyone was laughing and agreeing and nodding their heads.  I was KILLING IT.  A jolly man in the back of the Free Intro (Parenting Class) I was leading,  raised his hand and said, "Yeah, this is all great and I get it, but it's IMPOSSIBLE to do when I'm at home alone with my three kids."

Who agrees with him?  Pretty much EVERYONE.   Let's see what gets in the way, where are our fatal errors when we try to establish a firm and friendly household?

1.  we do not feel Up to the job.  

All of this is easy when we are perfectly caffeinated, had a good night sleep, work is going well and our family of origin hasn't been up to any shenanigans.  We can expect to parent in these conditions EXACTLY 2.5 days per every 1000 days.  Waiting to feel up to the job before we do the job. . . ummm, people, ain't nobody up to this job.  It's by DOING the job that you get the experience, know how and creativity to do the job. You gotta  do the best you can do in your current state of caffeination, job stress and strong feelings about your sister.

2.  If we can't do it perfectly we take our toys and go home 

Day 1: We might try the jedi mind trick of respectfully putting our hand out while averting our eyes to retrieve an i phone from our six year old.  The heavens open, the device is handed over, we got this, this is easy, why didn't we try democratic parenting earlier?  Day 2:  We grab device from kid because they took too long for the jedi mind trick to work and we are in a rush, thank you very much, this democratic parenting stuff is crap.  Day 3: Nagging,  yelling and shaming to get device.  Day 4: Oh geez, just let him have it, ok?

3.  We get our feelings hurt

Our resolve evaporates when our kids respond to this new parenting paradigm with drama, tears, anger, frustration or eye rolling.  Fine, we try it, it's karate day and we get it that our job is to drive the car to karate class and it's the kids job to find and wear the karate pants.  We wait in the car, we are filled with both relief and anxiety as we catch a few minutes of Howard Stern before underage people join us, what might happen next?  Sometimes the child does not come out of the house.  Maybe they come out and lay on the front lawn shrieking because, why not?  Or perhaps they come out,  get in the car and yell at YOU that you are awful, you don't do their laundry, you are a terrible parent.  One of these things makes us snap, turn on our heels and go right back to what we were doing yesterday.

4.  There's a new sheriff in town syndrome

We are so energized by what we learn and we can't wait to have a lovely family that we go home with our holster full of new tools and try to change everything.  "There's a new sheriff in town folks and we will do chores, and contribute and I'll set fabulous limits, and you will love your new found laundry responsibility and we shall go forth and live with dignity, respect, democracy and family harmony will be ours!"  Hi.  Um. . . . . No.  Look around guys, democracy is messy, hard work and takes tons of patience, is filled with compromise and is never, never ending. Sigh.

5. We haven't really gotten IT

Sometimes we try democratic parenting and it doesn't work because we are still a totalitarian state, only we are friendlier.  Or we still let our kids upset be the litmus test to our parenting success, the kids are in charge of what we do because we are unsure.  We haven't totally let go of one side of the pool in order to be able to swim in the middle and try lots of new democratic and encouraging things.

"Jolly dad with the three kids, this stuff can in fact work at home with all your kids and only one adult.  It's possible.  It is not, however, quiet, easy, seamless, predictable or always fun.  Jolly dad, your jolliness, your questioning, your simply attending a parenting seminar tells me that you got what it takes.  It's a long road, it's an unclear path, you will get stuck in some unknown and scary territory.  AND, these tools of respect, dignity, cooperation, training kids to be capable, well, that should get you back on your path sooner then you think!"