How To Raise Great Kids
It's Not About Luck
"You are SO lucky!"
I don't know how many times over the past few decades I've heard that phrase in reference to my well accomplished children. I'm not bragging--but seriously, I hear it a lot. And even though I know that the polite response is, "Thank you so much! We're very proud of her!" and though that is the response I give, what I really want to do is tell the truth. The truth is that luck has VERY little to do with raising a well rounded, happy, stable, successful human being and I wish people would stop waiting for LUCK to step up and do the heavy lifting involved in parenting.
I can't tell people how to raise their kids. But I CAN talk about how I raised mine. So I will.
Stop Focusing On Superficial Details And Start Paying Attention To The Subtlties
There are many totally involved parents out there who are baffled by the the ghastly behavior and or personalities of the children they are working so hard to raise. They are flabbergasted when these kids decide to smoke, do drugs, become teenage parents, drop out of high school, drop out of college, use harsh language, refuse to get a job, refuse to move out, refuse to be nice and so on. They will tell anyone who will listen, "I did EVERYTHING for that boy! I don't understand why he is acting like this!" If I could, I would tell them, "You over-parented your child and therefore under-raised him. So...what to do...? Do this stuff--and start when they're young if you can...
1) Participate. This does not mean that you must or even should sign them up for every activity that all of the cool kids are into and them drive them from event to event, practice to practice all the while wearing a T Shirt with the name of your over-indulged child on the back. What it means is that you should care about the activities he or she chooses and show up when you should. Pay attention and be proud but remember the children need some limits. They need to know that the entire existence of your family unit does not revolve around their personal agenda. Limit those activities that take considerable time away from the family to a reasonable number. Be a family made up of participating members not support team made of personal assistants.
2) Listen. That's it. Super easy. When your child comes home from school or a friend's house or where ever and tries to tell you a story JUST LISTEN. Don't interrupt, don't judge, don't correct her grammar, don't question small details, don't tell her what she SHOULD have done. Don't, don't, don't. Just remember that you are setting the stage for the coming years. You are training her to come to you when she needs to talk, and you really do not want to mess up this lesson. If something comes up during her story that concerns you, make a personal note to address it later--preferably in some unrelated context. Please don't confuse this point with giving your child advice when he or she comes to you for it. Always keep that door open. But when they just want to talk to you, let them.
3) Teach Them To Respect You.You don't do this by forcing them to call you "Sir" and making sure that you always have the last word in an argument. Please. The lesson of respect is made of consistent behavior on a daily basis and it is fraught with subtleties but it is also the easiest to teach if you just do it. REMEMBER: that if you behave as if you are your child's servant, he will see you that way and if he sees YOU that way he will treat other adults that way as well. Don't clean his room for him, pick up his messes for him, clear his plate from the dinner table, make excuses for him, allow him to ignore you when you're speaking to him, allow him to delay when you ask him to do something, interrupt you when you are speaking, etc... DO: assign him chores, require his participation in family activities that are not all about him, have expectations of him...it's not that hard.
4) Think Before You Speak This is huge. Think before you speak TO them and think before you speak IN FRONT of them. That's probably all that needs to be said about that.