Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Children Learn What They Live

When I was growing up this plaque hung in our hallway.  I probably read it at least a thousand times. I loved it.  I asked my mom questions about it, definitions of words I didn't understand at the time --like what it means to "condemn".  If I'm being honest, I have thought of these words many, many times in my decade plus of parenting.

The most difficult part of parenting in split homes is when there is confliction in parenting styles.

Over the years, we have learned that we can't do anything about what happens in the other houses. It's hard to relinquish the desire to "fix" it or have a say in it, but in order to have a peaceful home, we had to let go a long time ago.

Andrew's dad and I actually don't have much parenting conflict because parenting was not really something we disagreed about even when we were together.  It makes life easy for all of us...especially Andrew.

To say there is different parenting in our home and BM's home is a HUGE understatement. If we say the sky is blue, it cannot possibly be the case simply because we said it.

The WORST part is that there is zero filter with regard to what Reagan overhears there.  You see, each week we help her decompress, try to rebuild her self-esteem and help make her feel positive about her life... ALL of her life. I so wish I were exaggerating, but unfortunately that's not the case.

As she has gotten older, her language and verbalization is more mature and she is more capable of expressing her opinions and feelings.

Quite simply it really is all how you handle things.  The fine line between handling something positively and critically in a negative way makes a huge difference in how a child feels about themselves and treats others.  This is very common sense to me, but given the state of our nation and families, I'm not quite sure it's so common any longer.

To personalize with an example, I have mentioned before that Reag doesn't pick up after herself.  This has been going on for a very long time, so not in relation to the amount of time she spends here.  It's just something she has to work on.  Yes, it drives me crazy especially when I find stuff after she's gone back to BM's because I either have to do it myself or leave it until she comes back to our house a few days later.  Depends on how I feel which one I do.  Other times, she loses a privilege if she's been corrected and reminded on the behavior and still doesn't follow through.  All part of life lessons.  We don't yell at her, we explain, we talk, we physically walk her through what the expectations are and she explains back to us what she, in fact, understands.

She came home today upset that she overheard her mother say to her grandmother that she was a "sloppy, non-helpful person" after being at our house so much now.  There is nothing I can do to prevent those occurances, but I can help my stepdaughter deal with her feelings about it.  I asked her how it made her feel and she replied that if her mom is going to say that while she's standing right there, there's no telling what else she says when she's not there and since she knows her mom talks negatively about all members of our family, now she got lumped in with that negativity too.  It hurt her feelings.  Calling someone names --especially children--is unacceptable.  It's a behavior.   That can be changed. 

Again, we understand and accept we can do nothing about what is said to her, in front of her, around her, within earshot or the actions BM takes with her when Reagan is in her care.  It doesn't erase the feelings of frustration we have, however.  

So, we try to turn those actions and experiences in which we cannot control into lessons for her. And while that example independently may not seem destructive, add to it 4 days of other negativity and destructive words and behaviors exhibited to her and about her family, it is very damaging to this young girl's psyche.

We keep on keepin' on and hope and pray the positivity we're working on can overcome the negativity she has to encounter.


  1. Reagan is so lucky to have you & your husband. There needs to be more moms in the world like you, moms that focus on building their children up instead of tearing them down.

    In my past teaching placements, working with high schoolers, I saw first hand the long-term damage negativity had on them.

    You are making a difference and that is something to be respected and honored.

    Hang in there, Reagan needs you!

    PS...I also LOVE that poem!

  2. I agree with Amy! Your kids are very lucky :)
    The poem is great!