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Difference of parenting for a second time 20+ years later

This is a question that I have been asked and one that I have thought about. Some of the differences are due to having a different partner and her perspective on raising children. Another is because I'm now 20+ years older than the last time. And some of the differences are due to the many changes in the world since the last batch.
Graduating NCO Leadership School, my daughter was almost 2, my son just a few months away from being born.

I'll take the last one first. Obviously the technology of today is vastly different than it was 20 years ago, from the Internet, to PC's and other computing devices like iPad's and cell phones, to wireless connectivity, minivans with screens and outlets, to the multitude and diversity of what is available to watch on the TV.

The level of education that is being taught in school also seems to be significantly more advanced. This could be the difference between schools where I raised my oldest kids and our current school district here in WA, so this may only be due to location but I don’t think so. While there are sure to be differences based upon your location, Education techniques and perspectives have continued to evolve, regardless of where you live and with all of the standardized testing most public schools have to be in the same ballpark of what they teach. But I could be wrong :)

Another aspect that is different, and may not be as obvious to many,  is the difference between myself at 61 and most other middle school parents coming in at around age 30 something. While I prefer not to make general statements, it is clear to me that fathers seem to be much more involved in their kids schooling and activities today then they were a couple of decades ago. Both parents seem to be more engaged in this area. Having said that, I have also seen a much more rampant expression of "helicopter" parents hovering over their children and the associated hand holding, fearing any failure will scare their kids for life. Not being a trained sociologist, I can't say with any authority that this is better or worse for the child in the long term but I can say my opinion is we have to let our kids fail when they are young when the results are also small.

Helicopter Parents are more proactive in ensuring that their child is recognized and cared for, sometimes to excess but obviously, from their perspective, always working in the best interest of the child.

 Perhaps that will result in kids better prepared for collage? According to Dr Charles Fay and his father, Jim Fay, not allowing kids to make choices and fail when they are small and so are the consequences does not prepare the kids for later in life, when their parents are not with them and they have to make choices that have larger impacts. Jim and Charles Fay lead the Love and Logic Institute, which has been helping raise kids for the past 40 years.

Still another issue, and one that we struggle with, is over scheduling. Our son, who is 11 and on the Autism spectrum, has some behavioral and speech therapies and also does "open" gymnastics twice a week. He is also in the Chess club and on the Math team. My daughter is a competitive gymnast who does 9-12 hours a week in the gym. They are also both in the school choir and sometimes have early morning practices. Associated with those activities are the various weekend meets and tournaments. It’s a fine line between keeping your kid busy and out of trouble and overloading them with too much. I tend towards the "Less is better" and my wife is in the "more" camp.  It’s a balancing act.

Changing gears to my being 61, my younger twins at 11, and my older ones at 35 and 37. While I try to kid myself, the fact is that my energy level is not nearly the same as it was when I was in my 30's. I'm also further along in my career and currently blessed with a well-paying job where I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule.

Back when I raising my oldest ones, I worked 2 jobs, but was also involved in the scouts, PTA, and sports. I did not have a lot of excess time nor the money to afford the extras of private gymnastics and other advantages that I give my kids today. Money was tight, my schedule was firm and I commuted 90 minutes each way to/from work. Also, my 1st wife did not drive or work so any shopping of any kind required me to drive.

Which brings me to the difference in partners. My wife is very different in temperament than the mother of my oldest kids and she is an equal partner in all areas of our lives. She is a full time "Scrum Master" who works from home full time and also has a very good but stressful job. And we have an AuPair living with us from South Africa. She manages the weekday mornings, getting breakfast and lunch, and doing the vast majority of the kid transport to the many afternoon appointments and events, with my wife and I splitting the overflow conflicts.

Both my wife and I are there when the kids leave in the morning and when they get home at night, and we eat dinner as a family almost every night, which is key another strand to a connected family life. I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule and time to just sit and talk with the kids. We also have a great Saturday night tradition of pizza and a movie, and we have seen all the epic movies and series, as well as quite a few duds.

But probably the biggest difference in the things we do that I did not do the first time around, and that is wide open honesty and dialog on every and any topic of life. And I do mean any topic. Difference between boys and girls and the "How do" questions, to smoking, drugs, religion, and politics. We explain our perspectives as well as differing perspectives that others might have. Now, they are still young enough that they tend to take our perspective, although I know that will change with their age. Since they are 11, I took my son and my wife took my daughter to a class on what to expect in adolescence.  Each was targeted for boys or girls. And while not a bad thing, there were some moms there who brought their son but my wife noted that there were no Dads in the girls class. Make of that what you will.

The differences of raising kids today versus 20-30 years ago are significant, but the difference in myself is probably much more significant. Less financial pressure, more quality time spent together as a family, and a partner willing to carry half the load. With or without the advantages that well paying jobs allow for,  open communication and honesty are most important. And for me, there are two other things that make a very positive difference in our parenting success this time around.

Those two things are "Love and Logic" as our parenting cornerstone and the consistency of my wife and I with each other in how we parent, what is or is not acceptable, and our expectations of the twins.

Taking the money and available time out of the equation, everyone can successfully raise children in today's world, but it does take effort and willingness to fully participate. And my way is by no means the only way, but having an approach and a parenting plan and sticking with it consistently is critical!

If you are struggling with how to raise your child I can strongly recommend that you take the time and Google "Love and Logic." While both my wife and I are certified Love and Logic instructors, we do not do anything professional with that and we get absolutely nothing from recommending them. It's just an honest recommendation for a excellent parenting perspective that works like magic for many.

So, for me success in parenting this time around comes from:
• Honest & Open Communication.
• Consistency in partnering and approach.
• Keeping the kids busy outside of school in significant and challenging endeavors.
• Embracing the Love and Logic approach and allowing our kids to make choices and mistakes.(Have a plan!)

Now, the jury is still out on how the twins will turn out as adults, but I'm pretty confident of the outcome. What I have learned is that good parenting is a skill and, like any skill, it can be learned. Some may be more comfortable or natural at it, but anyone can learn how to successfully parent.

The final thought for you to come away with is that even if you do sometimes suck as a parent (I know I do) with a solid foundation most kids will eventually find their way. My oldest son was into to all kinds of bad things at age 16.  But he did pull it together and now is a great Dad to my Granddaughter, successful in his work, and they just bought their first home. So, the basics of integrity and fairness, hard work and not worrying about what other have, were eventually internalized by him and have paid off.

My Take Away: It does not matter how young or old your are, Parenting is a skill that everyone can learn. You just have to have a plan and be consistant!


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