That Thing Every Mom Should Know About Raising Children

That Thing Every Mom Should Know About Raising Children {& What I Wish Someone Told Me 20 Years Ago}

It was a few weeks before final exams, and one of my students was pushing back about how hard he thought the final would be. He looked at me with eyes filled with fear and said, “What about my 4.0?”

Freeze frame.

This could go two ways.

The normal me, the one I brought into parenting and brought into the classroom when I got my teaching job, would melt into a puddle of acquiescence. I would apologize for how hard I had made the exam. I would be thinking really fast about how I could change the test, in order to make this student happy.

But not this day.

On this day I brought something new with me to school –something untried and a little dangerous if you ask me. Something you have to have, moms:

A backbone.

“You’re just going to have to study hard, if you want to do well,” I told the student. (Would someone please present this woman a medal of valor?)

The Great Pushback

When I began parenting and then began teaching, I was completely unprepared for the way children and students would resist any work that was unpleasant or difficult.

I was blindsided by the quiet FORCE, which can be a two-year-old little boy who does not want to clean up his toys, thank you very much, or it can be a 16-year-old student who is bored and does not feel like studying vocabulary today.

“Do we have to make flashcards?”

“Do I have to empty the dishwasher right this second?”

Or a big sigh, with eye-roll, indicating the mother is evil for asking so much.

I think there should be a class for moms when a child turns 17-months-old, just before he begins what I am naming “The Great Push Back.” (Cue ominous music.)

We will call the class Resistance Training 101.

When a child turns 11, there will be a mandatory refresher course called Get a Backbone, Mom. Get a Backbone. Or maybe Stand Your Ground, Woman.

The class would require role play, where the mom would have to pass through a battery of scenarios, in which the child would give the most woeful look of misery, after being told to carry out a task. The mom would have to insist the child do the task anyway. If she were to cave in to “the look,” she would have to run three laps and do 20 burpees. Then she would have to enter the scenario again, from the beginning, until she got it right.

If you are a new mom, you cannot even imagine how that wee babe will one day push against your authority. You cannot even imagine it.

But let me tell you what I wish someone had told me 20 years ago: If you require your child to empty the dishwasher in the moment in which you have asked her to do it, she will not die.

She will be okay.

The look on her face and the stance of her body will communicate otherwise, but these expressions are nothing but smoke and mirrors. She will be fine. I promise. She won’t be happy, but unhappiness is not harmful.

Unhappiness is not harmful.

Unhappiness is not harmful.

Unhappiness is not harmful.

Part of backbone training is to define what we want for our children (and our students, if you’re a teacher.) We have to know the end goal and care about our kids enough to keep them on course toward maturity and responsibility, despite their objections.

One day  your child will thank you for teaching him good work ethic. He’ll thank you for it.

So stand firm.

~ Christy Fitzwater

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