I don’t know much about parenting, even though I’ve been doing it for almost 22 years. Every day is a new crap-shoot (still!) and I’m here to say that whether you’re an old parent or a new one, you are not alone in your bewilderment and general stress. Honestly? Human beings should not be raised by other human beings and that’s the truth. If we must be raised by humans, we should all be raised by tough-loving Nannies who have no interest in or attachment to us. That being said, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way. Since I am an old mom now and not a new one, I’ve gathered some precious parenting advice that I thought I would share. Admittedly, I did not always follow this advice…but you my friend would be wise to do so.
- Don’t answer your phone, look at your phone, or text someone back when you are reading a book to your child. This sets the tone for learning in so many ways. It tells your child right away that there is nothing more important than your time spent with her, one on one, and your quiet time with her is worth your undivided attention.
- Sometimes it’s good to just drop everything you’re doing and roll around on the floor with your kids. Hug ‘em and love ‘em up when they least expect it.
- Don’t let your kids’ activities dictate your entire day. You are important too.
- Your kids are watching every move you make. Don’t think for one second that they aren’t. Don’t do stupid shit.
- Let your kids argue. Stop trying desperately to create peace just because you don’t want to listen to it. I made this mistake. Don’t let them be mean to each other, but sometimes it’s good for kids to fight about stuff. When they come running to you to plead their compelling cases, simply shrug your shoulders and say, “work it out.” Guess what? Most of the time they work it out.
- Let your kids band together to hate you at the same time. This creates a closeness that can’t be fostered by other means. If you say no and they hate you for it, it creates common ground for them. If they are together in their fight against the dictatorship that is your parenting style, they will come together as comrades later on in life, if only to agree upon which nursing home to put you in.
- Building forts out of couch cushions is part of growing up. Your couches aren’t that nice, so just let them do it even if it drives you nuts. When children are building forts out of couch cushions they are not playing video games.
- Make your children sit at the kitchen table to do their homework while you are preparing dinner. Give them a plate of carrots and some celery sticks to munch on. Give them a little dip to go with it. Give them a cup of hot cocoa. Talk. Make them show you their work.
- Whenever possible, let your children help you prepare dinner…even if they do a shitty job and even if it kills you. Relinquish some control and just breathe. I wish I had done more of this.
- Quite often, a dirty child is a happy child (and a healthy one!). And guess what? Dirt comes off. Most of it does anyway, so let them get dirty, sweaty and gross. It’s how they learn.
- Make your children CLEAN UP the yard and put their own damn toys away. Warn them once that you will be donating all their stuff if they don’t clean it up. And if they still don’t clean up their toys, make a big show of loading the car with all their stuff. Then drop it off at Goodwill. Seriously.
- Don’t carry your child’s backpack. If it’s way too heavy, make a big show of bringing a hand truck to school and let him struggle with loading it up…then let him wheel it out in front of his teachers.
- Give your children 4 “mental health” days a year – 1 per semester. My kids were offered this perk and yet never took a day. Weird, but it works.
- The library is free. FREE.
- Not every accomplishment is treat or trophy worthy. Most of the time a “good job, I love you” is enough.
- Ban soda. Ban diet soda too. Just say no. Sugar is your child’s very first drug. Just say no to drugs.
- Don’t bring your son’s forgotten homework to school for him even if it kills you. Would you bring his briefcase to work for him? If you’re like me, then the answer is yes, absolutely. However, we must remember that consequences are NOT A BAD THING, especially early on in life. He might get a zero now…but later he might write a kick ass college essay about the time he forgot his homework and got a zero and learned so much from the experience that it never happened again.
- It’s really okay to miss a game. Children often do better at sports when parents aren’t around. And you can rest assured that your child’s only goal of the season, or very first home run will be when you are not there. Get over it and let him tell you the story. Then get him a treat so you don’t feel so guilty. Home runs and goals are treat worthy.
- Don’t do your daughter’s project for her. Who cares if it looks like shit? At least the teacher will know that she did it by herself, and shouldn’t the idea behind a project be for your daughter to learn something by herself? Don’t even help. That’s not the point. Buy all the crap she needs and let her get to work. Preferably not the night before.
- Let your kids make mistakes. You’re not a bad parent if your kid makes a mistake so stop taking it to heart. Are babies perfect? Yes. Yes they are in every way imaginable. But kids are not. Neither are adults. And that’s why we really shouldn’t be parents.
Of course I didn’t really touch upon the teenage years…that is a whole different post entirely. If you can’t get enough of my parenting advice simply click on The Raising Arizona Guide to Parenting for more words of wisdom.
You only get once chance at it, so no pressure.