I was not an easy child, not bad by any means...well, not bad by God's grace alone most likely! That and good parents that didn't let me get away with anything. I remember a lot about being a kid. I remember the kitchen counters being very tall. I remember red carpet, I remember my fifth birthday party. I was sitting in the living room, opening gifts from the two girls that were over to celebrate with us. I remember getting rabbit earrings, but my ears weren't pierced yet. I remember my 6th party, I remember my dad making a pinata, I wanted everything "CAT." My dad made the pinata ugly because he said that way kids wouldn't mind hitting it with a stick...I'm not sure if that was a joke or not, but I remember that it being ugly bothered me. I remember getting my feelings hurt, I remember hiding because I didn't want anyone to see me cry. I remember being angry at my sister for being bossy and my little brother because something wasn't fair. I remembering being right and no one would believe me, or they would tell me I was being a "know-it-all." But I was right! I don't remember getting spankings, but I know I did. I do remember being in time-out in a bedroom before a party of some sort. I remember being told to fix my attitude, and I remember the mental process of doing so. I remember my brother's 3rd birthday where he received a group of plastic dinosaurs that would change my childhood. I remember receiving a "My Child" doll that would shape my future play with my own kids. I remember my mother, in frustration telling us that "We knew what we were and were not allowed to have as a snack, we did not need to ask permission for each and every item." I remember getting my feelings hurt and trying to figure out why, I knew I was not in trouble. Why was I offended? Perhaps that was the beginning of my self-reflective personality. I remember life was not fair, I remember being very upset by this. I remember feeling left-out. I remember unkind children, I remember being unkind, once. And feeling so bad about it I worked hard not to be so intentionally again. I remember asking my mom how many cookies I could have at a party and her saying "You are old enough to make that choice yourself, you choose." I remember seeing my parents' pain on losing a child and learning about grief. I remember hearing my parents argue in love and learning about talking things out respectfully. I remember my mom congratulating me on a job well done and asking me "isn't it wonderful to do something perfect?" (I do this for my kids now.) And I learned high self-esteem because I worked hard. I remember my mom apologizing to me, telling me she was wrong, she should not have yelled or she spoke to soon or to harshly. I learned forgiveness, and that no one is perfect and we are always learning, no matter how old we are. And that it is always ok to say we are sorry. I remember being sent back to clean the bathroom over and over because the job was not done to her satisfaction, and I learned to be a hard worker. I remember my mom breathing prayers, both for something as simple as a good parking space as well as safety and protection when faced with danger. I remember these prayers being answered every single time.
I remember, as a pre-teen telling someone that I wanted to raise my kids exactly the same way my mom had raised me. The only exception being I would allow my kids to get their ears double pierced. I remember the person I told this to was shocked and amazed, and she told my mom about what I had said. I remember being surprised, why was this such a big deal? It wasn't until later I realized that not everyone had the amazing parents I had. And even through the hard teenage years - especially after I was allowed to get my ears double pierced, that idea never left my head. I knew my parents had done it right. I don't know how I knew, but I did. And I stand by it today. If I am half the mom that my mom was? My kids will be ok. My mom and dad have raised 5 kids to adulthood that are all truly fantastic, and I am not just saying that because I am one of them. It is true. And we are all very VERY different the 5 of us.
I have said before that my parenting strategy is based completely on choice, consequence and a whole lot of stubbornness. It really is very simple. I will state: "If you choose to disobey, this will be the consequence." My kids know, that if there is an uncomfortable consequence, it is because of a choice THEY made. I am strict, more so then my mom was. And lately I have been trying to be less-so. My kids are getting bigger, they need some more freedom to become who God wants them to be. I don't want little robots. So I have been learning how to let go of some of my control. It has been hard, and that is why I have been wanting to look over this list again. I find I need to re-read it about once a month, sometimes less, sometimes more.
I will apologize now, this will be written quickly - be patient with my blunderings (and spelling mistakes). Know that I am working everyday on each and every one of these. Sometimes I feel that I do very well (With God's help of course) Somedays I feel as if I fail at every single one. The wonderful thing about parenting is that each day is new. And it is never to late to start changing our attitudes.
My mom wrote this list before I had kids, I feel like I have been handed such a gift, to be able to have such an amazing mom (and dad). And then be given a manual of sorts, for following in their footsteps. I wanted to share this list again, though I probably have before, possibly many times. But like I said, we need reminders. I will add my own thoughts to this list, I like self-reflection after all. And you, dear reader, get to come along on my journey this time, and if you are a parent (or wish to be one someday) reflect with me. There is so much in this world to learn...
Thoughts on Parenting
1. Begin each day with a big hug, words of love and a short prayer of blessing.
I have such a better day when I do this! I remember, when my oldest was a toddler, my mom said that she always would give her toddlers as many hugs as she could first thing in the morning, because she might not like them very much later in the day! It's true. So we give lots of morning hugs. We give lots of later-in-the-day hugs too. But the best ones are the morning ones.
2. Let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no. If you keep letting
them talk you into things then you will lose your control and their
I will admit it, I watch other parents. Especially young parents. I try hard not to give advice unless it is asked, but I watch - even if it is just to learn new parenting strategies and/or to see something I will choose not to do. Admit it, you do it too. And new parents, I will say this now. DO IT. If you said no, stick to it. If you said yes, then keep your promise.
I once heard a story that has stuck to me very close as I parent my children - a very respected friend of mine (an experienced mom) was visiting some loved ones many many years ago. The parents were new, they were learning how to be good parents and stay consistent. But this was hard for them and they tended to give in just a little too often. They admitted as much... Their small son attended a school, but didn't feel well one morning. He asked his mom and dad if please, he could stay home from school that day. He had a tummy ache and didn't feel well. "Of course baby!" mom said as comforting as she could. "You do not have to go to school today." A few moments later, he said again: "Mommy, please can I stay home today? My tummy does not feel well." He was begging. "I told you son," she answered reassuringly, "you can be home all day with mom until you feel better." A little while later, he begged again. "Please please please mom, can I stay home?" Confused, she tried to assure him as best she could. "I told you, you will be home with mom. No school." My friend watched all this as confused as the mom. Why did this small one not believe his mom? And then it occurred to her. Mom and dad had struggled, lots, with being consistent in disciplining their son. The result? Their boy did not trust them. This story hit me like a ton of bricks when I first heard it. If I am not consistent in the disciplining of my child, they will have no reason to respect me. But even worse? They wont trust me. And how sad, for my babies to not believe me when I tell them that they will be comforted and safe? But it goes both ways parents. You can't have one without the other. Think about that next time you are tempted to not follow through on a threat. I know I do, and I believe it has made me a better parent.
3. Talk about consequences before the event. Make the consequences
uncomfortable enough that they will stop and think before they act.
"Stop and think before they act." Is this not the real goal of parenting? If only we can get this one thing down, to teach our children to stop and think before they act, we have won a very large battle!" I think this is one where we need to give our kids a little more credit. "They are just kids" or something to that affect is used far to often I believe. Of course, I have already stated that I am strict. I am of the opinion that our children will rise to our expectations. Expect little, and you will get little. Expect much, and you will be surprised at what they are able to achieve. Let us set our standards high, don't our kids deserve that much respect from us? But remember, oh remember parents, your kids are watching YOU. If you do not stop and think before you act, they will not. Every. Time. Shaping our kids behavior starts from the moment that baby looks you in the face as you say "Don't put that in your mouth!" and does it. And you KNOW they are doing it as fast as they can before you take it away from them!" It is at that moment that you need to make sure you are being the person you someday want your kids to become. Disciplining our kids starts with controlling ourselves - of course I could probably write a whole post on that idea alone!
4. Everyone helps to take care of the house. But give them a choice
in what jobs they do. Some kids like to cook, some like to clean or work
in the yard. As long as they are helping and learning to work (with a
good attitude) let it be a job they don't hate. The exception at my
house - everyone helps with the dishes.
I also use the exception of "everyone cleans their own room." Working hard with a good attitude is something I am still learning, and still learning how to teach. You see, I HATE cleaning. And somehow I have taught that hate to my children. I need to fix it, I am not sure how. I used to tell my kids "You don't have to like it, you just have to obey." And I have stopped saying that. Because having a good attitude about something we don't like doing is something that has to be learned. And I was not helping that learning process. I am still learning it myself. Something I do tell my kids: "We all help clean everyone's messes." I don't care who made the mess, we all help clean in this house. I clean daddy's messes sometimes, and he cleans Kaylee's messes. Taylor cleans mom's mess sometimes and Ayla cleans Taylor's. We all do the work. I am also learning how to better teach my kids how to clean. I tend to want it just done quickly since I hate doing it so much, I need to learn how to teach my kids, so that eventually they are doing it completely. But the teaching part takes a while and I don't want any cleaning to take a while. I want the dishes over and done with, I don't want to do them patiently with my 4year old, teaching about soap and scrubbing, I need to though. Otherwise I will be doing the dishes forever!
5. Study them to learn what they love and hate. Reward the good
behavior and always let them face the consequences for disobeying. Don't
feel so sorry for your kids. Trust God to work everything for their
good. You will never be a perfect parent. They will never be perfect
kids. We are all learning together to be God's children.
"Learn their currency" I once heard someone say. For one kid, a stern look may be all it takes to teach. For another, you may have to take a much more serious approach. Learn their currency, what is important to them? What will cause them to stop and think before they act?
And I will say it again - give your kids a little more credit. These kids are tough. They can handle mom being mad. They are learning how to handle emotions, give them a good example. BE mad if you need to be, but do it controlled, show them the proper way of handling that emotion. Remember, they will have kids someday too and they need to see this emotion modeled. Remember THEY made the choice to disobey. THEY chose the path that lead to the uncomfortable consequence. THEY will learn from this, and it will (hopefully!) cause them to stop and think next time.
I tell my kids that one of the purposes of consequences, is for them to show me that I can trust them again. If they lie to me, they have broken my trust. If they are faithful in the consequence (sitting in time-out being one example - sitting still and not talking back, not moving the chair or sneaking a toy) Then they earn my trust back. The more I trust them, the more privileges they receive. THEY make the choice whether or not they get these privileges, not me. Everything in life is based on the choices we make. So stop, think, make a choice and then proceed. And if the choice you make has negative affects on your life (for example, losing a privilege because of being dishonest) then I do not feel sorry for you. Not even a little bit! No matter how loud you wail, no matter how sad you may look. No pity. But the amazing thing about this, is it works both ways. Make the choice to tell the truth, make the choice to be kind, to help, to go above and beyond where you needed to go to make someone feel loved or to do hard work? And the consequence is that you get more freedom, you get more responsibility, you get more benefits! I try to bring that to their attention as often as I can.
"You made the choice to have such a good attitude while you were cleaning this morning. And you guys did it fast too! The consequence of your good attitude and getting your hard work done is we will get to go to the library! And I think that Taylor and Ayla should each get 3 books this time. You showed me how responsible you could be by cleaning your room so well, I think you are ready for the responsibility of 3 books each. What do you guys think?"
One hard thing to accept as a kid, is that sometimes, someone else's choices can affect us. This is a hard one, but it is a good lesson to learn. You see, our choices affect others as well. So when we are negatively affected by someone else's choice (for instance, in my house there is no show for both kids, if just one has a bad attitude) Then we remember that much more, to be careful of our own actions towards others. Because we know how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone else's bad choice. And it is not fun.
6. The first seven years are all about training. This is your house,
you determine what is and what is not acceptable behavior at your
This goes for adults too. You don't follow the rules of my house? I don't care how old you are. You will not be in it anymore. My House. My Rules.
You are the boss of your house, not the toddler. BE the boss. I can't tell you how often I hear kids demanding things from their parents. "I want milk now!" And the parent just gives them milk? Nope. Not in my house. You ask nicely, you use a respectful voice, you look me in the eye or you get no milk. I don't care how many hours it takes. I don't care how stubborn I need to me. I don't care if you get no milk at all, ever (Strong bones can take a day, week, month break from milk if that is what it takes to learn to obey). You speak respectfully to me, or you get diddly squat.
I tell people that we are working hard to learn lessons now, so we don't have to learn them 10 years from now. That is the purpose of winning those toddler tantrums. Because if you can teach them to stay in their own bed at 3, then you don't have to teach them how to stay in their own bed at 16. And trust me, you want to teach that at 3.
I was at the bank the other day with all three of my girls. The teller, just making polite conversation commented, as many people do - about me having three girls and "won't that be fun when they are all teenagers!" Now, this bothers me. I know teenage girls have something of a reputation. But you know what? I know lots of amazing teenage girls. So my response was (ignoring the sarcasm) "Yes. It will. I am going to enjoy my teenage girls." "Good luck with that!" was her answer. Now, I don't know her story. Perhaps she has had some hard times with her teenagers. Perhaps she had hard teenage years herself. But she obviously didn't believe it possible. "My mom had five kids" I answered. "3 of them girls, all grown now, all of us were good teenagers and all of us turned into wonderful adults. I can say that because I was one of them. It can be done. We are learning as many lessons now while my girls are young as we can. That way, we don't have to learn them as teenagers." She looked confused, but had no answer for me. And perhaps I am wrong. After all - I don't have teenagers yet. And I have no doubt it will be challenging at times. But I also know that I can pray about everything. So why should I dread it? I feel that if I believe I will have terrible teenagers, I will. If I trust that 'if I raise my kids in the way they should go, they wont depart from it,' even when they are teenagers? Then I think we will be ok.
7. Get on the same page with your spouse. If you disagree on
discipline, don't disagree in front of the kids. For big disagreements,
find a third person to help you come to an agreement.
And never, NEVER undermine one another. Don't ever say "don't tell your mom/dad" (unless of course you are planning a surprise). There is no "good" parent or "mean" parent. There are just parents. You are all working together to be a team. There is no parent vs. parent. There is no parents vs. kids. Everyone is on the same team, there are captains and there are rookies. But anything that causes defensiveness ("I worked ALL day, you can change just one poopy diaper!") or competitions. ("You think your day was bad, you should try being with these kids for 8 hours straight") is a recipe for disaster. And these kids are smart, they will work the system. Make the system UN-workable.
8. Say "NO" to busyness. Keep working to simplify your schedule and
your house. Get rid of the unnecessary clutter in your house and
Uggg. I am bad at this.
9. Pray the hard prayers "Lord, let them get hurt just enough so
they are not stupid." "Lord, if they do anything illegal or immoral let
them get caught the first time." "Lord, help them learn their lessons in
the little things and from watching others. If they can't learn the
easy way, teach them any way you can."
I was a very rebellious teenager. I wanted to get in trouble so bad. But you know what, I didn't. Do you know why? Because I knew my mom was praying these prayers, and I had seen her prayers answered too many times to risk it! And the fact that my mom was more concerned about me learning the big
life lessons, then for my safety? It marks you as a teenager! I couldn't ever bring myself to test it, I would have gotten caught the first time, I know it. So I didn't risk a first time. You can stay out of a lot of trouble as a teenager if you can avoid "first times." I also knew the reality of choice and consequences because I had
learned it as a very young child. I could see the possible uncomfortable
consequences too clearly. And I didn't want to have to deal with them. Of course, there was that time I snuck into Disneyland...but that is an entirely different story.
10. Find a way to take a date every week with your spouse. Trade
babysitting with another couple, ask an older friend, pay a teenager,
find a way. The kids will look forward to it and so will you.
This has saved my marriage more then one time. And it is due to my amazing in-laws - who also were (are) amazing, amazing parents. How truly blessed my husband and I were/are!
11. Pray about everything. When you are struggling with a child
(their attitude, bad habits, communication), ask for God's insight and
understanding. He promises to never leave us alone in our struggles. He
has always helped me.
Breathing prayer. That is how my days have been lately. Breathing prayer. Thank you God, He understands the details unspoken in "God, Help! I am not dealing with life very well today. Please help" And He does. I also ask my kids to pray for me, they love it. And their prayers (especially the prayers that involve God helping mom to have a better attitude) are always answered! And I pray for them, out-loud regularly - and just about life. Even if it is just for a good parking spot.
12. End each day with a big hug, words of love, and a short prayer of protection and blessing.
I do with my kids, but not always for myself. Something else to work harder on.
Remember..... YOU'RE THE GROWN UP NOW!
And you are always learning, always learning.
Linda K. Evans 2004