Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How Not to Raise Total A$$holes

Being the mom of 4 boys is not without its challenges. Understatement of the century! Every parent says they wish they had a handbook for these male beings that possess our hearts, yet test our patience daily. How in the world will we make it through childhood and teen years without raising a serial killer? Wait....you never asked yourself that question? 

Well then, maybe you need to be writing this blog.

With my eldest now almost 20 (gulp), I look back and see some things that I did right and I can pat myself on the back. But there are things that I slacked on or downright missed. Thankfully he is a great kid, but who’s to say his brothers aren’t growing up to be complete a$$holes. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Below are things I have done, things I am trying to do, things I’m meaning to do and things I wish I did while bringing up 4 boys. I, by no means, am an expert in parenting, but these, I feel, are important to ensure you aren’t raising an a$$hole. Some are pretty obvious and some may take you by surprise.
  1. Teach them manners. There is a lot to be said for not just for saying “please” but also in my house, “ma’am” and “sir”. It was how I was raised and how I expect my kids to respond. I have to admit it makes me feel old when I hear another kid refer to me as “ma’am”. I have a moment of turning around looking for an old lady, followed immediately by “What a nice boy”. If my kid offends you by responding to you with “yes ma’am”, blame me. Kids should at least know the basics of "please, thank you, and excuse me" even if "ma'am and sir" aren't your parenting cup-o-tea.
  2. Teach them to look up when someone is talking to them. Be engaged. My 3 younger boys struggle with this ALL THE TIME. Whether it’s a boy trait, an inherited response (I was a very shy kid), and/or social anxiety of some sort, it’s something we continue to work on. Realize this starts with you, the parent. When they speak to you, be engaged. Show them the same respect you ask of them.
  3. Explain to them when receiving a compliment, to always say “thank you”. If someone goes out of their way to praise my son, he needs to acknowledge their words in appreciation with a simple “thank you”. I've seen my kids turn away in embarrassment/shyness/stupidity when receiving a compliment. Then I realized I had dropped the ball on something very simple in explaining the importance of acknowledgement and appreciation. Recently my youngest son has smartassedly started saying “I know” when someone compliments him. At this point I want to throw in the towel as a parent and crawl in a hole but instead we are now working on #4.
  4. Teach them not to be cocky. To my boys; you aren’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. Granted, I think you’re awesome, but it’s because I have to. Others may not think you’re all that and a bag of chips. Like most parents, I am proud of my boys. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t lazy, sloppy, moody, pains in the neck too. You wanna be cocky? Scrub your toilet, take the dog out in 9 degree weather every morning, empty the dishwasher & refill it, vacuum the basement, iron your clothes (all without being asked), make 100’s on everything, volunteer every hour you’d rather be playing Xbox, save all your birthday money to buy your first car, and use your manners 100% of the time. THEN you can puff out your chest, mister. In the meantime, it’s my job as your mom to bring you back to reality.
  5. Help build their confidence. (not to be confused with #4) It’s hard as a parent to instill self-confidence in your son, especially as a mom because, remember, they go through the “Mom doesn’t know anything” phase. Encourage your kids daily even if you think they aren't listening. They are. Help them set realistic goals that they can achieve. Praise them when they do something well, yet give encouragement when they fail. Help them to focus on their strengths. Even work on the siblings to help out in this department, too. I've found my eldest son's encouragement and praise goes a long way with his younger brothers. 
  6. Laugh at yourself and show them it’s ok to laugh at themselves as well. A sense of humor is essential in life. (Except in church. Church sermons = not good timing) One way to break the ice is to play fun family board games. Any time life is getting the best of us, we break out a game of HedBanz or Taboo.  
  7. Make sure they take pride in their appearance. Shower daily, keep hair trimmed within reason, shave when it’s age appropriate, take pride in clothes (match), take care of your teeth, and for the love of god, dousing oneself in Axe body spray is not a substitute for deodorant.  However, watch the sticky line of vanity. Be mindful of how you look and smell but don’t go falling all in love with yourself. You aren’t little Channing Tatums. (see #4)
  8. Let them dance. Nope I am not joking. My kids do not have Justin Timberlake-like moves or rhythm for the matter. However, when they hear music, they move. It’s a learned trait by a mom who loves to dance around the house. My oldest son has some hilarious dance moves. And while his wife may not think they are very funny one day (many, many, many, many years from now), a lady loves a man who isn’t afraid to dance, even if they lack in JT moves. A guy who dances is comfortable in his skin. Dancing displays a fun-loving, quiet confidence yet also can bring out the silly side.
  9. Politely remind them to articulate thoughts/enunciate words OR bluntly correct the hell out of them; whichever method works with your parenting style. Nothing makes me want to go all parental postal on my kid than when they speak “grumble”. As a matter of fact, just recently, I went to blows with the 14 year old over this. Two words that make my skin crawl: “Yeah” (sometimes even shortened to “yuh”) and the dreaded response of “Huh?” I swear that kid has his own language. I grew up with the grammar police and now my kids have the priviledge of it as well. They'll thank me one day. Yeah.
  10. Teach them respect and common courtesy. Some basics: Open doors for ladies. Don’t interrupt conversations. Use manners when appropriate. Offer someone your seat. Say “Hello” and smile when someone speaks to you, even if you don’t know them.
  11. Teach them it’s ok to show emotion. If something excites them it's natural and accepted to jump around and scream for joy, in most cases. Yet if something makes them sad, they need to know it is ok and normal to cry. As a parent, jump around with them, or offer a shoulder to cry on; do whatever deems necessary to support your kid in that particular emotional moment. The saying that real men don’t cry is a crock of sh*t. A$$holes don’t cry.
  12. Don’t buy them a brand new car when they turn 16. (sorry to all teen boys reading this) If you have the luxury of being able to give your son a car when they start to drive, then do yourselves both a favor and go for something that is functional, practical, and can withstand a dent or 6. How does buying some old clunker keep your kid from being an a$$hole? Well, for one it keeps them grounded. They appreciate a car is about functionality. While I understand the benefits of buying a 16 year old a new car (warranty and reliability) in my opinion, the big issue is feeding that dreadful entitlement. See #16.  Buying them something brand spanking new now doesn’t give a kid the chance to know what it’s like to earn a big ticket item on their own. My son was born in 1994. His Ford Explorer was also born in 1994. The tires are in great shape, it’s serviced regularly and for 4 years it’s gotten him from Point A to Point B including driving back and forth to his college a state away….96.25% of the time. When he earns the money to buy his first new car, he'll appreciate it and take better care of it than if it were given to him. And if a girl doesn't want to date him because he is driving an older car, then he's dodged a very high maintenance bullet. Win-win!
  13. Don't be afraid to call him out. If your son is being a punk, tell him. One reason there are a bunch of a$$holes running around is because there were a$$hole parents who were too afraid to tell them it was unacceptable behavior. 
  14. Teach them about compromise. Their way isn't the only way. Whether it's negotiating bedtime on a school night when their favorite team is playing on television or even something as simple as deciding on a place to eat as a family, other factors determine the outcome. This outcome may not be acceptable to them in that moment, but they need to learn to deal with. It's life. 
  15. Be their parent, not their friend. Talk to them about life. Don’t assume your son will talk to you about tough subjects. Make it clear that the lines of communication are always open. Guide him, bring him up when he needs that boost, and take him down a few notches when he needs a reality check, set boundaries, have consequences, discipline when necessary and tell him “I love you” even on the days you feel like taking him out of this world as quickly as you brought him in it because he left his dirty socks all over the house, again. And lastly, and probably one of the most important...
  16. Fight the ENTITLEMENT epidemic. Nothing screams A$$HOLE more than a kid who feels entitled. If anything, this is my biggest challenge as a parent. The reality is we, as parents, need to understand our kids just didn't automatically wake up one morning entitled. It was programmed. And those programmers? Us. Myself included. We started rewarding our kids at a young age, whether it was a prize for pee in the potty or a trophy in little league baseball, even though they lost every game. Some things as simple as small rewards led to more rewards and then somewhere along the way it became expectation. What parent doesn't want to give the world to their kid!? You may have heard a parent say "I don't want my kid to ever want for anything." Really think about that statement. What are they left to strive for? Or even the statement "I want nothing but the best for them." The best thing we can give them as parents is a solid family foundation which includes encouragement, but accountability. I have realized the hard way that I have to reprogram my thinking completely due to the fact that my children, while appreciative, have their own sense of entitlement. And I will be damned if I am populating this world with more a$$holes! So #16 is actually #1 on my To Do Parenting List of 2014.
If one day I can look back and say I raised 4 fairly well adjusted, intelligent, hard working, funny, kind-hearted, loving, non-a$$holes, then I will have done my job as Mom. 


Until then, boy do I have my work cut out for me......