Parenting Cliff Notes


Just about the time you finally have some sense of how to do it, you’re done.

My thoughts turned toward the art of parenting again last night as I was on the phone with my wife. She is helping out our daughter who has a new baby.  As we were talking, I could hear the other grandchild in the back ground throwing a temper tantrum.  Since she isn’t my child, it isn’t my place to tell them how to parent,  and yet…

“What makes you think I have anything credible to say?”  You ask.

Now that is a great question! 😉

Especially since I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time.   Those last years  I was in  survival mode.

And yet,  I have  watched our four kids enter adulthood, start families of their own.  They love to come home to their mama and papa and, they get along with each other.  That’s the end game.  Work yourself out of a job.

I refuse to take credit for how our children turned out,  which in itself is instructive.

Children are remarkably resilient.


I have been reading gardening comment threads on the Internet the past month.  Spring is in the air.  I was reminded again, just how many and varied are the approaches to gardening, and just how full of themselves are some of the “experts.”  It is such a turnoff listening to someone tell a Newby how to “do it correctly.” (Especially when I come from a completely different school of thought.)

So that is the last thing on my mind when I talk about parenting.  I do NOT have it “all figured out.”

The whole parenting experience (for me)  came to a head when our oldest two hit their teen years.

One of the girls (age 14) decided to run away.  If I remember correctly, she told us  she was thinking about running away because we were too strict.  She wanted to spend more time with another girl whose family  wasn’t like ours.   I told her to think twice, because if, on the outside chance DHS  (State agency that works with families) got involved, you never know..they could even removed her younger brother and sister  from the home.

Well,  those words fell on deaf ears, and the next thing I knew, she did  runaway.  She was still in town, but thumbing her nose at us as a family.  She was going to do just what she wanted to do, and that was that.

Well, this was all new, uncharted territory for me. I’d never run away myself although I had thought about leaving home when I was 16.  I’d read the book My Side of the Mountain, and magazine articles by  Euell Gibbons.   I remember  having a craving to eat cat tail root, catch crawdads, find a big old tree and live in the trunk.  I had a hunting knife and a hatchet, a sleeping bag, and a pup tent (in case I couldn’t find a big enough tree.)  I’d been in cub scouts when I was younger, so I was pretty sure I had what it took to survive….but that was about as far as it got.

We gave her two days, then decided it was time to reel her in.  It was Summer.  Baseball season.  My sources told me she was at a little league game down by the fairgrounds.

I called our pastor at the time and asked him if he wouldn’t mind riding along with me to pick her up.

I went to the game.  Saw her sitting on the end of the bleachers.  She glared at me when she saw me. I  told her it was time to go and to get in the van.  She could see I meant business.   We headed to our pastor’s house  and sat down at the kitchen table.  I told her she had two choices.  Boarding school or two weeks at my cousins who lived several hours away.  He  was married, had a  young family.   He had a reputation for being VERY strict  and the last place our kids would have chosen to spend the summer….

I told her (with tears) that I would not sit by and watch her or anyone destroy our family.  I reminded her again about the very real possibility of DHS coming in and pulling her younger brother and sister out of the house, and that hadn’t mattered to her.

It was a watershed moment in our relationship.

She decided to go to my cousins, for two weeks.

When she came back, there was a  change in our relationship, (for the better.)

You’ve heard about strong-willed children?  Yep, she is one and I love her to pieces.  The stories she brings to our lives now, well, I could write a book.

The challenge is to break that defiant, in your face, bad attitude without, breaking their spirit.

If you’ve bought into that siren song of being your child’s friend first and everything will all work out, then I wish you the best…I will have to admit, I bought into some of that, which in hindsight was a big part of the confusion.  When they start telling YOU how it’s going to be, maybe you will think back to this post and drop me a note and we can talk.

I’ve taught  Jr high, high school and college classes, as well as managed a construction crew, all of which has helped me tremendously on the road  to be a wiser parent…it’s funny, many of the same principles apply.

Without respect (and it goes both ways) it’s only a matter of time before things  get crazy (Home, school and work.)

There is absolutely a place  to have  “fear of consequences” in the back of a person’s mind, then being willing to deliver on them when you are tested.

When love, respect, clear expectations, and real consequences are in place, then you are at a good place.



11 thoughts on “Parenting Cliff Notes

  1. Interesting post.
    We never had kids, and looking around now, we see how dreadful life would be for them and their offspring.
    I was involved with one episode with another couple and their teenage brat.
    They were desperate, emotional blackmail tearing them apart and asked my advice.
    My approach to the brat was simple. “I’ll help you pack.”
    The request to be taken to XYZ was “You’re nothing to do with your parents now, walk.”
    Can I have money? Nope, “You’re nothing to do with your parents now, starve”.
    What about school? “You’re nothing to do with your parents now, stay stupid”.
    They don’t understand me! “You’re nothing to do with your parents now, so like they will care”.
    Tears, anger, pleading, but with no support forthcoming from anyone, the bag was quietly unpacked.
    Did it help long term? Short term it did and things settled down well.
    Long term I’ll never know.
    The penalty of service life. Here today, redeployed tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • that is exactly what can happen, as you put it, “emotional blackmail.” Kids are so smart. they can smell weakness and fear from a mile away, and some kids (not all) despise weakness when they sense it in an adult and will eat them alive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chuckle.
        Seen it sooo often it fails to amaze me now.
        They also all know the law and everything is biased towards believing their claims.


  2. The youngest boy with the baby blues played everyone, but I didn’t fall for it. At 5, I refused to dress him when I knew he could do it himself and told him I was going shopping. If he got dressed he could come.
    A year or so later he decided after a weekend with his mother he wanted to stay with her. Knowing she didn’t want either of her kids on a permanent basis (she’s left them with a friend and not come back, way before I arrived on the scene), I didn’t bother unpacking his things, told him to get back in the car and I’d drive him. He was stunned and didn’t move.
    Yeah, I was the wicked ‘step mom’, but with no support from their dad. It wasn’t until he was caught shop lifting that his dad actually realised the kid was not as innocent as he seemed.
    Fostering was a doddle after that, and I had some ‘cases’ from anger issues, alcoholic parents, bereft single parent unable to cope with her older children, glue sniffing, domestic and sexual abuse, thieving, truancy and deceit. All I could do was be in their corner with a listening ear and shoulder should they want it, let them know I cared and I wouldn’t give up on them. I like to think I had a pretty good success rate.
    I guess as an outsider, I don’t have the emotional ties playing havoc with my heart and see things in a more detached manner.
    I love kids, always wanted my own, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe in today’s world it’s just as well.
    I still remember a kid accusing his Mum of not loving him.
    She said I’ll always love you, but at the moment I don’t like you very much.
    Says it all I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I did my best, though with 3 sets of grandparents, aunts and Mum also getting in on the act on a part time basis. it wasn’t exactly easy. The eldest seemed to have turned out OK though. He actually looked me up a couple of years after I left. He was worried about his younger brother as he’d got in with a bad crowd. Over dinner and watching lethal Weapon 3 on DVD, I told him to tell his Dad. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but if nothing else, I knew he loved his boys and would know what to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a perfect example of tough love! I’m so glad it worked out in the end. My boys missed out on the love and discipline of a good dad. You are a good dad! And a good friend. Happy resurrection day!


    • me too (glad it worked out) by the sounds of what you share, your boys turned out darn good Michelle… You had a tough job as a single mom. Can’t imagine. Happy resurrection day to you too! DM

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Can you please make “Parenting Cliff Notes” an on going series?! Always love hearing your perspectives. I love the line about breaking the bad attitude without breaking the spirit. Mine’s only 11 and so far I’ve had it pretty easy with her. She definitely has spirit and strong will though. I’m bracing for the teens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OK…I will 🙂 Just created a new category “Parenting Cliff Notes/ a mini series. When I have a few minutes, I will scroll back and tag the older posts that also have to do with parenting. BTW/ if you ever have any specific ideas/ questions, would love to hear them. I know there is a wealth of parental wisdom represented in the readership of some of the other it can be a collaborative effort.

      Liked by 1 person

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