Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Words parents should live by...

My youngest daughter, our baby turned 18 yesterday.  So my husband and I toasted to the fact that our job is officially done...not really--we have a son in college and she will be leaving at the end of the summer for college.  We still feel that the two of them will need our guidance and financial support.  But their two older siblings are currently self sufficient, working at careers they enjoy and can be classified as "grown-ups".  So what have we learned over the years about parenting this crew.  Here is a list of our lessons learned--sometimes the hard way.

1.  Parents need to be strong.  Weak parents who allow their kids to do anything and everything result in very unhappy young adults.  Set limits for your kids.  Have high expectations for their behavior and work ethic.  Within our family we see huge ranges in abilities when it comes to specific areas...but one thing holds constant--all children have gifts.  The key is finding them and then teaching the child to embrace who they are and what they are capable of accomplishing.  And emphasize education.  School is a child's work.  Monitor their homework.  Go to teacher conferences.  Be active in their school and take an interest.  Communicate to them the importance of education.

2.  Respect your children as individuals and require them to respect you.  You must earn your children's respect by your own behavior.  If you humiliate them, constantly criticize them, or allow them to witness you lying or justifying otherwise inappropriate behavior they will NOT respect you.  And when your children don't respect you, you have lost the battle.

3.  Don't always rush in to be the hero.  Let your children figure things out by themselves.  If you constantly swoop in when the going gets tough, you are communicating to them that they are incapable of solving their own problems.  This completely decimates their self esteem.  Self esteem is not built through constantly praising your children, contrary to popular belief.  It is built through successfully navigating the tough patches of one's life.
    When your child is experiencing difficulty, support them, listen to them, be there for them...but don't rush in and deal with the issues.  Don't be the parent who calls the teacher to curse them out before hearing the teacher's side of the story.  Don't allow your child to quit a team because they don't like the coach, or their other teammates, or whatever it is they are initially reporting to you.  Investigate situations and support your child through them.  Don't control situations and blame difficulties on others.  Help your child to persevere and problem solve in their own life.

4.  Make time for your family.  Believe me when I say the years fly by.  No one ever said on their death bed "I wish I worked more hours!".  Share family dinners, plan vacations, celebrate life with your children.  Enjoy spending time together.  Listen to their thoughts and ideas.  Tell them your beliefs, experiences, observations.  Create the bonds that will last a lifetime.

5.  Don't let them grow up too fast!  Childhood is a precious time of life.  You only get to be an innocent child for a short time.  It's a parent's job to protect this stage of life.  Revel in childhood and protect your children from media messages that are too mature and negative.  Children don't need to play violent video games to be happy.  Children don't need spa days to be happy.  Children don't need smart phones to be happy.  Giving children access to everything in the adult world creates miserable children.  They will have nothing to look forward to.  Protect your child's precious childhood.

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