I got a crazy idea and decided to ask my children what kind of tips they may have for new parents. I was amazed at their responses. I expected to hear phrases like “buy them a lot of toys,” but that wasn’t even close to the kind of advice they offered. I decided to take their collaborated top ten tips and offer a little more detail from a parent’s point of view. We, of course, are in no way a perfect family, but we are a strong family. We are hoping to pass along some of our “riches” on to you.
“Parents should never let their kids have everything they want. It turns them into a spoiled brat!”
Since my children were very young my husband and I have tried to raise our children to have a sense of responsibility. If there was a toy or a treat that they wanted we would have them work for it. They could do chores around the house, complete a special project, or do something special for a family member or family friend. We also gave some of these items as rewards for exceptional behavior. Of course they got the really special treats for birthdays and holidays, but we have done our best not to go overboard. Both of my children have learned to appreciate what they have this way. They have also learned self respect – by working for something, and accomplishing a goal, their self esteem has risen to new levels.
“Kids need privacy.”
I asked my daughter what she meant by this, and she explained that sometimes she just needs time sometimes to be by herself to think. I think as parents in our busy every day lives we forget that it isn’t just we adults that need some quiet time alone for rest and introspection. Our children need it too. A balanced life is important. Playing with brothers and sisters is a special and important part of family life, but so is alone time. Even little kids can get stressed. Giving them a special place to go to just hide from the world does wonders for your little one’s sense of self, and becomes more important as your child grows older. This quiet time is a time when there is a great deal of self discovery. Be certain not to force this, however. It isn’t punishment. Just offer a quiet sanctuary they can go to and they will use it when they need it. Sometimes just knowing it is there is all your child may need.
“Children should be disciplined when they are wrong.”
I promise this came from a child, an eleven year old to be exact. I was astounded to hear it myself. I asked my son what made him think to make this a top ten tip. His reply was, “I know some kids who don’t get much discipline and they’re just awful, Mom.” Apparently even children see the need for correction. That’s our job, by the way. As parents it is our responsibility to help our children see that every decision has a consequence. Bad behavior or choices get reprimanded, however, good behavior gets a reward. We have to teach our children about personal hygiene and morality as well. We wouldn’t be good parents if we didn’t’ correct our children. As loving parents, we have a sense of what is best for our children. We want the punishment to fit the crime. If we don’t do our job then the world will, and the world isn’t gentle. A lifetime of loneliness, for example, is the world’s punishment for children who were never taught to share. Yes, disciplining your child is very important.
“Kids need to be taught how to show love.”
I thought this was a very astute observation on my daughter’s part. And, she is absolutely right. The single best way to teach your child how to be loving, is to be outwardly loving yourself. This goes beyond hugs and kisses to your child, though those are certainly very important. It should encompass other people in your lives. Allow your child to see you being kind to others. Help them understand that showing love comes out by helping others, spending time with others, sharing, and most importantly, actually saying, “I love you.” Your child needs to hear those three words often.
“Children shouldn’t be allowed to argue with their parents.”
I wanted to give a shout of joy when this came from my son’s mouth. Arguing with a parent is disrespecting that parent. Respect is crucial in a parent/child relationship, and all signs of disrespect need to be corrected before it escalates into something much worse. No child will ever see eye to eye with you 100 percent of the time, however. Disagreeing is a right even small children should have. If my favorite color is blue, for example, my child has a right to disagree and think the best color is red. It is very possible to disagree and still be respectful. No parent is always right either. Having a child point out a mistake, though humbling and sometimes frustrating, can also be done tastefully and respectfully. There is no reason for a child to argue with his parent.
“When children are scared, help them overcome their fears.”
Everyone is afraid of something. Even some adults are afraid of the dark. Just telling your child “don’t be afraid,” or “there’s nothing to be afraid of,” isn’t enough. Would it be enough for you? Your child needs to be helped through their fear and strengthened concerning it. A series of loved one’s deaths and serious illness over a very short amount of time left my daughter terrified of those things. It took some time, but my husband and I had to help her overcome these fears For example, she began believing that she was having a heart attack. We had to explain to her the things that cause heart attacks, and help her see how truly healthy she was. We had to explain how the heart beats faster when exercising, and slower when resting. Eventually, after being reminded and encouraged every day for about two months, she finally agreed that her heart was healthy, and she overcame her fear.
The same kind of methodology works for most fears. If there’s a monster under your child’s bed, look under there with her every night before bed. Remind her that she’s never been hurt by any monsters.
Serious fears that come about from a trauma in your child’s life are not an easy task to overcome. Seeking professional help for very serious ones is extremely important. However, as a parent, you still play a very important role in recovery. But, before you can truly help your child overcome her fear, you are going to have to face your fear as well. She will follow your lead. When she sees that you are calm, she will learn to be calm as well.
“Listen to your children. Don’t ignore them.”
Most children are so full of life and energy that it often times comes out through their mouths. An old proverb says “we cannot wait for our children to learn to talk, then we cannot wait for them to learn to be quiet.” However, what they have to say is important. They have so many wonderful discoveries, ideas and questions. They want to share them all with you. It’s an honored position!
A child knows when you are truly listening and when you are putting them off. Of course, there are times when chatter isn’t acceptable. Teaching your child not to interrupt during adult conversation or telephone conversations, for example, is important. But, most times putting down the newspaper to hear your child’s question about where paper comes from is part of the process that teaches your child trust and respect. No one likes to be ignored or patronized. Children need to feel that they can safely come to you and trust that you really are concerned about how they feel.
“Don’t let your children stay up until midnight every night.”
I laughed out loud when my son ran this tip past me. We discovered the importance of this lovely tidbit during my children’s vacation from school. I actually had allowed my children to stay up until 12 and 1 O’clock A.M. By day three things got rather miserable. We all were so tired that there was endless arguing and high tempers. Once bedtime was regulated again, we were happy once more.
Essentially, my advice is to set a bedtime for your child and stick with it. Getting enough sleep is essential to keeping stress down, attitudes in check, and learning at an optimum level.
Don’t let your kids spend too much time playing video games.”
This was another eyebrow raising statement for me. My children love video games. To be honest I enjoy them myself. However, there needs to be a balance. The same goes for television viewing or anything that could potentially take up too much of your child’s time. We need activities that help us to unwind. Watching television or playing a video game is a good way to do that. However, doing any one thing too much isn’t healthy. Our children need physical play and imaginative play (with their own imaginations and not someone else’s). They need quiet “play” as well, like reading or drawing.
I limit my children on the amount of game play and television they can have. I insist they spend some time playing with toys and reading every day. And, of course, they have to earn their playtime. Their responsibilities have to be taken care of first.
“Make sure your children have good friends.”
My children’s welfare is my responsibility. If my child has a friend that consistently pulls my child down, it is my obligation to step in, and possibly remove my child from that situation. There are no perfect children in the world, and even my two make mistakes (this coming from a biased mother). I am not talking about a friend who squabbles with my child from time to time. I am referring to situations that, if left unchecked, could really get out of hand and cause a lot of damage. The sad truth is that there are several children whose parents don’t teach them the morals they need. Though I do want to make a positive difference in that child’s life, my first priority is my own child.
Teaching our children how to tell the difference between a good friend and a “not so good” friend is crucial. If we begin this at an early age, and continue as they grow then we can save ourselves the heartache of seeing our children go through things like drug abuse and even low self esteem. We truly are affected by our surroundings. Consider the type of surroundings your children’s friends are for them.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.