Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 for 30 - On Parenting

Just a few days ago I shared my (few) insights on marriage. Today, the natural follow-up: parenting! I've been a parent for nearly ten years, but I've played one all my life. {smile} So, what have I learned?
1. The days are long but the years are short. Seriously. Yesterday I gave birth to a perfect bundle of sweet baby and today she's almost ten years old. Long days, short years. I can't explain the math but that is how it works.

2. Use a routine, not necessarily a schedule. Anything that decrees we be doing a specified thing at a specified time is most likely doomed to failure here at Chez Charming. However, our days do follow a fairly specific routine. (Breakfast - school - lunch - nap - chores - supper - play - bed...)

3. Do not end your commands to your children with, "OK?" Common parenting mistake. Say something like "Understand?" "Clear?" Or even, "Got it?" OK leaves them with the impression that you are asking their opinion and you are not. Anyway, you ought not to be.

4. Give options...

5. But not too many. Letting a toddler choose between two sundresses is different from flinging open her closet and telling her to get dressed. That's a recipe for feeling overwhelmed and thereby enacting a massive shut down.

6. Don't remake the bed.

7. Or refold the towels. If a child is learning to complete a chore, don't re-do the chore behind them. Sure, the bed so proudly made by your four year old probably doesn't have hospital corners. Or a smooth surface. The covers probably look like 57 stuffed animals are under there (because, let's face it, they are) but if you correct her efforts you will regret it and she will always hate doing the job. The towels don't care that you fold them in rectangles and he folded squares. Let it go.

8. No TV. Seriously.
9. Don't over schedule. Down time is necessary.

10. My kids need me. Not things. Not even "experiences". Me. And their daddy.

11. Be willing to answer a question with "I don't know"

12. And then show them how to find the answer.

13. Encourage conversation. Dinner time isn't just for chewing food.

14. Uphold traditions. Children are usually quite insistent about this. Sometimes doing something only once is enough to cement a tradition in a child's mind. ("But we always walk around the block on Saturdays!")

15. Laugh. A lot. Together, but never at each other.
16. Let them get dirty. "Children cannot do all the things they are supposed to do if they have to worry about spoiling their precious clothes." - Maria in The Sound of Music. Dirt is not a disaster.

17. Understand that every child is oh so different. Parenting is one of the most creative things you will ever undertake. You must deal with each child as an individual while always bearing in mind that most complicated of childhood demands: fairness.

18. Love their daddy (or mother, if you happen to be one of my gentlemen blog readers).

19. Praise their dad / mom. A little bragging on each other never hurts.

20. Pray as a family. Listen to their prayers. Pray for them. Encourage them to pray for others.

21. Talk now about the big stuff. Don't put off difficult topics. Take the "teachable moments" as they come. Listen to their confidences and protect them as if they are state secrets.

22. Encourage them to depend on each other. The way I see it, one of the best gifts I've given my daughters is their sisters to love and support them. They need each other, whether they realize it now or not.

23. Enable them to spend time with their grandparents and great-grandparents. One of the great blessings of my adult life is the chance to watch my own beloved grandparents with my girls.

24. Listen to the radio and music together. Choose music for the whole family, not the stuff marketed to children. Watch movies together. Favorite quotes, oft repeated, enrich the family dialog. (Only my parents or siblings understand me when I say, "I figure I'm going to go broke about 2:30 this afternoon.")

25. Read aloud, no matter how old or young the children are. Take turns. Re-read your favorites. Do as many elaborate voices as you wish.
26. Don't criticize other parents, especially the parents of their friends. If necessary you can say, "Well, family X does this but our family chooses to do it this way."

27. Don't do for them what they can do for themselves...

28. But make exceptions. My four year old is perfectly capable of getting herself ready for bed. Sometimes though, she may be just too tired or slightly under the weather. A gentle helping hand goes a long way in these times. However, don't underestimate a child's abilities. Even a five year old can learn to make a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and then tidy up after themselves.

29. Say, "I'm sorry." Apologize when you are wrong and they will not hold your errors against you. Help them learn to forgive and to ask forgiveness in turn.

30. Say, "I love you." Every day. In as many ways as you can. Brag on them in their hearing every once in awhile. Tell them that you would choose them out of all the children in the world. After all, wouldn't you?


Amy said...

Great post!
One of my favorites: "Don't remake the bed". Love it! That one used to be one of those tough parenting things I prided myself on. Now I'm just happy to look in the room, see they made some effort and call it done. Whether I'm relaxed or just busier, I don't know!

Toni said...

Love this post. (I've loved reading all your 30 for 30's) It's too late for me, but I'm printing it out in the hopes that one day I can give it to my daughter-in-laws--I think they'll need it to correct any bad habits I've instilled into their husbands. :)

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