Do you want to raise healthy, well-adjusted adults? The beauty of having 3 thirty-somethings is that I can see the fruits of my labor. Through reading, trial and error and my basic belief systems, I raised my children on the following 10 premises. I wasn’t a perfect parent, and now my children are all parents so they have their own philosophies. But they are all well adjusted functional members of society!
- Read about each phase of childhood BEFORE you get to it. You won’t be surprised when you get a call from the preschool teacher that your two-year old is biting. You’ll understand that it is a natural phase that 2’s go through. You won’t think your child is bad or the next jack-the-ripper. You’ll understand that it is natural and be prepared to deal with it effectively.
- Avoid the “terrible two’s.” Simply avoid saying “no” to them. Children parrot what they hear. The two’s are not “bad.” They are asserting their independence for the first time. They are starting to become their own person, but they don’t want to stray too far. Try redirecting their behavior using a toy, a book. Say, “Look what I have!” Say, “Uh-uh.” Say, “Let’s go over here!”
- Don’t force the food. This is one of my pet peeves. Children have likes and dislikes just as adults do. Let them have their preferences. There is enough variety in the world of food that everyone can be happy. Let them decide how much food goes on their plate and when they are full – even if it means they didn’t finish their entire plate. They will learn to listen to their bodies, eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full.
- Let children feel their feelings. Feelings are scary – for them and for us. When my son was angry it started at his toes. It erupted with a force that frightened me just to watch. I let him have his feelings. I gave him acceptable ways to vent – run around the block, punch a pillow, write it down. Growing up, my brother felt his feelings very strongly. My dad encouraged him to play the guitar. That guitar was a wonderful outlet for feelings that were too strong for a young boy to deal with. Acknowledge their feelings with, “You sound sad.” “That must have hurt.”
Sometimes we need to cry. Sometimes we need a hug. Sometimes we just need to feel.
- Treat each child as an individual. It’s easy to sign all 3 children up for soccer. But this puts them in competition with each other. It may suit one child and not another. Both of my girls were in dance at one time. Both did gymnastics. Given a choice, my older daughter chose dance and the younger one gymnastics. They both loved attention, but now they could each get it in their own field.
Children have different learning styles. I home schooled one of my children; one went to private school and the third to public school. Each child needed something different. It was my job to listen to their needs and find a way to meet them. (school, learning styles)
- When your child shares about their day, LISTEN. Even if you have to bite your tongue. I’ve learned a lot about my children from listening to them and not reacting. I also listened to their friends, who seemed quite willing to share “funny” stories that my children were involved in. Don’t judge; don’t react. Just listen. If you must put your two cents in, wait until they are finished. Start with something neutral. Hmmm…interesting. How do you feel about that?
- When your children come to you with a sticky situation, ask, “Is this something you can handle on your own or do you need my help?” Let them vent, talk, process with you. Ask them how they think it should be handled. And then ask if they can handle it on their own. You’re giving them the skills to navigate the world on their own, knowing they are supported by you if they need you. You’re also giving them belief in their ability to deal with their own situations.
- Say, “yes” to your children as often as possible. This doesn’t mean spoil them and give them everything they want. It means replacing, “We can’t afford that.” with, “Maybe.” “Let’s make a plan.” Or “Let’s see how you can earn that!” When my son was 7 he wanted a go-kart. We put a chart on the fridge. I told him if he earned half we would pay for the rest. He did little things around the house, saved money from birthdays and he earned his half. We were on a tight budget, but we never said we couldn’t afford it. There’s always a way.
- Believe that anything is possible …if you want it bad enough and are willing to work hard enough to get it. I didn’t want to limit my children. I’ve seen people with very little money find ways of traveling overseas. A female President? Sure, why not?
Our family took a vacation every year on a shoestring. We went to Disney world, Dollywood, Cherokee, the shore every summer. I was committed to giving my children wonderful experiences even though we weren’t rich. They had dance lessons and beautiful clothes (from consignment shops!) I believed in them and they believe in themselves.
- Family First. Not friends; not baseball games, not work. Parties out of town? We figured it out. We fit in family time on Friday evening. We ate together most evenings. My children were running in many directions – one was in theatre, another in sports. But since my priority was family, we found a way.
Angela Di Cicco