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Old 10-29-2006, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Monterey Bay, California -- watching the sea lions, whales and otters! :D
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Hi, I have a 16-year-old daughter who is currently a foreign exchange student in Chile (on scholarship), and I have to pat myself on the back because I put in extra effort to guide her. I was divorced when she was young, so I knew I had to be extra diligent. Being a social worker by trade, I KNEW I could never have loopholes. I always gave her the simple message that: "Bad choices give you a bad life; good choices give you a good life." And now that she's older, I hear that same phrase coming out of her mouth, and I feel good that she's realized it (she uses it in reference to kids at school who make "bad choices").

It's the balance -- I'm an older mom -- I had her at 42!! Yes! And it's really hard raising a teenager in your late 50's, but I knew she was the only child I'd have and I feel that as a parent, your child is your contribution to society, so I take it very seriously.

I also work in Juvenile Hall, and I see the results first-hand of what happens to kids whose parents don't care, or give mixed messages, or are too lenient. It's really tough to raise kids, but you can do it if you really work at it. My theory was that kids will always get "tapes" in their heads, so I wanted to be the first one to get there and put the tape in. So, far (knock on wood), it's worked.

But when people always tell me how nice, studious, popular, and talented my daughter is, I just say "thank you," and realize I'm doing the good job. My daughter confides in me, we have disagreements, but who doesn't with a parent? However, she knows that what I say is what I mean -- there is no ambivalence on her part about me. She knows she can trust me. That I think is key. So everytime I had to discipline her, I never, ever gave her a consequence I could not follow through on (like, "you can't go to that party...." ect. if I knew I'd let her go anyway). She learned at a very early age, that if mom said something, mom meant it. She later told me it made her feel better about herself and her friends because she knew she could count on me for the truth, and that if I said I would support her in something, she knew I really meant it.

As a single parent, with one income, it's been very, very difficult. However, I decided I would commit 20 years to raising her (rounded off figure at that point when she was born). And I've stuck to that commitment. Yes, there are times when I am really tired, and really frustrated. But then I remember that she is a kid, and she is just beginning her life, so I want her to have a good start.

So, I disagree that kids just care about having fun. Of course they want to have fun, but I can tell you from years of experience both personally and professionally, that kids really NEED and WANT boundaries! They are like wild stallions and need to be reined in. Life is all new to them, and they are just starting to experience things and need some guidance. We are the trailblazers and they get to travel the trails that are already worn -- it makes them feel secure.

I have had angry teenagers scream to me that their parents don't care about them -- they don't care where they go, what they do, who they hang out with, or when they come in! So, by setting rules, and having consequences (if you start later, then it takes longer to get it going on a continual basis), the kids learn that "good choices give you a good life." And it's true. And rewards and consequences set up trust -- by following through, even if you have to say, "You will receive a consequence for this action...." and the kid doesn't like it; by the same context, they know that everytime you follow through with what you say, that when you say "I love you," they also know you really mean that!

Raising a child is extremely difficult work -- it's not like being single and care-free (remember, I had 42 years of being single before my child was born) -- but raising a child, seeing them blossom, knowing that you have your own choices on how to guide them, and then seeing positive results, is all worth it.

I remember once when someone asked me about a kid I was working with, "What's WRONG with that kid?" and I simply answered, "His parents." And that's usually the truth.

Good luck to you all, and remember that children are our future, and it's up to us how we want our future to be!
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