A Mother’s Parenting Advice
About four years back, I wrote a blog post discussing my parenting philosophy formed by my years of experience as a mom and as a daughter. (Sometimes we learn from others what to do and sometimes we learn what not to do.) As a result of that post, I had received a number of emails suggesting I should expand on it, so, with Mother’s & Father’s Days around the corner, here is my advice on parenting.
As you know, there is nothing that you will ever do or accomplish in your life that will be more important than being a great parent to your children… Not only for your children’s sake, but for society’s sake; for the sake of the people they will marry and the children they will have; for the sake of their older relatives and all the older people they will care for, if only through the government for which they will vote and perhaps someday run.
With that motivation in mind, here is my parenting advice and observations. Take it to heart or take it with a grain of salt. I leave it in your hands.
Stop buying your children so much stuff.
Unfortunately, some parents think that buying their children everything they want is a way to prove that they are great parents or that they love their children.
This is simply not true. The short-term benefits of constantly buying your children things they don’t need and have not earned come with grave long-term repercussions to their happiness and sense of self-worth.
In reality, there are a few darker forces at work that have more to do with the parents than with their children. These parenting motivators may exist alone or in combination, but regardless of the impetus, the result is bad for your children.
- THE IMPATIENT PARENT: The impatient parents, knowingly or not, try to bribe their children for love or compliance through things. They don’t have the patience to earn the love and the compliance of their children, so they bribe because it is quicker.
- THE MATERIALISTIC PARENT: Other parents are materialistic and may be obsessed with impressing others and keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. These parents see their children as extensions of themselves or as accessories that reflect on them, so they buy their children all the latest and most expensive clothes and toys, just as they do for themselves.
- THE NARCISSISTIC PARENT: Some parents are superficial and narcissistic. They are motivated by the need to be liked, to be cool, to be popular, and to be every kid’s best friend, so they buy to their heart’s content. They forget that their children have many friends, but only one mom and one dad. They don’t want to say no, they want to be liked.
- THE WEAK PARENT: There are parents who simply succumb to pressure and are easily manipulated. They will give-in to the repeated pressure or insistence from their children, and their children know it. These parents also give in to the peer pressure from other parents who want to feel better about their parenting mistakes by getting other parents to make them as well. “I just bought Johnny a motorcycle without a helmet, and you should too!”
- THE TOO-BUSY PARENT: And, yet, other parents feel they are too busy with themselves or their careers to do any real parenting. Interacting with their children is a waste of their time, it is a less-valued part of their lives, it is a low priority. Buying their children things is a quick and lazy way to keep their children at bay and out of their way. After all, they have more important things to do.
A great parent is not one who buys their children everything they want or gives in to their every demand. That’s the easy way out. Being a great parent is hard, quite often requiring the courage to be unpopular with your children by saying no.
And if you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s not about you, it’s all about them.
Teach your children pride, confidence, and happiness.
As parents, we need to teach our children that the pride and the confidence they will develop by working hard, saving their money, and earning the things they get is ultimately far more valuable than the things they get.
We need to show our children how to find happiness within themselves, in their relationships with others, and in their own accomplishments. Not through things.
Customize your parenting to the individual child.
Great parenting begins with a few basic no-brainers that are customized to your child:
- love and like your children for who they are, not who you wish they would be;
- truly listen to them and respectfully speak to them;
- get to know them as individuals and let them get to know you;
- identify their strengths and weaknesses to help them better develop their full potential;
- and customize your parenting style to meet their needs – because when it comes to children, one size does not fit all.
Follow some basic guiding principles for all children.
Customizing your parenting to your child is extremely important, but there are some overarching principles that are important for all children.
With all children, you have to:
- set expectations, explain the consequences, and follow through;
- be fair and be consistent;
- explain the why’s of the rules you have – ‘because I said so’ does not count;
- encourage them to develop their own moral compass and a strong sense of ethics;
- role-model kindness, generosity, and service to others;
- give them shared and growing responsibility in the family;
- nurture their development of a strong work ethic;
- show them how humor can get you through life’s rusty situations and how important it is to not take yourself too seriously;
- develop in them a curiosity for learning and a proclivity for growing from failures;
- offer the perspective of embracing opportunities and exciting challenges where others only see obstacles;
- and help them learn how to make and trust their own sound decisions, while accepting responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
Spend time with your children.
Customized parenting and overarching principles are important, and so is time.
You don’t need to go on an expensive vacation to the other side of the world to bond with your children or to spend quality time together. In fact, I believe the best bonding and quality time unexpectedly come in those quiet moments together, for instance:
- when you ask them about their day at school over dinner and show them you are sincerely interested in their response;
- when you attend their extra-curricular activities, like baseball practices and games, and talk about it on the way home in the car;
- when you are cooking or gardening together;
- or when you are fixing the car or the washer;
- when you are walking the dog or taking bike rides together;
- when you go in search of beauty on a nature hike or on a beach-combing adventure together;
- when you volunteer as a family on Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen or collect toys for homeless children at Christmas;
- and bonding and quality time also come when you incorporate your children into your world by bringing them to work, to gallery openings, to museums and concerts, to fundraisers and charity events, to the things you like to do and must do.
Give your children warm fuzzies and a safe harbor.
More important than any other piece of advice, is to give your children a feeling of warmth and affection, becoming their safe harbor in a crazy world.
Create the environment and relationship that allows them to feel safe in coming to you with their triumphs and failures; their good days and bad days; their hopes and their fears. You can do this in simple ways from the first days of their life:
- Say I love you and hug them a lot.
- Smile at them with pride.
- Laugh with them, never at them.
- Really listen to them when they talk or ask you questions, look them in the eye, let the phone ring, and show them the respect you would show other adults.
- Let them know they are important and important to you by asking them about their day, their friends, their dreams, their lives.
- Show them that even when you hold them accountable for their actions, even when they stumble, even when they fail, you are still their biggest fan and you believe in them.
Take it seriously and have fun.
As parents, you have to realize how important your job is to your children and to society. You have the awesome responsibility of helping little people become their best selves. You can help them grow up to be happy, productive members of their community who do well for themselves and do good for others.
You have to recognize that responsibility, accept it, and take it seriously, but then at the same time you have to enjoy the experience, you have to enjoy being a parent, you have to have fun with it. Your children will pick up on your moods and stressors. They will hone in on all the subtleties and complexities of how you feel about them, so genuinely enjoy them, like them, love them.
You have your children for such a short time before they grow up and move away, cherish each moment you get to have with them. Show them how to be better parents to their children, and we might just change the world.
Martie Hevia (c) All Rights Reserved