I spent two weeks with my grandsons, watching them, playing with them, and listening to them. A lot of memories about my childrearing days came back. I remembered that I’d toyed with the idea of writing a book about childrearing advice. I’m no expert, but as a mother, teacher, and observer, I have helpful advice to share.
One piece of advice was told to me by a friend when I was a new mother: look your children in the eyes when they talk to you. Eye contact is so important because it makes the child feel valued. Looking at your child, especially when you’re busy, is hard. Distractions from cell phones and computers make it difficult to pull away to look at your children. Make the effort. Do it often enough each day that your child knows you value them and are worthy of your attention. Do it when they are behaving well. If you don’t give them your attention, they quickly learn that to get it, all they need to do is throw a tantrum. It forces you to look them in the eyes. When you do so, it’s rewarding bad behavior.
When you tell your children no after they request something, tell them why you’re saying no. Likewise, tell them why they are being punished when they have done something wrong. Let your children see your logic and rationale for saying no or sending them to a time-out. These lessons become even more valuable as children get older. One, they learn consequences for their actions. Two, they understand why the answer is no or why they shouldn’t do something. They see you’re not trying to aggravate them, but are doing what’s best for them. You teach them to think things through. Repeated often enough, self-discipline will become instinctual. What a valuable trait to give your children.
Don’t wait until a certain age to teach your children how to behave. Start teaching them from day one. Well, maybe not that soon, but you get the idea. Toddlers can pick up their toys. Preschool kids can bring their plates to the kitchen. Grade school kids can take their dirty clothes to the laundry room and dust the house. By the time children are mid-teens, they should know how to do basic household chores. We don’t raise our kids to be dependent on us, we raise them to be independent adults capable of taking care of themselves. Then when they leave our nest, they are ready to fly.
Mother and Father must present a united front. Parents need a parenting plan and stick to it. Don’t let children play one against the other because one’s soft and the other is strict. That teaches children to be manipulative and conniving, neither a desirable trait. Set boundaries and expect your children to live within them. Safety and good things are found inside the boundaries. Let there be no doubt about what consequences will come with bad behavior. Guard the boundaries and your children, and be unified in enforcing consequences.
Be the kind of person you want your children to be. Teach by example, and by modeling what you expect. If you make a mess, clean it up. Let your children see you praying and reading the Bible. Show them how to care for others by doing it yourself. Don’t be their friend, be their parent and guardian. They need that more than they need an overaged friend.
My last piece of advice is simple. Say a lot of prayers. You’ll always need guidance from above.