On Parenting: These 7 Things I Know for Sure
I am by no means a perfect parent, but I have three kids ages 27, 22 and 7 years old. I swear the youngest gives me side-eye that says, "Get it right this time." I've made a lot of mistakes and I'm sure I'll make many more. But I've also learned a lot along the way, and some things I know for sure.
No. 1: Pants Will Get Wet and Shoes Will Get Muddy
Bring extras, don't stress over it and let children explore. Knowing the context of their world starts in the mud, and understanding respect for life starts with a bug.
No. 2: Blame Doesn't Help Them Grow
Lessons don't lie in the "whodunnit"; they lie in the "what now?" of next steps. Mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes are usually a good place to start. Most importantly, mistakes should not be feared. The blame game fuels finger-pointing and backpedaling, not accountability and doing better next time. When there's a mishap, it's better to start with, "OK, what now?" From there, solutions, support and strong kids can grow. It's also when unconditional love is deeply felt.
No. 3: Jealousy Steals Love
Parents, I'm talking to you. Either you trust your partner, or you don't. Worry and a suspicious eye do nothing but steal good things from the relationship and family. Jealousy will erode a relationship from the inside out. If you feel insecure, then say it out loud and deal with it. Or go to therapy. Don't cheat yourself out of love by sabotaging something that is good.
No. 4: Kids Are Opportunists
When one kid is in trouble, the other will shine like a copper penny. She will walk taller and do her chores in broad daylight while whistling a happy tune. My good friend Pat Relf once told me that "parenting is like a carnival game of whack-a-mole." Thank goodness it is, because when children pop up all at once, they're working together in a plot against the grown-ups.
No. 5: Love is Not Pie
A child needs to know there will always be enough love. A sibling or circumstance doesn't subtract from the pool of love. That's a tough lesson when a new baby demands a ton of attention. Or when one child is in crisis and needs extra energy from mom and dad. Everyone needs to know they are each loved.
No. 6: There is No Room in Parenting for a Good-Cop-Bad-Cop Routine
No matter how much you may bicker or irritate one another on a bad day, you and your partner are on the same team. Your spouse is not your adversary. A united front is imperative. If a kid can play one parent against the other, then parents are not supporting each other well. And what's worse is you're teaching your child how to manipulate.
No. 7: Ignore the Behavior, Not the Child
This does not mean we permit bad behavior. This means that when children act out or mess up, they still need to know they are loved. Parents do not have the luxury of giving silent treatments or throwing temper tantrums. No. Your love has to be stronger than their adolescence. You have to take the harsh words from angry kids and not dish it out in return. Parents must be the calm in the adolescent storm -- calm and assertive with loving boundaries firmly in place.
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