“But all my friends are allowed to …” (Insert your favorite here).
If your house is anything like mine, that phrase is touted around on an almost daily basis. I tell them; “one day- you will understand. One day it will make sense.” Sometimes I think I am trying to convince myself just as much as I am trying to convince them.
At times our children have the ability to make us feel like we are living, and parenting in a silo. As though we are the only parents making them behave! Ha! It is so easy to forget, that is not true!
Phrases like “Well I don’t care what other parents are doing” , and “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent” have become staples in my house. I understand that each generation wants the ability to provide more for their children than they were given. But is that truly whats best for our kids? We are going into mountains of debt to provide this perfect life for our kids, when life isn’t ideal. Life is scarcely perfect! It’s hard, and messy, and beautiful all at the same time!
So why not be honest with them, and prepare them now while they are young and resilient! I heard something once that resonated with me. It was:
Well behaved children are great, but we shouldn’t be trying to raise good children, we should be raising them to be responsible adults. Adults that are independent, functioning, contributing parts of society.
So what is the secret to raising children to be prepared to handle all that life can throw at them, as well as all the daily tasks? There are 3 main secrets to helping them achieve this:
1) Discipline with Consistency
Remember in 6th grade science class when our teachers stood at the front of the room and showed us about chemical reactions. The teacher then went on to explain the theories around Cause and Effect. Whether they realize it or not, but by that age our children should be very familiar with this concept. Each action we make has an effect, a result, a consequence. Flip a switch and a light comes on. Touch a hot stove, you will be burned. Disobey your parents, you will be disciplined.
Parents I urge you: If you make a rule, stick with it! I know it can be exhausting! You’ve been up since 5am, worked a full day, are trying to make dinner, and have already told them 100 times that no, they aren’t allowed to run in the house. Your one child is trying to sneak gummy worms in his pockets, and the other has exceeded his limit time on the Nintendo. What’s the harm is letting him play for 5 more minutes while you wrangle the worm filled pocket? The problem is 5 becomes 10 and before you know it – another 30 minutes has gone by. Stick to your guns! Use tricks like setting timers, use Kindle free time that comes with a built-in timer and shuts down when their time is over. Find what works, but more importantly do it every time.
2) Teach them a good work ethic:
Being able to work hard, and knowing the value of hard work is something that will stay with your children for years to come. Through the value of hard work our children learn integrity, responsibility, teamwork, and pride.
I remember as a young girl I would see my father come home after working 12-14 hour days. He worked in a meat-packing factory for most of my life. He would come home beat tired and smelling of bacon, spend time with us, and would repeat that 6-7 days a week. But not once did I hear that man complain. We were a single income family, and I was one of four children in the house. Looking back, we didn’t have much but we didn’t know or care, and we were never hungry. We had everything we ever needed, and his work ethic was to show for it. That is the integrity and responsibility I want to instill in the children of today.
Teach them that as a family you are a team and everyone must do their part and contribute. They can do this by doing their part of the chores. Starting young with picking up their toys, helping you sort laundry, do dishes. Not only does this help you accomplish things quickly, you are spending time with them, and they are learning skills that will serve them as adults.
3) Give them a moral compass
Studies are showing that the younger generations are less polite, less compassionate. Not only is our etiquette declining, society’s moral compass appears to be fading. Our children need to learn right from wrong and how to be accountable for their actions. Our children need to learn to respect other people and their opinions (even if they are different), their parents, and themselves. And our children need to learn compassion and generosity.
We are all here to take care of one another. Neighbors should take care of their neighbors. We may have not had much growing up, but we knew that there was always someone out there that had less than we did. Get them involved in volunteer work, civil service projects, donate some of their unused toys, participate in community service!
A Solid Foundation
Providing a solid foundation in these key areas of our children’s lives will help steer them toward building not only a better life for themselves, but for everyone around them. As parents to these beautiful budding people, we can model these behaviors in our daily lives, and in doing so we are helping to instill a bigger sense of purpose and compassion in these young souls.