Sunday, December 23, 2012

A year of the Cairn Parenting Project

We began the Cairn Parenting Project almost a year ago. Lately I've been evaluating what I've learned and wanted to share a bit about how it's been for me. I've been wondering if we should end the project at the year mark, but the truth is I've got at least a half a year's worth more nosy questions to ask these great parents, so I think we'll keep on plugging along!

First, it's been so nice of these parents to answer our questions. Some have faithfully answered nearly every week for an entire year. Some chime in when a question particularly speaks to them or they feel they have the time. Either way, it's been neat to have a chorus of unorchestrated, individual voices speaking on their opinions about child raising. My (Jessica's) big, deep down questions have been about how to discipline in a way that doesn't hurt my relationships with my children; what to prioritize as far as values to push with my children; and what general principles got these parents' kids to be successful in the ways they were. I think I've found answers but often they haven't been obviously stated. Sometimes these parents overwhelmingly agree with each other, it seems especially on questions about teaching work ethic or gospel loyalty, but sometimes they don't agree, such as on whether to let babies cry it out. One thing's for sure - at least most of these parents were very busy people and were very involved in getting their kids in wholesome activities - whether those were school-related, extracurricular, church programs, etc.

Someday it would be awesome to get a larger group of parents whose kids fit the parameters we set and put together real data. For example, of the answers we got about kids and work, about 75% of these parents had kids with paper routes. That seems astoundingly high. But, without a really large group of answers (we usually have 6-10 per post), it's hard to say exactly what having a paper route meant in forming these kids into who they became.

Here's a brief list of things I've learned from this project:
  • "What you feed grows."
  • Don't reprimand your kids in front of their peers. Save it for another time. Don't reprimand them at all if they're merely exploring who they are (wearing something that seems weird to you) and not doing anything bad.
  • Who you are may matter most - if you're devoted to the gospel your kids likely will be too; if you're social your kids likely will be too; if you're very involved with life your kids likely will be too.
  • You can be tough and respectful at the same time. You can refuse to tolerate things like whining or irreverence in church without hurting a child's feelings. Focusing on the consequence, not on your own emotions, helps (whining = no answer or removal from the situation; irreverence = sitting in silence in a boring classroom). "No pay-off emotionally" through your reaction.
  • Being fun and making it obvious that you can keep gospel standards and still have fun, matters.
  • Most kids did not pay for their own LDS missions.
  • Some rules can be flexible based on circumstance to help avoid rebellion (such as curfews).
  • Nearly none of these moms worked while their kids were young.
  • Kids were highly encouraged (via time spent in their rooms or in a boring place if they were not cheerful) to be cheerful when they were around their families.
  • Getting kids involved in many activities (music, dance, sports, church, etc.) may pay off more than expected. It may be one of the secrets to confidence, work ethic, etc.
  • In a way kids ARE entitled to certain things from you, and that can include birthday parties and nice clothes if it helps them feel loved and fit in with their peers.
  • Many parents talked to their kids about sex around age eight.
  • Teach your older children about the important role of sex in marriage.
  • Talking to your kids one-on-one each night when possible keeps communication open enough to deal with problems when they pop up, helps you support them better and keep a great relationship as they grow into adults, and builds their confidence.
  • It's effective to jump in and out of kids' play if you don't have a lot of time. Hang around and play for 10 minutes, then go do something else, then stop in again later.
  • The importance of teaching the use of "I" messages in communication with spouses and siblings.
  • "Parenting with Love and Logic" has been referenced by several Cairn Parenting parents.
There's more I could have listed of course. These principles are quite golden to me. Even if some of them are common sense the value/importance of the principles has been important to learn. I'm so grateful for the participants who volunteer their time to share wisdom, and for those who have used this project to better their parenting because it's been motivating to me. Thanks!!

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