Finding the Sweet Spot Between Rigid and Relaxed : Guest Post by Renée Schuls-Jacobson

You guys, I’m pretty pumped to have Renée, from Lessons From Teachers and Twits, as today’s Friday Favorite, despite her schedule being cuh-razy. Even cuh-razier than mine. (Mine’s actually not that cuh-razy.)

I also had the super fun privilege of talking to her on the phone about this post, and she is as sweet and funny and easy-to-chat-with as her blog makes her out to be. SHE’S THE FULL PACKAGE, Y’ALL! And she says “pecan” like a true southerner.

Enjoy, friends! (Honestly, that’s not a difficult directive.)


Image from nanabatman at

In politics, there is a middle place between authoritarian dictator and namby-pamby pushover.

So too in the classroom.

So too at home.

How do I know that I am not a dictator in the classroom?

Because I’m not.

You’ll have to trust me on that.

But seriously, a few things come to mind. I always know my students’ names: their individuality matters to me.

How do I know I’m not a pushover?

I don’t accept any kind of bullying. Or technology in the classroom (unless it is being used for classwork). And I don’t accept late homework assignments.

At home, I have to think about my role with my progeny. I mean, I didn’t teach my son to swim by throwing him off the diving board into the deep end — the douche-bag I paid $14 dollars per hour for lessons did that. But I don’t follow him around the house carrying a pair of crutches just in case he feels like leaning against something.

Here are a few other things that help me reassure myself that I’ve got some sense of balance in my house:

I let my son eat raw batter with a big ole spoon. Yes, there were uncooked eggs in the recipe. And yes, he double and triple dipped in the bowl. To people who are all horrified by this, I say I am building a better world by creating a child with a stronger immune system.

But I also make sure that my son eats at least two fruits and one vegetable every day. He also drinks a lot of milk.

I do not feel the need to use hand sanitizer. Ever. Unless something is totally gross, like we’ve been handling lizards or he’s come in contact with something that might have come in contact with spit or feces, I’m pretty sure whatever it is can wait until we find real water.

But I try to get to water pretty fast.

I let my son sing The Beatles’ “Why don’t we do it in the road?” at the top of his lungs because he thought it was funny. And it was because at the time he had no idea what the “it” was.

But I do not let him download any songs with explicit lyrics, nor do I let him play mature video games. Or any video games at all.

I helped my son and his buddy create suits made of cardboard and bubble-wrap and duct tape. And then I encouraged them to walk around the neighborhood to show off their dorky cool outfits.

But I was horrified when I had to cram him into a suit that was clearly two sizes too small for him before an important religious gathering, so I rushed out to the store to do some last minute shopping before we had to be at the event. I’ll not have my son look like a doofus when it counts.

I don’t rush in with the tissues when my boy sneezes.

But I don’t send him to school when he has a fever.

Unless he has a project the size of a baleen whale that is covered in glitter which would melt as a result of exposure to the elements, my son walks to school each day no matter the weather.

But I remind him to wear his boots in the winter because no matter how dumb he thinks he might look, cold, wet feet suck.

I don’t hover over my son when he is instant messaging a girl.

But I really want to.

Despite the fact that he landed on accidental porn while Googling “big sea cucumbers,” I still have not turned on parental controls to limit his searches.

But I do limit his screen time to 90 minutes each day. I figure he should be able to complete his homework and have a little time leftover for happy happy joy joy. But if he forgets to sign off accidentally? Oh well, sorry… there’s always tomorrow.

Since he was 9-years old, I have helped my son pack a huge trunk and duffel bag to bring to overnight camp where he has disappeared for three weeks each summer because I truly believe the time away is good for him.

But this year, he has decided he’d like to go for four weeks. And my heart is kind of breaking at the thought of it.

Do you consider yourself more of an authoritarian or a namby-pamby? If you have found your place of harmony as a parent, can you give directions as to where you found it so others might find it as well?



Filed under Guest Posts

33 responses to “Finding the Sweet Spot Between Rigid and Relaxed : Guest Post by Renée Schuls-Jacobson

  1. Hubs and I lean toward opposite ends of the spectrum. Which is good and balancing and healthy.

    I’ll keep repeating that ro myself.

    Thanks for coming over! And you’ve got a place to stay when you actually visit Tennessee!

  2. Pingback: I’m in Tennessee Today « Lessons From Teachers and Twits

  3. What a balanced authority you are! I agree with you on every count…although at some point you might want to consider the search controls… ;D. Have fun in Tennessee! I never thought about a virtual vacation before.

  4. Two of my faves together. How delightful is this. Can I come to the Tennessee rendez-vous?

    I think I’m the middle-of-the-roader. About 10 years into my teaching career, a principal told me I came across as being a by-the-books teacher (clear standards) but was really relaxed with them in the classroom. I think this was a compliment. Students are like kids. They need some boundaries…but they need to have some fun and be encouraged to be themselves.

    And my classroom and parenting philosophies are similar: be stranger than your kids/students and they’ll start to act normally…

    Love ya both!

  5. Speaking of finding the balance, geographically I’m between you two. Should I feel safe or is that ominous?

  6. Marianne

    I think it depends on the day of the week, the month of the year, and the time of the day. Today I am under the weather, so my kids know they can get away with more and some days I like to see if they stick with what I tell them to do if I don’t remind them. This never works for practicing the piano, however.

    • When I am under the weather, I get feisty. I’m all: “Let me sleep in the guest room!” and “Don’t touch anything that I’m touching!” and “Watch out, I’m going to hurl!”

      But it’s not selfless.

      It’s really because I don’t want Tech Support (or G-d forbid, my husband) to get sick.

  7. I’m with you Renee – on a LOT of these: the raw batter, the hand sanitizer, the parental controls, the bubble-wrap.

    But as a parent, I think I’m probably slightly more namby-pamby than you.

    I laughed especially loud at the comment re: crutches (and then I set down the crutches I carry around) because I’ve been known to coddle my offspring.

    As a teacher, I had a reputation for learning every student’s name (120 of them) on the first day of class because I wanted them to know they would NOT be anonymous and that they DID matter to me (this after an incident where my 7th grade honors English teacher thought I was someone else at the semester – for shame!).

    But. I was ruthless when it came to cheating/copying or stealing anyone else’s intellectual property in any way. I told my students that if they failed honorably, I’d respect them more than if they tried to fool me. Ever.

    And if they did fail, I’d help them correct the situation if they wished. Every time.

    Anyway, I love you. I love Jess. I want to come to the Tennessee party.

    We can all sing “Why don’t we do it in the road?” at the top of our lungs.
    Or not.

  8. Deborah the Closet Monster

    Li’l D’s so young, it’s early for me to tell. I feel like I’m going to be very chill in a lot of areas (read: most things), but very strict in others (read: those involving treatment of other human beings).

    Ba.D. tends to be the more kicked-back one between the two of us, so I was surprised to learn that I’m the more relaxed parent between us. One time when I remarked on the same (“hon, that is not going to kill him”), Ba.D. said, “Dads are afraid of breaking their kids, OK? You moms know what they can actually handle!” Ha!

    • Hi Deb:

      Isn’t it funny how we don’t know how we’ll parent until we get one of those little people?

      I shouldn’t have been surprised that I had to become the enforcer, but it is my role (kind of). That being said, I’m a goofy-goof and almost nothing can’t be fixed with a little dance. I also find if we sing in our Operaman voices, the dull stuff is much more enjoyable. 😉

  9. Wonderfully written post, as always, Renee! If I had kids, I would let them eat the whole bowl of cookie dough, but they’d have to beat me to it.

    I’m still kind of hung up on at swim instructor. Geesh!

  10. I was neither if that is possible. My kids always had a healthy respect for me and I returned the favor. I had rules and they learned I wouldn’t be a pushover, but I was also a great listener and if they had a valid argument I rescinded the “commandment!”
    Great post!

    • That sounds incredible well-balanced. I am not a pushover, but I sometimes find myself having to play the role of the bad cop, which is not always fun. Hubby likes to take Tech Support out to do manly things (like stealth-mode Slurpees and ice cream).

      I’m the one who has the say, “Did you practice your piano?” and “How’s that Hebrew coming?” 😛

  11. Kara

    Thanks for sharing–this could not have come at a better time! I am not a parent, but I am a teacher of first graders. I constantly question whether I’m too hard on them or not hard enough. What I know for sure is my students love me and typically love school and I love them right back (almost painfully so), and I think that’s what it really comes down to. I imagine parenting is a lot like that, too.

    • Kara! I was a teacher long before I was ever a parent. I think any teacher with children will tell you, teaching is the best preparation for children that you can ever hope to have. You are training now. You are figuring out the boundaries: when to be soft and flexible and when to stand your ground. It can get confusing.

      Some people wait and get the dog before they do the kid thing. You are raising other people’s children! You will be infinitely better prepared to have your own crew one day, if you choose to do so. You know how to multi-task like nobody’s business!It’s one of the perks. 😉

  12. Hi Renee! I followed you here to Tennessee. Loved the post. Sounds like you have a nice balance. I think we do as well, but from the outside most of our friends think we are VERY strict. Frankly, I think most of them are namby-pamby . . . maybe the truth is somewhere there in the middle. Someone did once tell me that my husband I were parenting like it was 50s. Actually, I wasn’t too upset to hear it!

  13. My parents didn’t let me get video games, either, until I was almost in high school, and I didn’t care about them as much. When I was a kid I hated the policy, but I look back on it now and am glad I didn’t get hooked.

  14. Whaaaat? You mean I get featured again? Seriously? I am beyond complimented, Jess! Thank you!

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