We have all come to discover that there is no manual to parenting that covers all children. Everyone has advice on “how-to” parent and this is no exception. What works for mine might not be what works for yours. With the disclaimer aside I will regal you with our fun loving witty family and how we survive the awkward years of puberty.
Our family consists of my very charming disciplinarian fiance Michael, followed by the beautifully complicated Cali 15, The boys, which because they are twins have lost their right to have individual names, they are “the boys” otherwise known as Brady and Brandon 14, Next comes the very sassy Tilly 13, followed up with the youngest and loudest Jessica 10 and myself the hostage negotiator. Now if you have been counting along that is seven of us, four of which are teenagers with a straggler that wants to be as old as the rest. We are an average family with the same financial struggles as most, our house is under renovation; by ourselves, we have an shitzsu puppy that is completely incorrigible. We both work full-time, Michael as a firefighter/paramedic, and I am a Jr. High teacher. Sounds pretty normal right?
Tips for survival:
1) Have a discipline plan and follow through! We have a point/check system. We have a whiteboard with every ones names and a column for chores, checks, and points. the chore list is numbered so each morning I insert numbers into their chore boxes. Now it is their responsibility to check the board daily and have their chores done by bedtime. Let me state in our house cleaning your bedroom is not a chore it is a responsibility that must happen daily. The kids can earn points by using good character, whether it be acts of kindness towards a sibling or seeing something on the floor and actually picking it up and not walking over it. Essentially points are “caught being good” rewards. Now checks as Cali will tell you are the “stupid” part of our system, probably because she loses her phone privileges when she gets them. The checks are given for not completing chores, not being ready to go to school on time, or having a bad attitude or showing disrespect. The checks will cause you to lose “privileges” such as face books, phones, going out with friends, and for our Brandon his hair gel. The kids can earn checks off by completing tasks that are extra work such as washing a vehicle. The system keeps everyone accountable and equal.
2) Don’t be afraid to be a kid yourself. I am what is called a smother in place of mother, We are hesitant about our kids sleeping at other kids homes unless we really know their parents so we have turned our house into a welcoming place for their friends to be at. We host dance parties at our house and clear out a rooms furniture, we bought inexpensive strobe lights and fog machines and the kids friends all come over and get to dance at “the club”. We have the luxury of having a pool; but hey we do live in Arizona where it reaches 120 degrees in the summer, we host endless pool parties and the kids enjoy a cheap BBQ of hot dogs and chips. We make use of our community resources such as parks where we have volleyball, softball, and basketball games. We make a point to enjoy doing things with the kids instead of the typical response of disconnecting with your teens during these difficult years.
3) The knock-down drag out wars. When I say we are not perfect boy do I mean it. I yell, Michael yells, everyone yells. To paint some picture that we are always happy-go-lucky would be irresponsible of me. The point of tip number three is to reassure you that this is normal, that this builds a family closer and teaches children how to problem solve. This is where the hostage negotiator title comes in. I never enter a volatile situation I let the parties involved get out all they need to then I go in and do my job. I get to sit with them individually or together depending on the situation and we get to get down to the heart of the problem. The kids get their release and then get to understand why they were so angry. Some days it might be scary to hear our house, but in the end they all love each other and are just figuring out ways to express themselves. This also means they disagree with us as well we just do not tolerate being disrespectful to us or their siblings.
4) Parents need alone time. I always hear parents say “we have kids we don’t get any time alone”. Are you kidding me?! That is a must and if you make it a priority you can achieve it. We have walks, or dinners on the patio where the kids are our servers, if it is in our budget we get to go out and enjoy sushi or the best is to go to the massage school and get discounted massages by their students. The point of alone time is to just reconnect and stay centered as a couple and as parents of five kids.
No magic cure for parenting it requires active dedicated parents that want to be a part of their kids lives and want to see them become successful. It takes work just like everything else in life that in the end reaps beautiful rewards.