My Parenting Handbook (What I learned the hard way)
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Isn't it true that you learn everything about raising kids by raising kids? The first born child is the test-baby. He or she succumbs to every mistake or triumph of decision you make. And then number two is born. Luckily, you've learned how to be master of the pampers, fiend of formula and how to rock rules and regulations. Now you're off and running with a toddler, maybe two or if you're brave enough, three or four. What's next?
This is my personal list of things I think every mom and dad should know.
It's not 101...it's more like 99
- Kids should be allowed to be kids. They need to play, rough-house, laugh, run, ride their bicycles and do all the things kids do. I know this sounds basic but you would be surprised at how many kids are the "babysitter" for the younger siblings. It's justifiable on special occasions but for it to happen on a daily basis, taking the place of a daycare or nanny is wrong. Don't force your kiddo to grow up too fast.
- Education is EVERYTHING. Never compromise your child's education and do it from the very beginning. This is especially important if you have a child who is gifted or who needs more help than other students. Regardless, college is expensive and there are literally thousands of scholarships out there just collecting dust! At this point, a bachelor's degree isn't as valuable as it used to be. The job market is extremely competitive and you want the best for your child so start now and don't give up.
- Don't over-expose your child to movies, video games and music. Media that is rated PG-13 is often NOT appropriate for a 13 year-old and it goes without saying that it's absolutely inappropriate for kids to be watching Rated-R movies. If the music label reads "explicit lyrics" it means just that, EXPLICIT and not appropriate for young ears.
- Don't allow your young daughter to wear clothing that makes her look like a streetwalker. If a young girl dresses like a hooker, boys will look at her and treat her like one. She shouldn't have her undergarments showing. Her bra shouldn't show through her shirt. She should always look like a young lady, regardless of what she is wearing. To make it completely simple, don't buy clothes that are questionable.
- Get the kids off the computer, couch, DSI and PS3 and get them outside! It's common knowledge that kids today are not as healthy and active as they could be. That doesn't mean you have to sign them up for three more sports, just turn off the television and send them out to the backyard, to the park or to ride their bikes. Have them walk the dog or rake the yard. Teach them to love being outside and eventually they won't want to be parked in front of the T.V. all day.
- Ask your kids open ended questions that they have to answer with some real bulk. If they give you simple answers, keep asking, keep digging. Learn to really communicate with your kids and keep track of the things they love to talk about. Recall things that are important to them and ask about those particular things. It will make them feel important! And they are!
- Talk to your kids about everything. Don't lie to them. If they ask you a tough question, tell them the truth. If you feel they are too young to know the adult version, filter it. But don't lie. Trust is important and so is reciprocity.
- Learn to speak your child's language. Children are as different as the colors and values of the universe. If you determine which style your child is most receptive to when they are learning and you speak it often, you will have a virtual galaxy of open communication between you. In other words, if your child is a visual learner, draw pictures. If your child needs a lot of hugs, give them often. If your child likes verbal praise, praise away! Once you have unearthed this wealth of knowledge, use it to your advantage.
- NO means NO, end of conversation. Don't banter with your child at any age. When you say no, mean it. You don't have to give a reason why. You don't have to rationalize it. Just say it and be firm. Set your expectations, you can even write them down, then stick to them.
- Did you know that between 95-99% of your child's socialization comes from you, the parent. If you are the birth parent, they also share 50% of your chromosomes so you basically have a tiny little version of you. Scary huh? This is your legacy so now that you've made your mark, ensure that what you pass on is quality work. Nurture your children and give them best parts of you. What this means is that everything they see, hear and feel at home is recorded and stored for later use. You're a lot like your parents aren't you? It's inevitable. Studies show that kids who were adopted display characteristics of their birth parents even though they were raised in an entirely different atmosphere.
- Don't treat your child like a piece of fine china that never comes out of the case. It's like putting them inside of a straight-jacket and then paralyzing them. Let your kids get messy. Let them fall down. Let them crash. Let them experience life to the fullest. It's the only way to get them ready for the real world in the real world. Your child has to experience good things and bad things. If you don't allow them to experience both the good and the bad, they won't be prepared to survive out there! Eventually you're going to want them to spread their wings and fly so teach them about responsibility, accountability, integrity and trust. Those four words will take them a long way in life.
- When something bad does happen to your child, don't make a big deal out of it. Your kids will take their cues from you so if you freak out, they will too. Stay calm and collected. You don't have to sprint the 50-yard-dash in 4 seconds flat when your child gets a boo boo. Even if your kiddo breaks their arm, it's going to be fine. They look to you to see how to act so put on your game face!
- Don't bribe your kids. If your kids thrive on external motivations, life is going to seem awfully unfair. Who's going to bribe them when they go to college or get a job in the real world? Allow kids to work for privileges and special things. It gives things a sense of value and gives them pride in earning those things.
Final thought: Parenting is tricky. Children are unique and amazing and there are undoubtedly many ways to achieve the same results however, one thing is certain: kids thrive in structured settings. If you are a beginner or an expert, you know that it's tough to stay focused 100% of the time. It's easy to give in because parenting is an exhausting full-time job. Hang in there! The time will fly right by and before you know it, you will have self-sufficient teenagers who want to work, feel good about themselves, have high self esteem and communicate effectively. Wouldn't it be fantastic if it were that easy! There are sure to be bumps and valleys along the way. Most importantly, enjoy this fantastic life!