Saturday, June 9, 2012

how to raise kids well

Whenever I'd become a bit smug over our kids,
my husband Bill would say: "the jury's not out."
He was right of course.
But now our kids are grown,
so I have a few things to say about raising them.
First, my kids aren't perfect.
And I'm not perfect, not by a long shot.
Nor was I a perfect mother. I yelled too much, slammed a few doors,
and exasperated my children at times. Some days I felt like a horrible mother.
But I want to share what I thinks works in raising kids, and what doesn't.
Take it or leave it.

Dear moms and dads,

You chose to have children; they didn't choose to be born to you.
They aren't returnable, so do your best to love and cherish them.
Remember they won't be yours forever.
I believe they're a gift from God, on loan for a time.
Your main job, from the moment of their birth, is to prepare them to leave you.
Do for them only what they cannot do for themselves.
Like brushing their teeth for them at 18 months old.
And changing their diapers.
Do not do their homework, repeatedly deliver a forgotten lunch to school,
pay them for doing nothing, clean up their kitchen messes,
or do their laundry once they're old enough to do it.
They will soon have to do these things on their own. 
And if you've done it all for them, then what?

They will try to give you crap from a very young age.
Do not take their crap. DO NOT.
Crap includes disobedience, manipulation, defiance, and disrespectful talk.
I don't think it includes simply acting like a child.
It's hard because lots of parents take crap; I see it all the time. Even whining is crap!
When crap happens, address it then and there.
Don't pass the buck onto your spouse.
Mothers and fathers can be equally skilled at dealing with crap.

If you're sick and tired of your kids, don't tell them.
Just send everyone to his room, including yourself, and read.
If it's raining and everyone is sick of each other,
sit on the couch with them and read and read and read.
I think reading is better than any drug.

Remove a disobedient child from a public place and deal with her behavior.
It's ok to leave your cart in Wal-mart and go to the car for a talking-to. Or spanking-to.
Don't humiliate your child and yourself by disciplining in public.
And know the difference between punishment and discipline.
The word discipline means "to disciple," teach or train.
The more training you do early on, the less punishing you'll need to do later.
Take time to teach proper manners, etiquette for the occasion, and clear expectations,
and your child will have a better idea of how to act.

Please think carefully about the "count to 3" method.
Do you want them to obey you immediately,
or learn to delay obedience until you count to three, or ten?

Be the parent now. It's ok to be friendly, but not at the expense of being a parent.
Be there for them, but not overbearingly so.
It's a very delicate balance. A dance, if you will.
Try to strike a balance of rules and relationship.
Take each of them out on a date now and then. It's a very special time to them.
Ask about their days, their dreams, their frustrations.
And really, really listen.
Even if you "don't come from a hugging family," hug them often.

Remember they aren't you. They are them.
Let them find who they are and be content in it.

Find God and show them how important he is. Pray with them, pray for them.
One day, they will be under someone else's authority and you'd better hope it's God's.

Little by little, let go. Don't micromanage their lives. Trust them to do it.
And when they finally go to college or get married or get a job in California,
tell them you believe they will succeed.
Then go to your room, close the door, and cry for awhile.

That, my friends, is how I tried to raise my children.


bignatecm said...

From everything I have seen you definitely have the authority to write this column. But to be honest my favorite parenting advise comes from people with no children. Because when they leave I usually end up rolling on the floor laughing.

klrodman said...

I believe you have just posted the long summary of one of your books you will be writing over the years! :)

I agree completely. I'm still working on the "not taking any crap" part. :)

Thanks for the encouragement.

Karen Dawkins said...

And this, dear friend, is why I am SO thankful God placed you smack dab in the middle of my life! I am abundantly blessed to have learned these lessons sitting at your kitchen counter sipping coffee.

Thank you!!!