Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Setting Boundaries Works Y'all
Endlessly fascinated with studies and reports on health, longevity, the environment, nutrition, psychology and personal finance, the list of engrossing subjects for me goes on infinitely, my verbal response so often is reduced to a big, "Well, duh," expressed aloud. Yesterday's report on folks now finally just saying no to using credit cards (Satan's Smoothest Seduction) goes without saying, but I'd mulled over this one about teens doing better when limits are set, living here with oppositional family members would lead one to believe otherwise.
Chuy, emotionally guarded, but not oppositional, did want to argue a few points when I was telling them about my need to set early bedtimes, loving this quote, "Teens who had a bedtime of 10 p.m. or earlier, set by parents, got more sleep and were less likely to be depressed or consider suicide than those allowed to stay up past midnight." (The study was published in Sleep in January.)
I'd extrapolated the thought into better grades as well, knowing from my own childhood of regular bedtimes, that I was then obviously never sleepy in school, but rather raring to go each day.
Chuy pointed out that smart parents make for smarter kids, totally forgetting he was adopted, latching on to the gene pool he sees in the interaction between my own parents, who live with us, and him and me.
I do set boundaries, yet I am often physically unable to enforce some of them on to children with severe emotional disabilities.
"That may be hard to believe sometimes. And it's true kids won't always follow your health and safety rules. But studies show parents who keep setting boundaries make a huge difference. In other words, "parenting works," even for teens, says Alanna Levine, a pediatrician in Tappan, N.Y., and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics."
Our computers all physically power off at 8 p.m., except for my password-protected laptop. There's no internet available between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., thank you Chuck. My kids usually grouse about it at 8, but then congregate in the kitchen to eat again before bed, this after I've ALWAYS served a large home-cooked supper, then to their respective rooms for what I've always euphemistically referred to as 'calm down time,' a laugh as the older boys wrestle, bang around, sound as if they're throwing furniture, discuss everything with each other at the top of their lungs, but it's rare to hear anyone moving around much after 9:30 on a school night.
Door alarms on, I'm then free to go upstairs and try to wind down as well. My room has no door, I need to be easily accessible and as close by as possible, any strange noises float straight up to me. I've shown deputies where I'm at, just in case, "Don't hesitate, y'all," I'd stressed, "Come find me if you get called," me having already survived some very frightening nights over the years. They've certainly had no reluctance, these same law enforcement guys, to call me in the middle of the night, when necessary, and that's absolutely fine with me.
My house is usually loud and rocking again by 6 each morning, having had a good night's sleep, they're not all that difficult to get up, except those who'd choose it as a control issue and, again, all bets are off when dealing with disturbed or irrational behaviors, there's simply no logic involved nor available.
"The reality is that teenagers care deeply what their parents think," says Kenneth Ginsburg, author of the driving study and a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "The challenge for parents is to get across rules and boundaries in a way that doesn't feel controlling."
In the driving study, as in many other studies, the most effective parents were those researchers call "authoritative." They set firm rules but explain and enforce them in a warm, supportive way. Parents who set no rules, fail to enforce them or rule with a "because I said so" iron grip are less effective.
Ideally, "kids understand the rules are about their well-being and safety," Ginsburg says."
Sometimes I weary of explaining over and over and over again. Heck by the time I've discussed seat belt rules with the 39th child, it's become a rote monotone from me, blah, blah, blah, and I have to remember Tabby deserves the same amount of explanations I'd once long ago given to Sarah.
I fret that my children will be ill-equipped for life without me, life without someone to wash their clothes and hang them on coat hangers, buy their groceries and explain the need for X number of grams of protein each day, or life without me constantly reminding children who've suffered short-term memory loss due to grief issues, FAE or severe neglect in early childhood.
Watching some of my grown kids falter in major ways has been disheartening, yet both Vanessa and Miriam have recently told me they feel they're wasting their lives, time now to get on the ball. "Put your money where your mouth is," is my predictable response. Yet to them both, my predictability is also reassuring on yet another emotional level.
Most of them have later told me that all my nagging, discussing, reminding and explaining has resulted in unbidden tape recorded loops echoing in their minds where they hear my voice, and my many opinions, over and over again til they wanna puke. Vanessa, last night again on the phone, telling me she's telling her roommates this and that, morsels I'd taught her.
Hey, I'll take any successes of any shape or form wherever I can get them.
I do live in a house full of teenagers, ten of them right now at one time, with two more close behind, my babies are now only Jack, Nando and Tabby, 9, 8, and 7. I love not having infants or toddlers, I'm so gladly done with those massive demands, I love that everyone can now bathe and dress themselves. My life seems infinitely easier than in years past when I could barely breathe as I raced through each day.
To have time now to paint the walls, or coddle my houseplants, to run my dumb, boring errands now without children holding my hands with their sticky ones, has really freed me up so much. Yesterday I'd taken Hazel and Ray with me, conversely a joy when it's grandchildren, CJ and Mae joining us later, all four of them playing outside together, no fussing at all, enjoying our only day of the week with warmer temperatures.
I can see the front meadow showing green shoots of grass. I'm so sick of all the drab shades of brown and grey.
It's just soooo nice lately for me overall, and I remain so proportionately thankful for the peace.
I start each blog first thing in the morning, usually putting it aside while I get folks to school, today, here after me bragging on Chuy's innate intelligence, he'd been irritable and rude this morning over nothing.
Oh well, he owes me an apology today after school and he's reasonable enough to offer one up without it escalating into a problem.