Yesterday I resolved to stop REACTING and RANTING (not before I started composing the "Rant to End All Rants" in my head first though!) Why? Well, it just doesn't feel good to be in that mode - to be reacting and defending and wanting to PROVE why your way is better. It is so much better to live what we believe peacefully and promote what we love, as opposed to bashing what we don't.
But then I read an article that annoyed me. And I was going to send it to one of my favorite bloggers so she could break it down - but then I thought, why don't I instead? So the day after making a Grand Resolution, here I am composing this post. Naturally. Because that's what happens when I RESOLVE to do anything.
BUT the good news is that this post is going to be extremely positive and inspiring. In my very humble opinion anyway. So even though I am reacting to something I didn't like, I'm putting out there what I do. So maybe my resolution still stands.
The post I read is called 12 ways to be the meanest mom in the world. But since I don't think it is necessary - or even desirable and effective - to be a mean mom in order to be a good mom, I'm going to list 12 ways to build an amazing relationship with your child and be an AWESOME mom (or dad! or any person in a child's life...)
(Also, if you really believe that the "kids these days" are the "laziest, rudest, most entitled kids in history" maybe you should check in with past generations and see what *they* thought of kids back in their day. Go back a few years, to oh, I don't know, maybe the 8th century BC when Hesiod said, "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint". Ok, so I'm not really sure who Hesiod is or if he really said that, so maybe this one from Plato is more familiar, "What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?" Hmmm... I guess the whole, "kids these days" notion isn't so new!)
Ok enough ranting! On with the raving! Without further ado, 12 ways to achieve parenting awesomeness and build amazing relationships with the children in your life:
1) Support your kids' natural, biological rhythms and help them get enough rest. If school is part of your family's life find ways to make going to bed enjoyable. (Of course do this whether school is part of your life or not. I only mentioned it as a "condition" because bedtime is usually more of an issue for families that have to conform to the school schedule). Find a routine that works for everyone, but be flexible. Recognize that there are times when children aren't ready for bed at the "normal" time and other times when they may need to go to bed earlier. On the weekends let them catch up on sleep if they need to. Have discussions about why it's important to get enough sleep and ask them for ideas if bedtime is becoming unenjoyable. If your family has opted out of school, even better! You can really respect your child's natural sleep schedule. You can also give them more freedom in exploring their limits, what feels good, and what works for them. Your discussions will probably include respecting other's need for sleep and appropriate behavior if they stay up late (aka - daddy needs to work so we have to keep noise at reasonable night time levels! Also, Mommy is just plain tired.)
2) Have a variety of food in the house. Allow your kids to choose what they want to eat. This is a big topic to cover in a short list. However, limiting kids and controlling their food does not lead to healthy, balanced eating habits. If they want "dessert" let them eat it. If you must worry about someone's diet, let it be your own. Model what you think is healthy eating. Have natural conversations with them when things come up - like the time you eat too many potato chips and got a stomach ache (I may or may not have done that last weekend.)
3) Give your kids some spending money regularly. But be generous with them also. We give our kids an "allowance" every week. Right now Marisol gets $5 (she's 8 years old) and Gerry just started getting $3 recently (he's 5 years old). We do not tie the money to chores or behavior. It is automatic. The benefits are many: they learn to save, they learn how much things are worth, there are fewer debates about what they can get when we go to stores. But I've also realized that I want to surprise them with things they love once in a while too! Because I love them. Because it takes so little to give them joy. Because I believe the best way for them to learn generosity it so experience it and see it, so I want to model it. There is no one right way to approach money and one thing I've learned is that our approach is always evolving. But keeping open, honest communication about money and being generous are good starting points for us right now.
4) Support your child through challenges and be their advocate. If they find themselves involved in an activity, a class, a job, or any relationship or situation in which they are unhappy support them. Listen. Offer insights if they want them. Ask what you can do to help. Life will always have challenges but you can show them that they don't need to face them alone and that they are up to facing them. They will learn how to make the best of things if it is worth it to them and they will also learn what situations aren't worth staying in.
5) Watch them do hard things and be in awe. Children are born wanting to learn and grow and try new things. When they find things they are passionate about they WILL do hard things without you "making" them do anything. Be ready to support them in the way that is best for them, determined BY them. Sometimes that will mean helping or even doing something for them, sometimes it will mean commiserating, "man, that *is* hard!", sometimes it will mean keeping quiet but remaining present. Sometimes they may even want you to give them some space. Respect that they know what is best for them in any given moment.
6) Give them a watch and alarm clock if they ask for one. Believe that when children find something worthwhile to them they will learn to manage their time. But help them in the meantime. Some people sleep through anything - even the loudest alarms! (My sister was one of them, and I've heard other people say the same thing!) Work together to find ways for your child to succeed. They will learn it is ok to ask for help when they need it.
7) Support your kids in their interests. Involve them in financial decisions. Of course, gratitude for what we have is very important. But learning that there is no shame in wanting more is too. We bought a wii gaming system less than a year ago. We are probably going to get a wiiU for Christmas. No, we didn't go out and buy it the instant our kids (ok, Gerry) wanted it, but they know that we are planning to get it. He also knows how much money it is and that "300 dollars is a lot of dollars." And in the meantime we go to Best Buys and Targets and Gerry gets his fix.
8) Be there for them when they experience true loss. Because they will. But if it is a loss that you can help fix, help them. They will learn kindness this way. And they will learn to help you when you make mistakes too. Show them how to be responsible by being responsible, reliable, and truthful.
9) Be truly radical and give your child more freedom than you are comfortable with. Whether it is about "screen time" or food or exploring their environment, be willing to push your comfort levels because you want to build trust between you and your child. Fight the urge to restrict, limit, and control even though all the other parents are. Besides you know that control is a myth anyway.
10) (and 11 and 12) Model, Model, Model
If you make a mistake, apologize. They will learn how to apologize naturally this way. If you see them struggling with a friend - help them. Support them both by listening and asking questions. Children are intelligent - they know when they've done something wrong and they want to make amends. Be the kind of person you want them to be. They will follow suit. Help others because it is important to you. And remember that your kids are some of the most important people that *you* can help. Notice the things that they do for you and others and thank them sincerely.
The amazing thing about children is that they are human beings, just like adults! Yes, they will make mistakes (like adults) and yes they have less experience than adults - but they really want to feel good, and living well with others does feel good for all of us! They want to be connected to you and to the wider world. Punishment and praise (or other rewards) are not necessary and in fact, not helpful.
Yes it's a lot of work being a parent and staying connected to our children - but it is worth it! And once you start to see that they really *do* master everything they need to in their own time, you will feel more confident in them and yourself. Not only will you have amazing relationships but you will feel like an awesome mom (or dad, or grandma/grandpa,or aunty/uncle) too!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.