Surprising Parenting Skills

When we became parents, we didn’t start with infants, we started with “ready-made” kids. Well, ready-made kids who spoke another language and came from a completely different culture. There was no time to learn their personalities before embarking on disciplinary methods. We often didn’t know if their behavior was disobedience or ignorance. We didn’t know how much they could be trusted or if they were plotting evil against us.

We were thrown into the deep end of parenting awfully quickly. We were four strangers trying to become a family, one way or another. So along the road to figuring out this wild-style parenting, I discovered that Ken and I had some really unique gifts that we never realized that we had.

Our surprising parenting skills:

The ability to make up a rule for no apparent reason. Tonight I literally told the kids, “You cannot have a cookie until you finish your popcorn.” Why? I don’t even know. But somehow it seemed like the right thing to do. And in a strange but not entirely unexpected twist, only one child earned a cookie.

To have a straight face when our kids are hilariously naughty. Palmer’s biggest crime at school has been giggling. He’s a goofy boy, and if he gets tickled about something, he has a hard time keeping a straight face. Still, we understand that inappropriate laughter can be very disruptive, so when his teacher sent home notes that he was giggling in class, we had to take it seriously. But to punish a child for laughing too much is a skill that has to be developed, even if the child’s story is hilarious. The parental laughter is saved until after 8:00 p.m. when the kids are asleep.

To come up with double-cross punishments. Many internationally adopted kids come to America believing that they will have whatever they want whenever they want, and have difficulty with limits. Palmer was especially that way. He would cry and scream if he could only watch one cartoon instead of two, or throw temper tantrum complete with kicking and yelling if we told him to put a toy away so we could leave the house or eat dinner. So we told him that if cartoons and toys made him sad, he shouldn’t have them. After all, we want him to be happy! If cartoons make him sad, he just shouldn’t watch them for the next week! If a toy made him cry, we should either break it or give it away to someone else who will be happy to have it!  A particular favorite of mine was when the kids used to refuse to ask to get down from the table. So I’d let them just at the table until they asked to get down. For over an hour. Boy, they really showed me! 😉 I took pictures, which I will show at some important late-high-school event. Or their wedding.

To recognize the level of misbehavior our kids are engaged in by the tone of their laughter. Addie has a particular high-pitched giggle, which automatically earns an, “Addie, are you being good or are you being bad?” question from across the house. 97% of the time there is complete silence from Addie. Then I remind her that she needs to be good. To which she responds with a sheepish, “Okay.”

To turn three pages at a time in a book that is way too long to be read just before bed. I know my children plot to find the longest books they can as bedtime stories. Two can play at this game. As long as Addie is sitting on my right, I can pull it off turning multiple pages at one time. Palmer is too observant. It does take a special diversion to get them to look at something on the page on the left. I have become a master of such techniques, because let’s be real, mommy really needs the little people to go to sleep so daddy and I can catch up on laughing at all the hilariously naughty things they did today. And eat chocolate.

To know which child has their eyes open during prayer without opening mine. Ahem. It must be the Holy Spirit.

To know who really did start it. Addie. She has a special gift.

To say things that my parents said and I swore I never would. “Because I said so.” “If I have to stop this car . . .” “When I was your age . . .” It’s almost like relearning to ride a bike, only you weren’t the one riding it 30 years ago. Some phrases just must be genetic.

Fortunately, our children have survived our initiation into parenthood and are doing well. Most of the time, I have no real clue what I’m doing, but count on the fact that God entrusted them into our care, and so He’s sort of obligated to give us the wisdom and resources to give them what they need.

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