“The truth is that parents are not really interested in justice. They just want quiet.”
— Bill Cosby
Through an unusual set of circumstances, my wife and I were awarded [although there are times it doesn’t feel like an award] temporary custody of two of our granddaughters. We went from empty-nesting to having a full nest of little ones needing more care than we were accustomed to. Before long, we found ourselves — and our relationship — under an old, familiar pressure: the pressure of parenthood.
Happily-ever-after is often challenged when children arrive on the scene. In fact, along with money and sex, it is one of the three greatest challenges we encounter in marriage. How we handle the challenges can bring joy and/or stress. The problem is often complicated because we tend to mold our parenting skills in favor of, or opposed to, the skills our parents used to raise us.
My parents were strong disciplinarians who believed in physical discipline if the circumstances called for it. And, with raising three boys, the circumstances frequently called for it. I rebelled against the physical aspect but much of my parents’ strictness rubbed off on me. I’m not making a judgment as to who was right or wrong. It’s just the way it was, and I believe we both did the best we could.
My wife was raised with a different set of parents and their ways differed from my parents’ ways. Again, I’m making no judgments as to wrong or right, but it’s easy to see that my wife and I base our parenting skills on our parents’ skills, and the granddaughters are now being raised under the influence of three generations of parents.
It should come as no surprise when conflicts arise between husband and wife. The challenge of two becoming one is multiplied when you add children to the equation.
Traps to Avoid
Children are smart and will learn quickly how to “work the system.” One key is to remember that the husband and wife should stand together. Here are some traps to avoid.
Blanket Yes: Because my parents said no most of the time, I had a tendency to say yes to my children’s needs, which is proper, but I also said yes to many of their wishes, which can quickly get out of hand.
Blanket No: Some children ask for a lot — and they ask often. Going through a store can challenge the parent when the child asks for everything on the shelf — in triplicate. Parents are often prone just to say a blanket no to every request. Moderation in all things is good advice. Knowing when to say yes or no is difficult, but working together as a team and presenting a united front will work wonders.
Divide and Conquer: Don’t let your kids get away with the old “divide and conquer” game. If mom says no, they may go to the father to ask for the same thing. If this occurs, an appropriate response is needed to let the child know it isn’t acceptable.
Wait ‘til Your Mother/Father Gets Home: This is an expression I heard a lot as a child. It meant I was in trouble and when my dad got home my mom would tell on me and Dad would punish me severely. There may be an occasional incident in which delaying discipline and passing it off would better serve the situation, but to do this regularly can turn the child against the designated disciplinarian. A more appropriate way to handle it would be something like, “When your mother/father gets home we’re going to discuss your behavior and then decide your discipline.” Waiting is often worse than the discipline.
Positive Things to Do
Always remember that parenting is temporary. One day the kids will be gone and it will be just the two of you again. You must maintain the marriage at all costs so that your empty nest years can be your most enjoyable years. That is, if you are able to keep the nest empty. Here are some ideas to help you along the way.
Communicate: By sharing your parenting ideas and where they came from, you can better understand why each of you reacts in certain situations the way you do. Understanding is a key step to change and compromise. When my wife explained her parents’ form of discipline, I liked it and was ready to adopt it as my own.
Support: Always have each other’s back, and when kids play games, as kids are prone to do, a united front assures the child(ren) they won’t get away with their behavior.
Discipline: Don’t be afraid of discipline, but be careful to tailor the punishment to the personality of the child. Different children often call for different forms of punishment. Discover the most loving way of being “mean.”
Most children stay with their parents for about twenty years. Remember that you want your marriage to last a lot longer than that. Remember the love you shared at the start and find ways to keep it alive throughout the parenting years, even if they last longer than you expected. And, once the kids have left the nest, rekindle any flames in danger of going out.
So your child is smart — maybe gifted – and maybe “quirky”
Gifted children are like dandelions. They put the yellow gold in yards that otherwise conform to the “rule” that “all lawns must be uniform green.”
They grow where they please, respecting neither geographic nor socio-economic boundaries.
Nor do they conform to the educational attainments of their parents. College professors and doctors have kids of average intelligence, and truck drivers, carpenters and waitresses have children whose first “words” are complete sentences, who teach themselves to read at age four, and who win chess games against adults at age seven.
They may be quirky. I know of a gifted lad who had a terrible time with his socks every morning. The socks had to be absolutely smooth against his feet and ankles, and they never quite got there. Each morning he would tug at his poor abused socks until eventually they stretched to almost twice their normal length. One day his parents even had to send him, age about four, to his Montessori school barefoot and carrying his shoes and socks in his hands.
In my years working with gifted students, I have come to divide them into two categories. The straight-line learners get to work on any academic task they are given and excel. The quirky kids insist on doing everything their own way — or not at all if they see no value to a piece of work.
Giftedness comes in many forms, intellectual being only one. Runner Usain Bolt, tennis player Rafael Nadal and basketball star LeBron James are all gifted athletes.
My brother-in-law, now retired from Caterpillar Tractor Company, was gifted with machinery and machine design, and profited Caterpillar way more, in the course of his career, than the money the company paid him.
Some gifted kids fit in with their peers, and some don’t. Often gifted young people are much more comfortable relating to adults than to the children their own age.
The norm when it comes to gifted children is that there is no norm. Each child is unique.
How do you handle that?
First, you make an act of faith that these special children want to make sense of the world they live in, and that, given a nurturing environment, a direction to move toward, a sense of ownership of their learning journey, and the time they require — E-DOT I call it — given those four essentials, they will be just fine.
And love, of course. Love and acceptance are absolutely necessary.
For information on giftedness, I would suggest that you check out the National Association for Gifted Children (www.nagc.org). If you are looking for books, a good place to start would be Dr. James T. Webb’s A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children.
John Overbeck is a writer with a background in journalism and freelance writing, and a teacher with a quarter century of experience. For seven years he taught at a K—12 school for the gifted, two of those years as a teaching principal. He consults with parents of gifted students when they seek greater understanding of, or additional options for, their children. He also mentors both gifted and struggling student writers. Mr Overbeck can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An invitation from Pastor Eastman
Any time you think that some one-on-one conversation might be useful in strengthening your marriage, contact me, Pastor Eastman, at OurChaplain.com / MarriageChaplain.com. We know many counselors and healers who provide great support to couples, and my job is to help you connect with someone who is a good fit to help you move forward in your loving and working relationships. Calling me is best because you will get a quicker response: 513 853 6180, but Pastor@OurChaplain.com or text 513 703 8196 will also work.