Raising a Child With a Backbone

Calling out all moms today on this sunny crisp Tuesday morning. Greetings ladies! Hope you all celebrated your womanhood yesterday.

If there is anything I am on the fence about, it’s the topic of nurturing… too much vs. too little. Encouraging our kids vs. being tough on them when needed.  Aah, the joys of parenting and all the confusion that comes with it! Providing for your children’s physical needs, like food, clothing and shelter, is pretty straightforward. However, providing for your children’s emotional needs is an entirely different beast. Every child is different, and you probably see it in your own house, that your nurturing style differs with each child based on their character. I can throw my three year old into pretty much any new situation, and he’s off with a big smile. My big son is cautious, sometimes hesitant, and asks MANY questions about anything new. But my confusion always comes in the form of: Do I nurture right now or should I be tough right now?


I have been guilty of hugging and kissing my kids while they’re misbehaving. Now I know what you’re thinking… I’m soft and a pushover. I’m actually not. I have little tolerance for rudeness, and I won’t raise a quitter. But, I see how when one of my kids gets jealous or threatened, for example, they act out. So instead of throwing them in their room for misbehaving, I hug them, because I see they’re suffering at that moment. I take them and I ask them quietly, “Tell mommy what’s wrong. Why is it hard for you right now that you had to hit your brother.” My husband thinks I’m totally wrong and will send them to their room, to create the backbone. I try and address why they acted up in the first place. Two different styles. Thanks goodness they have the balance!

Let’s take another example: big son usually doesn’t want to go skiing. We live in Canada. We are skiers. He doesn’t have to be the best, but I would like to expose him to it, and perhaps he’ll actually enjoy it. My little son on the contrary, loves skiing. So, a Saturday morning can go something like this:

Me: Okay buddy. Let’s get ready for skiing.

Son: No. it’s too cold.

Me: You’ll ski for a little, and then you’ll go in and warm up. The fresh air is wonderful. It’s cold for everyone. You’re dressed warm. You’ll feel so great and proud of yourself when you’re done.

Son: I don’t feel well.

Me: You’re fine. Let’s go.

After much back and forth…

Son: Ok, fine.

Hubby: Just went outside. It’s FREEZING. Too cold to go skiing.

Son: Yay, no skiing!

I’m pissed!!!!!!!!!!! But in the end, we go, and he ends up loving it. And he’s now great at it, but it’s a fight every time. THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.

We’re also trying to teach our children the value of a dollar. My son’s second tooth fell out last week, and between the tooth fairy money, and some money the grandparents had given him for the two teeth, he had close to $100.00 in his Sponge Bob wallet. Now, I was brought up to be a saver, and to live beneath your means, so I wanted to teach him the concept of saving and spending money. We told him we were going to the bank to deposit his money in his account, and that he could get $20.00 to spend at the toy store. Keep in mind, my husband and I never buy toys for these children. Everything they have acquired has come from birthday gifts from friends or family. I buy my kids books, and that’s where it ends. So imagine his excitement…. $20.00 at the toy store on whatever he wanted!

tooth fairy

So off we went on Saturday to the bank. This was his first trip to the bank for himself. I gave him his bank card, and we waited in line. He spoke to the teller. “I would like to deposit this into my bank account please. It’s my tooth fairy money,” he said nicely to the lady behind the counter. She smiled sweetly at him. He barely cleared the counter. I asked her if he could sign for the deposit. No problem, she explained. So, my son handed her the money, she counted it, and gave him the paper to sign his name. He slowly signed his first name only and was beaming with pride. I explained to him that even though his wallet was empty, the money wasn’t gone, but that it was safe at the bank and there for his future.

Next stop… the toy store. So, down the street we went, and he was excited! “How much is that?” he asked, and then saw it was $34.99. I saw the disappointment in his eyes, but he instantly moved on. He then went to the next toy: $13.99. “Mommy I can get this AND something else.” We spent 45 minutes looking, budgeting, tallying, etc… It was a great lesson for him.  He had big eyes, and saw what he had to spend, and what he couldn’t afford. It was a super exercise. One I highly suggest.

kids and money

But seriously, I am constantly on the fence about when to cut the kids some slack, and when I have to be tough on them to not raise a wimp or a child without a backbone. There is such a fine line. For what it’s worth, this is what I find helpful in handling the delicate balance of nurturing and encouraging your children, and putting your foot down and being tough when necessary:

  • There is a no-tolerance policy for rudeness. Ok, you want to stay home from ballet today, no problem. You want to eat in your tent in the basement instead of the kitchen table every now and then, no problem. You wanna stay up late one night to watch your favorite show, no problem. But we do not tolerate rudeness or disrespect. Period.
  • No idle threats, moms. Ever found yourself saying: “Get dressed now or we’re staying home,” to which they reply, “Ok, I’m staying home.” AND THEN YOU GO ANYHOW. No way moms! Never give idle threats. You must follow through on any threat so your kids know you mean business. It’s ok to give a warning, but if they do not listen, there must be consequences for their actions. I am VERY good at this. Never given one idle threat yet.
  • Hubby and I are sometimes guilty of this, but mom and dad must stand united. If you say no five times to a chocolate bar, and they run to daddy and he says yes, you got a big problem. Kids learn quickly how to play one parent vs. the other. So, sit down and discuss this with your significant other the rules of the house. Parents need to be united when it comes to core values, and discipline.

Ladies, I wish you good luck in raising great kids, with good values and a backbone. I’d love to hear what your parenting issues and concerns are. Are you on the fence about child rearing issues? Write ’em here!

PS – My dad forwarded this to me, and my little son overheard it, and has been walking around saying he’s a CORK SOAKER! Oy! Watch this!


  1. That skiing anticdote touches a nerve with me…I agree kids should be forced sometimes into experiencing new things, and adults, too, but I’m at an age where I know myself pretty well, and frankly, I know I’d hate skiing! I hate being out in the sun, I hate being cold, I hate going down hills and I hate going fast. I don’t need to try it!

  2. Great blog post! I too am always on the fence with when I have to be forgiving and soft with my children, and when to be tough. The joys of parenting is right.

  3. Oh what great timing on this one. I was amazed to find out this weekend that a friend of mine has not punished her kids because she does not want to loose out. She feels bad for the kids and does not want to stop HER activity for the day. I started to question if I am the only mother that sticks to threats. I have vowed never to promise or threaten if I can not follow through. My kids have missed birthday parties and days at the beach on vacation. The punishment must fit the crime. Never severe. Just enough to get the point across so they will remember for the next time. I love my kids and this is why I punish them. I want them to grow and learn from their mistakes as we do. I want to help mold them into secure,strong, smart beings that know right from wrong. So yes, I too have missed out on beach days, and parties . I have sat in my home while everyone on the street was outside playing in the sun. But i hope all of those little sacrifices will pay off one day and we will all be better off for it.

  4. Oh the joys of navigating the slippery, winding roads of parenting. I agree with many of the points above, except for the coddling when one child hits the other, and the allowing a child to skip out on their committments. I’ve gone literally months at a time with a child who doesn’t want to go to school every day. Do I allow him to stay home? If I do one day, why not the next? What message am I sending him if I allow him to do this? I think this will confuse and frustrate him more in the long run. I also strongly believe that there has to be a consequence for misbehaviour, and without punishment, to the child’s mind, there is no crime. We are responsible for our childrens’ conduct in and out of the house, in and out of our care. If he hits today, no matter what the underlying cause, and there is no consequence, what will he do tomorrow?

    I definitely think it’s great to teach your kids the value of a dollar. In an age where it’s status quo to see 4 year olds with portable video games and iPods, teaching them to appreciate that things cost money is a valuable lesson that will take them well into adulthood – not to mention those of generosity and giving.

    In the end, all we can do is try to help our kids adapt to life around them with the DNA they were given, and a sense of human responsibility…plus a LOT of prayer!

  5. Ok, i agree that kids need boundaries and rules and yes, sometimes a time out. I agree that kids need to eat their vegies, get a good education, learn to handle money and interact properly with their peers. However, kids are people too. They need to make (guided)decisions, choices, be able to express their wants and dislikes. That’s how they become independant and confident. Yes, as parents we don’t always agree with that, but maybe just maybe there is a really good reason why Jr doesn’t want to “ski”. We don’t all like the snow, cold, sports. A backbone is grown through self esteem, understanding, knowing they are listened to, and that sometimes its ok not to have to do what everone else is.

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