What a daunting title? Five ways to raise great kids, who do I think I am to suggest that I may have some great ideas on how to do so? I have pondered that very thought many times. I, myself, have read so many parenting books from experts. They have fancy degrees and years of interviewing adults and children.
I have nothing to compete with that. I have no fancy degree or title. What I do have is experience. I have had my kids with me almost all day, everyday for the past 16 years. I have had to figure out the best way, for me, to parent. I’m not trying to suggest that my kids or I am perfect. Far from it. We make mistakes, daily. Then we try to do better the next day.
I have come up with five suggestions to help your kids be great. These basic principles have helped my family and I hope they can help yours too.
1. Teach your kids to work. Kids are more capable than sometimes we think they are. They can wash their own clothes, wash the dishes, mop, sweep, vacuum, mow, weed, make their beds, clean their rooms, clean the bathrooms and so on. If you think your kid doesn’t have enough time to do chores then cut back on their activities. It won’t do them any favors when they’re an adult if they don’t know how to work. I have heard the excuse that my kid is learning to work because they -insert activity here- and they’re really dedicated. Here’s my beef with that statement. Your kid may learn to work in an area that they love, but it doesn’t serve anybody but them. When they do chores, they learn to work through things that they may not like and it benefits the whole family.
What’s the best way to teach your kids to work? Work right along side with them. Yes, it will take time in the beginning, but eventually they’ll be able to do it by themselves. Your home and yard probably won’t make it into Better Homes and Gardens, but your kids will know how to work and you’ll get to spend more time with them as you teach them how to do it.
2. Embrace failure. Why are we so afraid to fail? Does it say that you’re a loser? No! It says you tried. How many stories are there of people who weren’t afraid to fail? Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Also, it’s not only ok to fail, it’s a really great way to learn. No one who has achieved any form of greatness did it without some type of failure. We like to say, “An ordinary person would give up, but you my darling, you’re extraordinary, and an extraordinary person would never give up."
3. Natural consequence. When a kid breaks a family rule, what happens to them? Does the punishment fit the crime? Some ideas of natural consequences are: your kid is on a phone or tablet when they’re not supposed to be, just calmly explain to them that they weren’t supposed to be on a device and take it away or put a password on it. I usually decide with my kid how many days they think they should lose the privilege. Your kids don’t do their chores? We decided as a family that you can’t play with friends if you don’t do your chores. Your kid doesn’t listen and put a jacket on when it’s cold? Just let them be cold. Hard core punishments don’t teach much more than make sure you don’t get caught next time.
It has been great to see my kids take ownership of their mistakes. They will start to realize that everything in life has a consequence. Some things have good consequences and others, not so great consequences. This has taken a lot of practice. I need to be calm and not overreact when something happens and they start to figure out the consequences before they do the action. My little six year old knows that if he goes to a friend’s house without doing his chores that he’ll lose friend privileges for a few days. This really helps him to work on his things he needs to get done so that he doesn’t lose that privilege.
4. Be forgiving. This goes both ways. You are human. Your children are human. You are both going to make mistakes. They’re going to mess up. You may yell. Forgive yourself. Your kids may yell. Forgive them, (this may result in a natural consequence). Forgive every time. Life is too short to be mad all the time. We like to say things like, “The old mom would have yelled at her kids when they destroyed the kitchen and didn’t clean up after themselves, but the new mom, she simply just asks her kids to go clean it up without getting mad.” I know it sounds silly, but it lightens the mood and it helps me to forgive myself. We use it for the kids too. “The old kids would have gotten mad at their sibling when they touched their toys, but the new kid would know better than that.” Say sorry when you mess up and mean it. When you do apologize for your mistakes your kids will start to follow suit.
5. Relax. My husband’s favorite word that sometimes makes me want to throat punch him. Once again, life is too short. Relax, don’t worry about the little stuff. If it is isn’t going to matter in a year, a month, a week, or even tomorrow, then it probably doesn’t matter. Let it go and move on.
After reflecting on those five ideas I realized the best way to teach your kids these principles is to first do them yourself. Work hard alongside your kids, teach them the importance of hard work by example. Be ok with failure. Your dinner flopped, so what? It will be better next time. Your new chore chart was a mess; now here’s your chance to find the right one. Forgive yourself and others and your kids will start to mimic you. And finally, if you want your kids to not get so worried or anxious about everything, model it for them and relax.