Super Parenting - How To Be A GREAT Parent
"A father's goodness is higher than the mountain, a mother's goodness deeper than the sea."
-- Japanese Proverb
1. BE THERE
One of the worst things any parent can do, is to NOT be in their child's life. Yes, there are very rare circumstances when it's better than a parent not remain in their child's life, HOWEVER, the emphasis is on the RARE part. In 99 percent of cases, there is NO reason other than fear based selfishness, for a parent not to be in their child's life.
One of the absolute best things that every GREAT parent does, is being IN their child's life as often as possible. It doesn't matter if you've got horrible habits, you're still childish yourself, you've done some crazy things or you believe or have been told that you're a bad parent. Being in your child's life helps them not only to have a connection with their heritage, it strengthens a very important spiritual and mental bond that we all need when growing up. It's hard to put into words that would accurately describe the parent-child bond and it's importance, but the main point is that when you are there, you're kids KNOW that you love them. Even if you get impatient and yell a lot, even if you can't cook, even if you're constantly busy working and EVEN if you screw up sometimes.
When you're not there, regardless of what reason or whether or not your kid knows why, the majority of the time, they BLAME THEMSELVES. You can't fill up the void of a missing parent, and that kind of void eats at you throughout the rest of your life.
Want to be a GREAT parent to your child? BE THERE.
"It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself."
-- Joyce Maynard
2. ADMIT THAT YOU MAKE MISTAKES
This might seem like a silly thing, but really, the ability to admit when you make mistakes, is a skill that takes time to learn, especially when it involves admitting it to your kids sometimes.
When our kids are very young, they often view us as some sort of superhuman encyclopedias, born with the ability to see, know and do ALL. As they get older, they stop seeing us that way, but many parents still get stuck in the mindset that they should never appear "wrong" to their kids. Like we have to continue being superhuman parents for the rest of our lives, even if we were never really superhuman in the first place.
When you get stuck in that sort of mentality - where you just can't seem to sit down with your kids and admit that you were impatient and you shouldn't have yelled at them, or going back to tell them that you're sorry for not listening to their side of the story - it really pours the metaphorical pesticide on your parent-child relationship. Not only are you hiding a side of yourself that your kids need to see, but you're showing them that it's not okay to be wrong, make mistakes or to act irrationally sometimes.
Want to be a GREAT parent? Admit when you're wrong
"If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers."
-- Edgar W. Howe
3. LOVE YOURSELF
As parents we SACRIFICE again and again. We love our kids, our house, our spouse and everything that comes along with it. We love everyone and everything so much, that we put all our energy into keeping it all healthy and in good condition. This is all great, but all this devotion to everyone and everything else has a BIG flaw.
That big flaw: We don't take care of ourselves and our own needs in the process.
I'm not going to go into a big spiel about the ways you should be taking care of your emotional, spiritual and physical needs - because you ALREADY KNOW what you should be doing. Instead, I'm going to leave you with these thought nuggets:
- Kids who see their parents taking care of their physical and health needs, are 90% more likely to take care of their own physical needs in healthy ways.
- A child who sees his or her parent gladly pick up a carrot stick instead of a twizzlers stick, is 80% more likely to go for healthier snacks themselves.
- A parent who openly tries new foods without complaint or silly faces, usually has a child who is NOT a picky eater.
- Children who have parents that make healthy lifestyle choices, go to the doctors less often and do better in school.
- Parents who are open to their spouse and kids about their emotional needs and limitations, will help their kids develop emotional maturity and show them how to talk about their own emotional needs, in a healthy way.
- Parents who not only take care of themselves, but whom have a healthy level of self confidence and self love (yes, we all need a little narcissism!), are 75% less likely to raise kids who will turn into depressed or rage-filled teenagers.
- You can TELL your kids anything you want, as many times as you want, but to be a GREAT parent, you need to show them through YOUR OWN actions and behaviors.
"Affection without sentiment, authority without cruelty, discipline without aggression, humor without ridicule, sacrifice without obligation, companionship without possessiveness."
-- William E. Blatz
4. LOVE YOUR PARTNER
With all the sexual taboo's that have circled our societies for thousands of years, it's easy to understand why most parents have a hard time being intimate in front of their kids. A passionate kiss placed on the lips of your lover, can show your kids how they can display affection for their future parents (when they're 35 of course! lol).
A long relaxed hug at the end of the day, can show your child that there are rewards for working hard all day for a family. A piece of food playfully placed in your partners lips at dinner time, can show your son or daughter that there's more to love than just paying the bills and taking care of the kids. Even a small debate with your spouse, has the potential to show your kids how to solve problems (in a healthy way) when you're upset.
All to often, a person grows up knowing all the things they shouldn't do when it comes to relationships, attraction and other 'desires', though they have to learn the hard way about what they CAN or even SHOULD be doing.
Want to help solve half of the worlds relationship problems AND be a GREAT parent? Love your parent in front of your kids. Just remember to keep it within reason. Sitting on your partners lap while they tell you about their day is quaint and healthy, but you're kids might not understand if you start doing a striptease in the living room...
The Hallway of Learning Opportunities
When you don't know... You can:
- Watch a documentary
- Check the internet
- Open a dictionary
- Try it out yourself
- Go to a bookstore
- Go to a Museum
- Go to the library
- Search youtube
- Phone a friend
- Ask a stranger
- Ask a teacher
- Ask Grandma
- Find a recipe
- Take a class
Learning can be the best way to spend time with your kids. Kids have a phathomless desire to learn and soak up information and experiences. You to have this drive, and both of you want to have fun together. So the next time they ask you a question you don't know the answer to, be a GREAT parent and tell them, "You know.. I don't know the answer. Let's find out!"
5. ADMIT TO NOT KNOWING
Just like being able to admit when you're wrong, being able to admit when you don't know something, is a skill that takes some persistence to master. Though truthfully, and I should know from experience, it's not as hard and a lot more fun once you open up and admit that sometimes you just don't know the answer.
Once you let yourself free from the restraining thought pattern that you MUST KNOW EVERYTHING, you will be show the Hallway of Learning Opportunities that you can travel down with your kids. What is the "Hallway of Learning Opportunities"? It's a cute name I gave to the countless ways you can learn with your kids when you don't know the answer to one of their questions.
I believe it was the late Richard L. Evans who said:
"A person soon learns how little he knows when a child begins to ask questions."
"The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day."
-- O. A. Battista
6. TELL STORIES
There was a time.... Way back when the earth was still full of giant lizards and huge drooling volcano's, and there were NO TV's, iPods or Playstations, there were Thick HAIRY monsters that lived in caves where they grunted stories to their cave-kids. They told them about what happens from the moment they emerge from behind big gray boulders that covered their cave doors. One day, one of those smelly hair covered monsters drug it's club around while searching for food and items to make huge cave paintings. When he was coming back to the cave, a pure white horse with a long horn coming out from between it's velvety ears, appeared on the path. So that cave dwelling giant brushed the hair out of it's eyes and sketched a charcol picture of it on a stone, to take back to the cave and redraw onto his favorite cave wall.....
Okay, so it's not one of my better stories, but I hope you can see where I'm leading you with it. The ability to create and tell stories is uniquely human. It's a skill we developed somewhere down the road of evolution, that has provided us with the ability to pass on important information and to retain our heritage and history. Without this ability, I doubt our species would be as advanced as it is.
And setting aside the boring reasons, the BEST reason you should tell stories to your kids, is because it's FUN for both YOU and your kids. Tell them stories about when you were a kid-teen-young adult-etc. Tell them the stories you used to make up in your imagination when you were there age. Make up new stories and tell them those. Tell the story of your day - how work went, how school went or how your doctors appoint went. Your kids WANT to know, especially when they are younger. Even if they aren't extroverted enough to ask you about your day, or to tell them a story, and EVEN if you think your stories are boring. They still get immense pleasure from hearing you tell them real or fictional stories right from your own memory and imagination.
If all that isn't reason enough, telling your kids stories can help them develop their IMAGINATION, something every SUCCESSFUL person in this world had to develop before they ever had a chance to actually be successful.
"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders."
-- Abigail Van Buren
7. FAMILY BUSINESS
If you've ever told your kids to "go play" or get out of your hair because you had to deal with a budget crisis or other "adult" task, raise your hand.
I'm definitely amongst you, as even now, knowing what I know, I still do it from time to time. Though I have been getting ever better at including my kids in family matters more often. You see there are some enlightening lessons I've learned my short life:
- When you're in a jam, your kids are always full of ideas for solutions, and because they are still free of the mental limitations of adults, they often discover the BEST solutions much sooner then we could have.
- The best way to teach your kids how to live happy, productive and debt free lives when they grow up - is to include them in the mundane matters of running a home and keeping a family healthy.
- It's MUCH easier and healthier for you both, if you have your kid sit down with a pencil and paper to take notes, then to yell at them to go find something else to do while you try to be "Super Mom" or "Dynamic Dad".
By including your kids in issues like: Paying the bills, saving money, making decisions about spending money, how much you make per paycheck and how it's usually gets spent, what bills aren't being covered and what it would take to have a balanced budget. Include other tasks to running a home and family, like making sure Johnny gets new shows for his fast growing feet, or that Jane has a new dress for the spring fling dance. What about that accident Dad had at work? How will you pay for it?
It's when times get tough that you're kids really learn from being included in family meetings about "family business". These are the moments that most families fall into the circle of welfare and then have to spend years crawling back out. Though I know of at least one family (whom I learned much of this from), who had family meetings. When they found themselves in a sticky situation when a family member passed away. From one circumstance or another, they were landed with a ton of debt that still needed to be covered in their relatives estate, and they were the only living relatives left to pay it. They already behind on their own car payment and rent.
The father of the home, let's call him "Joe", called his kids into the living room where he laid an insurance policy on the table in front of them. Then, along with their mother - we'll call her Ruth - he explained to his kids (who were 2, 8 and 14 at the time) about the pickle they were in. He told them that from that point on, they were going to form a family business where everything would be decided on by a vote from the entire family. Everything from what to name their family business to how his paycheck would be spent every month.
I won't bore you with too many more details, but let's just say that within a few years, they had cut down on almost all their expenses, with the kids voluntarily offering up ways they could help save their family money. They sold their house when the market was good and bought a new house that was not only more affordable, but it was on a larger plot of land and with the lower mortgage, they were able to keep they're nanny around. Even when the youngest child was 2 years old, they included him, and every child was a major part of keeping the family together. Eventually they made it out of their excessive debt and each child managed to find ways to pay their own ways into and out of college, while still managing to send money back home to help mom and dad keep things going (even though they didn't have to!).
Want to be a GREAT parent? Teach your kids responsibility, humility, ethics and how to handle hard times by sitting them down and voting on the name of YOUR new family business.
Listen to your child while they're softly slumbering away.
Listen to them when they laugh at jokes being told to them by the summer breeze.
Listen to their silly stories about adventures their favorite stuffed animal went on while they were away at school.
Listen to them when they tell you about a scary dream they had.
Listen to your kids when they tell you what they did at school that day.
Listen to them when they tell you they are upset because you won't let them have a second helping of double chocolate fudge pie five minutes before bed time.
Listen to them when they explain to you while they were out so late with their friends and didn't call you to say they would be late.
Listen to your kids without judgement.
Listen to your kids as if their tired stories were brand new.
Listen to your kids the way you WISH they would listen to YOU.
"If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging."
-- Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"
Let me ask you an easy question...
What's the one thing kids both NEED and WANT the most in life?
Yup, you guessed it, it's playtime with YOU. They need play time with you so that they feel like you enjoy spending time with them. They want to play with you because you are a FUN person to play with. They need to play with you, because it helps them develop healthy social skills like sharing, competitiveness, humility and teamwork. They need to play with you because it shows them there is more to life than just chores, responsibilities, work, broccoli and boring but necessary tasks.
Want to be a GREAT parent? PLAY with your kids!
"In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck - and, of course, courage."
-- Bill Cosby
10. BE COURAGEOUS!
Just as Bill Cosby and countless others have said; there are no perfect GUIDES, manuals or instructions that can give you the perfect steps to raising your kids right. The best thing you can do is to learn from your own experiences, seek the experiences of others, pay attention to your intuition and LOVE your kids as much as you can and as often as you can. Beyond that, there are no rules or limitations, and sometimes, that's the best part of parenting. There's room for you and your kids to try anything and everything!
And you never know what might work, what might make things easier or what might make some of the best memories you and your kids will ever have. There is only one thing for sure - you'll need one thing in order to be a GREAT parent, and that's COURAGE.