Like many women who have a less than cordial relationship with her bathroom scale, I am aware that I have a natural weight that my body moves towards when I forget that I am dieting. And now, after more than years of parenting, I have come to believe that I too have a natural inner mom to whom I always seem to turn, despite my attempts to listen to parenting books and articles and the advice of other, seemingly ‘great’ mothers.
This became clear to me last week as I was thinking about how to motivate my son to be less of what his English teacher calls a “minimalist” and what I simply call an old underachiever. Now that the grades have been handed out and the parent meetings are underway, I’ve heard some parents talk about how they react to what they think are too low grades (which are often something other than the generally accepted “bad” grade). Their phones and laptops are taken away, they are banned from video games and they even get grounded.
Should I be a strict parent?
I have considered such steps, too, but ultimately I hesitate. Not only due to the fact that I have my doubts about the efficacy of those approaches. My reluctance stems from the fact that, after all of these years, I’m just now coming to know myself as a mother. While I could gaze with envy at other parents who are more harsh and believe that they have the answers to immediately get their wayward teenagers in line, I am aware that the only way I can parent is by the way I do. To put it another way, if I were to be graded on “consistently enforcing laws,” I would receive a grade of B-minus, at the very best. Regarding the imposition of punishments, I’d probably do much worse.
My son knows this too. When his friend’s mom asked him the other day if he had ever been punished, my son said, “No, my mom knows that doesn’t work.” Maybe he thought that punishment wouldn’t motivate him to try harder in school, but I think he also meant that we both know that punishment doesn’t work for me. I’m like one of those funny parents in the movie “Easy A” who can’t say, “You’re grounded!” without laughing.
Is a mother’s intuition always right?
No, a mother’s intuition is not always right. It is a feeling or hunch that is based on a mother’s instincts and experience. It can be helpful in certain situations, but it is not always accurate. However, experts are in agreement that moms might be more attuned to specific cues or responsive to particular messages. It’s likely that mothers have distinct priorities or biases, both of which influence them to notice or concentrate on various things.
Now you know yet more reason why we should honor our mothers and express our gratitude for the unique connection that we have with them that we will never have with anyone else in our life. It is just another stunning illustration of how interrelated we all are within the great One, and it serves as a timely reminder of the immense responsibility and blessing that comes with being a mother and having control over the next generation.
It’s easier to follow your inner instinct
Going with my inner parent would be easier, of course, if I didn’t have reservations, which it seems like all parents of teenagers have, especially if they ever talk to other parents. This is especially true if they ever talk to other parents about their children. This past weekend, a mother of older kids who told me that yes, she does punish unsatisfactory grades by taking away mobile phone, computer, and television privileges sent me on my usual roller coaster of uncertainty and got me thinking about whether or not I really ought to do the same thing. But when I asked her if the punishment was effective, and she responded “Absolutely, we do it all the time,” I couldn’t help but ask myself the obvious question: how is it working if you have to keep doing it all the time?
It has brought me back to where I am now and where I need to be: I need to cope in a way that is natural for me and sensible for my child. I’m not a total slacker – I’m trying to help my son manage his time, discipline and meet higher expectations. I will continue to look for and try new methods that make sense to me. But trying to become a different kind of parent is a sure way to disappoint both me and my child. He needs to go his way, and I need to go mine.