It wasn't the family in question that we discussed, as interesting as it was to watch. What sparked us was talking about what we perceive the cultural differences between raising children in the UK and raising children in the US to be. Not surprisingly, we agree. Craig and I have always been 99% in accordance on how children should be raised. I think what shocks us is hearing opinions from other parents.
Craig and I have learned that we're much stricter with Alicia and Alex than many of their classmates at nursery. There are areas where we're definitely weak, but we recognize those and try to keep them in check. But it always surprises me to hear about families that don't do things I consider fundamental for children. Like routines. Children need routines. Consistency, consistency, consistency. You can argue with me until you're blue in the face, but I will never change my opinion on that. Yet, I'm learning that many of Alicia's classmates don't. Naptimes are irregular, bedtimes are irregular, punishments are inconsistent, and the list goes on.
When Alicia had a sleepover a few weeks back at her friend Annabel's, I had a long conversation with Annabel's mom about things to expect and so on. We got to talking about bedtime, and I told her that Alicia goes to bed at 8pm. It's been like that for about 4 months now; it used to be 7:30, but Alex was proving a little fussy with that and we added the extra half hour. Now, Alex sleeps much better, doesn't fight with us about going to bed, and doesn't get up nearly as obscenely early as he used to (he routinely woke up at 5am, not fun).
Well, Annabel's mom went silent. Then, she asked me how rigid that was. I asked her why. It turns out that Annabel doesn't have a bedtime. She goes to bed when she's tired, usually somewhere between 9:30 and 10. I was a little surprised, but I know for a fact it's not unusual. What I don't understand is why do parents not place the structure of something as simple as bedtime onto their kids? What's worse, is that these parents then usually turn around and complain about some other aspect of their kids sleeping habits, like napping for too long, or sleeping in too late. Cause and effect, people. Think about it.
There are other things. Neither Craig nor I tolerate disrespect in our house. If someone gives attitude, they're warned once before getting punished. Luckily, that doesn't happen very often. Yet, I see things at school and at parties, and it makes me cringe.
I'm going to admit it, I much prefer the way I saw more children raised in the UK than I do over here so far. Respect and discipline goes a long way in British households, where Craig and I think that there is some serious abuse of freedoms here in the US. It's like American parents are afraid to say no to their kids. Who's the parent here? It truly amazes me sometimes.
I'm not saying all British kids are good and all American kids are naughty. Far from it. I know a lot of wonderful parents on both sides of the ocean, and I know crappy ones, too. But I find myself encountering more surprise here when people here about some of the guidelines in our house than I did back in the UK. For instance, my kids only snack when *I* let them. At a specific time of the day. They have the choice to pass if they're not hungry, but I don't allow them to rummage around because it spoils mealtimes, then. The mother of a friend of Alicia's was saying I was lucky because I didn't have kids that whined about being hungry all the time. She feeds her son in between meals basically to shut him up. Am I crazy for thinking there's something wrong with this?
I could go on about this for hours, but I won't bore you any more than I already have. My kids are far from perfect, but that's OK. They're happy, they're respectful to us and to strangers, they behave themselves (95% of the time) in both public and private places, and I couldn't be prouder of them. I don't talk about parenting with other parents unless they bring it up; frankly, I've found it's a waste of time. Everybody has their own beliefs. I'm just glad Craig agrees with me. And Jo Frost. :)