Am I committing social suicide when I say I’ve watched a couple of episodes of “Married at First Sight”? Well, I do admit to having an interest in how this social experiment even makes it to prime time television! I do find myself incredulous at the behaviour of many of the couples and their innate selfishness in even understanding what relationship means.
One young man who has caught my interest is Al – never had a girlfriend, couldn’t even properly dress himself for his wedding, and whose mum cooks, cleans, organises and irons for him, still at 25. And I think about some of my peers who have married someone who does all that for them still (after leaving their mums who did). Then I consider other contemporaries of mine who iron and cook and do housework and engage with their spouse as part of a team.
I’m certainly not suggesting one way is better than the other, but you soon find out if your partner comes from a different upbringing to you, and that provides a whole new way of managing relationship right there!
Which brings me back to a simple question about parenting: how do I raise my kids to be adults I’m proud of?
Tough question, as it happens. Because there are my expectations, my partner’s expectations, what I do or don’t want to “put in their heads” from my own upbringing, and then there’s the influences of current cultures and perceived norms! Is there anything I can come close to suggesting are some great guidelines?
I think so. Here are my thoughts.
1. Be prepared to give boundaries and stick to them. As a teacher, I do acknowledge that most students like boundaries. They flourish in an environment where they know what’s expected of them. And sometimes, they recognise I have high expectations – of achievement and behaviour – and they rise to them! Some keep testing the boundaries and meet resistance. But they know, in the end, that the boundaries stay there. My own kids know they can question and challenge and discuss, and maybe that facilitates a change. But more often than not, nothing changes except a stronger understanding of each other’s perspectives and their more willing attempts to meet those expectations.
2. Encourage respect always. Sometimes I think we have forgotten to respect each other at a fundamental level. We have forgotten that it’s so important to love the person even if we don’t agree with the action or comment. We don’t have to punch, speak ill of, shout or argue with someone because they do something wrong or don’t believe what we do. Neither do we have to punch, speak ill of, shout or argue because they disagree with us. We can agree to disagree. We can have a “moment of intense fellowship” but it’s not about hate or condescension. Our kids need to see us demonstrating this more often!
3. Things are not always going to go your way. And that’s ok. It’s not always about you! In fact, it should be less about you and more about what you’re able to do for others. I think they call it resilience … that moment when things have gone badly, but you’re able to say, “next time” or “that’s ok, just let me pick myself up for a second” or “this wasn’t my moment. There’ll be another”. I don’t have to have a win every single time … because it’s not always about me!
4. Love first. Listen second. Respond third. Remember respect? Well love drives that because we want to see the best in people. If we remember to love, then listening becomes about understanding perspective and “being in their shoes for a second” before we judge or condemn. And then when we’ve listened, we can respond if we need to. But that’s not even always required.
5. Do unto others as you’d like them to do to you (Matthew 7:12). Think on this for a moment, and how you respond, respect, and communicate takes a very different turn. It forces you to do a double take on the way you engage.
I honestly want my kids to grow into amazing people – I pray they’ll be great partners, they’ll be passionate about their work and hopefully they’ll influence their world in a meaningful way. Do you want the same? And then for a second, I think about how I need to be, and I catch myself checking that I’m actually breathing the very things I want to see in them. Mmm. Now I just got challenged! Hope you do too!
Mr Benton Craig / Deputy Principal