10 Things You MUST Do In Front of Your Kids

It’s a whole lotta work raising kids, and there’s a lot of pressure to do it right (whatever that means).  I’ve discovered some MUST-DO’s.  Some I learned the hard way, others by luck and none by the “Parent’s Guide to Raising Your Children to Not be Freaks, Morons or Full-On Embarrassments” which continues to be on back-order!  So without further ado, here are my Top 10…

#10 – Show affection – Keep it PG Rated, but let them see hugging, kissing, tickling, snuggling, holding hands, complimenting, laughing or any other displays you are comfortable with.

#9 – Cry – Whether this is because you lost a loved one, got fired or you’re just really frustrated.  Let them see that even grown-ups need to release their feelings through tears.  I know this is a tough one.  I hate crying in front of anyone, let alone my kids, especially since I’m one ugly damn crier.  So while you may prefer the actual crying stage to be solitary, once you’ve got yourself pulled back together, talk to them about how healthy it is to release feelings in a safe and human way.

#8 – Be Health Conscious – Monkey-see, Monkey-do. It’s awesome you tell the kids to eat fruit as a snack and not Oreo’s, unless of course, you’re the one eating the Oreo’s.  No judgment folks, I’ve been there! And while it’s great to suggest they go outside and play, it’s even better to do it yourself.  Kids give us an easy excuse to try something new.  Rollerblading, ladder ball, sidewalk chalk, it’s all better than sitting at the computer or on the couch!

#7 – Give to those in need – It’s all too common to hear people criticize those less fortunate. The scammers and schemers may be out there, but let’s leave them to Jerry Springer.  Show your kids how to give back and to do so without judgment, just love.  Food pantries, street performers, animal shelters, veterans, whatever.  Just show them how to share time or money with those who are struggling.

#6 – Admit you’re imperfect – We work so hard trying to teach our kids to be right. Showing how to gracefully admit making a mistake and own up to it, is one of the best lessons you can give. Also, make it ok to not always know everything.  Teach them how to be resourceful and find the answers to their questions. Resources can include The Bible, the Google or the friend that knows that kind of stuff.

#5 – Talk about work – Including the nasty supervisor, the insubordinate employee and even the backstabbing co-worker.  Teach them how you problem solve and deal with those messy people problems they will undoubtedly experience throughout life.  I’m a firm believer that Business School starts at home!

#4 – Share financial goals and struggles – Kids will learn to save (and spend) based on your example.  Let them feel part of the family team and contribute ideas on ways to save.  Brainstorm crazy-fun things you could do that cost little, to no money.  Camping in the woods, “unplug” for 24 hours, make a meal out of only what’s in the cabinets. Get creative.

#3 – FIGHT – No, not the down and dirty, heavy adult stuff, just your day-to-day spats.  They too, will argue as an adult one day.  You want to show them the right way to do it.  Even if things get a little heated, kids need to see that respect (no name calling) and love (babe, I’m trying to understand your perspective here, but…) should be the base to every disagreement.

#2 – Give love to yourself – just like they play and color and swim, we need stuff to make us feel good too.  As this typically involves time without them, explain why this is important no matter what your age.  This may include personal work-out time, a nail appointment or a hot date!

And the #1 Thing you Must Do In Front of Your Kids is…

#1 – Commit to an established designated family time – For some, this would be a meal time, like breakfast or dinner.  Other options include the 30 minutes before bedtime, Friday nights or Sunday afternoons.  While 5 days per week is a great goal, even just once a week, consistently, will have great affect.  The goal for these sessions is to allow all family members equal time to share verbally.  So if they are excited to share something, have a question or maybe just something cool they learned, this is the place to share it.  Remember, active listening is key during this time.

These work for all ages with minor adaptations through the years. Please test out any that resonated with you and “comment” how they worked for you and your family.  Also share any tips you’ve discovered along the way in the “comments” section.

Miscommunication

Listening is very important! As a person who prides herself on “looking at the Big Picture” I, too, can fail. Here is the story:
7:02pm: My teen daughter is observed viewing her phone with an expression of anger/sadness. I ask her, “What’s wrong?” She mouths, “I’ll tell you later.”
7:36pm: Husband comes downstairs to the kitchen and asks me, “What is that sound, like something being hit?” I reply that I haven’t heard anything and tell him I have no idea what he’s talking about.
8:10pm: I text my teen daughter and ask her to come downstairs and “fill me in”.
8:11pm: My teen daughter comes downstairs and quietly asks, “What’s ‘banging’?” I reply, “Well it depends on the context it was used in, but typically it is a reference to sex or some variation of it.”
8:12pm: My teen daughter collapses over the kitchen counter in laughter. I ask, “What’s so funny? Did you misunderstand a text or tweet, or something?” Teen daughter replies, “No Mom, I was asking what was banging. Daddy heard it too.” Time to get my mind out of the gutter!! 
This is an impromptu post that I thought shouldn’t be wasted. There will be a full post released this Sunday. Hope you enjoy this interim piece!

Lavish Them with Praise

In the wonderful “experiment” of parenting that I’ve been practicing for almost 21 years now, I have found that when given with sincerity, compliments are very powerful for children. This is especially true in an area where the child is unique and different. I know there are theories out there that indicate lavish praise sets kids up for disappointment later in life when they don’t receive it from others.  But I’m not talking about praise for expected behaviors like following parental instructions or not jabbing objects into the family dog’s eyes.  I mean sincerely appreciating them for their good qualities.  Confidence is such a scarcity these days among children, teens and young adults.  If they don’t love themselves, how is anyone else going to find them worthy of love?

My son was not exactly the model student in structured learning environments.  He was not disrespectful, but we would receive calls from his teachers because he would habitually roll and drop his pencil on the floor, for the apparent purpose of having to get up and retrieve it. This and other such disruptive behaviors became common place in his earlier academic life.  So, did we lavish him with praise whenever he did NOT roll his pencil? Of course not, that was expected behavior.  But my son was quite skilled at hitting a baseball, riding a skateboard and having an unusual level of empathy.  These were the things we praised him for, lavishly.  Also, it wasn’t his ability we praised him for as much as it was his dedication to improving his skill or showing empathy to someone less fortunate.  These were aspects he had total control over.  I wish I could say I was blessed with this skill from the moment of his first conference, however, first, I had to let go of my own insecurities as a parent in order to praise him appropriately.  So for the purpose of having a “re-do”, we had another child.  My daughter is a very pretty girl.  Do we praise her beauty? Not so much.  She didn’t DO anything, she just happened to be blessed with an outward beauty.  So what does she “do”?  She generally does well in school, but not from a lack of effort.  She’s very family-oriented and considerate of others’ feelings.  These are the attributes we praise her for.  Lavishly.

Are my kids perfect?  Nope, but they are still awesome.  The best part of all of this is that they are so comfortable in their individuality, that unlike many of their peers, they have no problem going against the grain.  They have made mistakes and will make more, but they confidently march to their own drummer.  They unapologetically embrace their identity. You may be picturing my kids stuffed in lockers and given daily wedgies, but you’d be wrong.  On the contrary, I think others are attracted to them, not because they happen to be good looking kids, but because their confidence shines through.  Thus far, both of them have managed to hold off on the typical “rites of passage” teens typically have explored by their age or at least postpone those milestones until they feel more in control of themselves.  They are totally ok with being “behind” their friends and classmates.  They just own it.  Lavish your kids with praise and help them grow to love and be confident in their own identity.  Tell them how great they are.  Then watch as they conquer the world following their own set of rules!