How do we learn what’s appropriate?

How do we learn what’s appropriate?

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Who says what is actually appropriate and how do we learn it? I’ve been mulling over this question for the last few weeks in my own life. As my teenagers struggle between finding their own identity and pleasing us, as I question some of the important values there are in my life and as I see the challenges in the world around me, I have to ask who sets the rules?

My own upbringing was a sheltered, middle class, everyone respects others and is polite at all times kind of deal. Not to say we did that all the time of course, but the unspoken expectation was that. As a result, that’s what’s important to me and I can’t understand it when it doesn’t seem important to others.

But who’s to say my way is right? Of course there are laws we live by so I’m not talking about that. What about the seemingly little things like what we should or shouldn’t wear, how we should to shouldn’t talk to others or how we treat ourselves to that matter?

When you’ve been brought up in one family all your life you tend to have a clear set way of doing things, whether you followed your parents traditions or you at our core you will find some of those values etched in there. Of course, when we grow up sometimes we might intentionally choose to go against that. I remember my Dad talking about how strict his Dad was and as a result he struggled to be involved in disciplining us kids – he’d opt out instead of maybe finding the middle crowd.

So what about those children who’ve experienced different homes? Sometimes VERY different environments and more than one? It’s no wonder they find our rules difficult to follow. We just assume a child would know it’s not appropriate to scream in people’s faces or to push them out the way. But what if that’s the norm for them? What if in one of their homes that was the norm? How confusing might it be I wonder?

I’ve come across this frustration many times with my children over the last nine years, particularly with the eldest who was 7 years old when she came to live with us. She’d already been taught twice how to brush her teeth (or not), and had already decided all be in subconsciously that she couldn’t trust anyone else to look after her. No wonder she doesn’t follow my rules! No wonder it’s hard to let go of that self-reliant need to control!

As I’m writing this it’s making me feel a bit better to be honest as it’s reminding me of these facts. See, I don’t remember them in the throws of “are you wearing those high heel boots to walk 10 miles in” conversations. I need to constantly remember that for our teenagers not only are they struggling with the milestones of teenage experience but they have the added complication of an unstable foundation to build it all on.

So, today when I see my children again I will remember they need a break from my nagging as much as I need a break from nagging them!

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