Thoughts on Parenting From Vance – Guest Post

Vance Williams contributes – Some exceptional thoughts on parenting and what worked for him and his daughter

As someone who has a newly minted 18 year old, I know the challenges that parents face.  As an observer at my daughter’s functions, I noticed almost right away that there was one big factor that the more balanced and focused kids had in common: their parents were “involved.”  The parents don’t just show up for events.  They are involved all of the time in the child’s life.

Speaking from my own experience (as I did not go home with the other parents and children), this requires a sizeable commitment on the part of the parent.  You cannot simply do what is convenient. When issues arose I found I very much had to stop whatever I was doing, no matter how important I thought it was (in most cases).

I also spent a great deal of time over the years talking to my daughter.  While something out there fought for her heart and mind, I taught her about love, family and principles.  I taught her more about what “works” than about what is right.  We talked a lot about what “she wanted.”  More than anything, from the age of 14 on, she wanted independence.  I saw this as a function of biology as much as mind, and her and I set out on a plan to get that for her.   My life and work had taught me that personal responsibility, strategy, and self discipline were the keys.

I showed her that those who suddenly found themselves free, self destructed (such as lottery winners).  Those who desired freedom could not reach beyond the limitations of what they “feel” now.  I said that it is natural to rebel against rules, because no one else’s rules are going to work for you.  The secret, I told her, is to make her own rules.  So we sat down and I said, “if you want independence, you have to make it happen.”

Next, I explained that she needed to begin creating the rules for her own life that would enable her to achieve her goals.  All I did was ask her questions.  For example, “how much sleep do you need?  What time do you need to leave for school?  How long does it take for you to get ready?”  By asking these questions, she was able to make “her own rules” about what time to go to bed. We did the same for study time and examined unusual things that came up.  I taught her that a strategy changes a bit as you have experience with it.  For example:  She did very poorly on tests at a particular time of the day.  I asked her what was happening.  She explained that she had trouble focusing and remembering.  With my experience in health (and myself), I sort of knew what was happening.  I said, “Ok, what is happening is that your body is detoxing around that time because your breakfast is digested.  So you can do one of two things:  1. you can eat a snack at 9AM or 2.  you can eat something that is going to take longer to digest.”

She decided to eat a fried egg sandwich instead of cereal for breakfast because it was not convenient to snack.  So that became part of her new rules.  So that first year, I guided her on how to make rules for managing her life.  In addition, I led enforced her rules.  In other word, I didn’t ask her “what’s next.”  I was leading with her rules.

The second year, I let her take the lead, and if she made mistakes, I let her decide the consequences.  If she really was “doing her best (real effort and a great attitude)” there were no consequences.  I could always tell the difference.  When she was doing her best, she talked about what she could have done better.  When she was not doing her best, she tended to be defensive and blame others.  If you think this is strict, keep in mind that this is her vision and her plan, not mine.  In fact, I asked her on more than one occasion over the years, “can you slow down a little?  This is hard on you and me.”  Each time, she said, “no.”

The third year she was in control of most of her life.  Her job was to communicate her plans to us.  I think the big theme that year were things like 1. If you do your best, people want to help you. If others are doing their best and you are not, they will be reluctant  2.  Consider how your decisions and actions affect those around you.

She has been quite successful.  By the summer of her 16th year, she had a car.  Now she is 18, and about to finish up high school with an AA degree, and going to the University of Washington in fall. She will enter as a Junior, and plans to focus on sociology.  I noticed that she has commented several times about people who have PHDs.  She respects them the most.  She says that they seem more real and seem to know about what they are talking about.  I told her that those who have PHDs in my school seem to have paid a certain price of self discipline others have not paid.  Since I do not have a PHD myself, I can only point out the patterns I see.  They seem to be more responsible, more honest, and more committed to excellence.  I added, “if you get a PHD, the whole world will know you know more about something than I do.” LOL.  She liked that.


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