During the settlement of the old west in the United States,when the pioneers were under attack they “circled the wagons”.
This incredibly visual term refers to the act of taking up a defensive posture along with like minded individuals against an external force of some kind. The wagons were pulled into a circle : the strength of the combined group becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Listen To Parents of Older Children
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine – one of those moms that I have a lot of respect for. I would categorize her children as “nice kids”. Not in an Eddie Haskel way (blech) – in a sincerely, genuinely “nice kid” way. They do well in school, behave well, and are respectful to adults. Win-win-win.
So I was a bit surprised when she shared a story about her daughter’s experience at “band camp”. For all those “American Pie” fans – go ahead and get it out of your system. If you haven’t seen American Pie, don’t – you might never let your daughter near a flute again….
This woman has a lovely 8th grade daughter who attended a band camp with middle schoolers and high schoolers (who came up with that brilliant mix?). Apparently, the kids sat in a circle one night and compared notes on their vast collective sexual, alcohol, and drug experience. (By the way a significant amount of alcohol is being supplied by parents.)
To the child’s credit – she came home more than a bit horrified to share the experience with her mom – who in turn, tried desperately to NOT vomit on her shoes. I tried not to vomit on my own shoes as I heard the retelling of the story.
Your Friends Don’t Parent the Same Way that You Do – Now What?
As your children go through the elementary school years and are on the cusp on tween-age and teenage years you may find that the families who were part of your social circle may need to change.Generally, we accept the social circles we find ourselves in by default: the soccer families, the gymnastic families, the neighborhood families, or the country club families. Since those are the people you’re around – those are the families you end up spending time with. The adults hang together, and so do the kids.
This may be a BIG mistake, at least as the kids get older. The parenting-style chasm begins when the kids ask for and are granted more and more independence.
Nightmarish examples for kids 11-14 yrs old:
- You’re sitting at a post soccer game dinner – the kids want to sit together but the only place large enough for all of them is in the restaurant bar. OK, maybe not so much of a big deal. But when you get up to check on the kids, you find that two of the televisions in the bar are set to completely inappropriate programming (insert whatever you feel is inappropriate here). None of the other parents seem to notice or care. Do you pull your child out of the bar and make him sit with you?
- At an overnight tournament, all of the parents are sitting around on the hotel deck…younger children are playing tag close enough to the parents to be seen. Older children want to take an unsupervised stroll down the street to the neighborhood Circle K. All of the parents shrug their shoulders and say “yeah, whatever – just take your phone – here’s some money”. Do you pull your child out of the group and make him stay at the hotel with you?
- The “cool kids” – a group your daughter desperately wants to be a part of – are hosting a post-9th grade dance party at one of their homes beginning at midnight. “All the other kids are going” – and it’s true, they are ALL going. Once again you’re in the minority. What do you do?
The older my children get, the more I realize that as a community of parents, it’s time to “circle the wagons”. Make a mental note of the parents who parent their children in a similar way. Make a concerted effort to get to know these individuals and rearrange your adult relationships in a way that helps (rather than hinders) your own parenting style.
The results will be interesting. The parents you’ve become friends with over the years may need to be dropped, and parents who were never on your radar before may become your greatest allies.
You don’t have to drop all of your friends – you can still go out for cocktails whenever you want. But it doesn’t mean your children need to be BFFs.
Now Its Your Turn
Have you had an experience where you’ve needed to make some tough decisions on your own relationships or those of your children?
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- Kids Can’t Learn Coping Skills If They Never Have to Cope With Anything
- Stop Telling Your Kid She’s Special All the Time– You May Screw Her Up Permanently
- Seven Commandments for School Volunteers – Thou Shalt NOT Be a Pain in the Noodle