Ongoing Stories of My Soul

Look over my shoulder as I ponder life.

Child Proof: Thoughts on Raising Good Kids

Not so long ago, an acquaintance asked me what I had done to raise such great kids. Immediately, I started scrolling through my mind and could not come up with any quick or clever answers. I even smiled at how many moments I felt they deserved a better mother. One that wasn’t tired, short-tempered, too busy, imperfect. I have failed each of them many times. I do harbor some regrets, but mostly I think of being bailed out by my God, my mother, and true friends. When I was at my worst, there was someone who came and sprayed a little polish so I would clean up pretty nice.

In fact, it could have been you. I am uncertain of a magic formula for taking kids from the crib to careers. From transforming mischievous little boys to men admired by their peers. I must say that daughters put a mother in her place. How satisfying it is to see my girls making their world a better place by their nurturing and giving spirits

I used to tell my kids: “I would like you guys even if you weren’t mine.” And that is still true today. I cannot tell you it was easy. I used to share with my students’ parents on ‘Back to School Night’ some of my personal philosophies. Of course, there are a few thoughts I did not share with parents, but I am offering them here. You be the judge if they are sound principles or just pretty words:

*Parenting is hard. If you aren’t overwhelmed you aren’t doing it right.
*Your child will never speak to me in a tone of voice, or call me a name that my own four kids aren’t allowed to.
*Don’t tell me you are “too busy.” I am very busy…in fact, I feel like I invented the concept.
*”Only believe half of what they tell you about me, and I will only believe half of what they tell me about you.”
*Let your kids own their successes and failures.
*Be their parent. Not their friend. My kids had plenty of friends. What they needed was a mother that held them accountable, held them up to high standards, and held them when their world was falling apart.
*The best gift your kid can have is a best friend. If they have more than one, then they are blessed beyond measure.
*Be authentic. That means different things in various situations, but be a person of integrity. Do I get a 100% on this one? Hardly. But who I was did not waver; I was not one person at their parent conferences and a different one when I tucked them in at night.
*Do not build your world around your kid. Raise your kids to help build the world around them.
*Create a “Day Out” in which you spend time with only one kid. It does not need to be an expensive adventure, but time carved out for just that kid.
*Hardest yet….give your kids boundaries, limits, and be unafraid to  limit their TV, cell phone, and computer time. My kids were never allowed to have a TV in their rooms. We only owned one. Funny…some of my grandkids have TV’s in their rooms, but they would rather mix with the family than be isolated in their rooms.
*Remember…it is not what is easiest, most costly, or the latest trend that creates great kids. Investment of time is the greatest treasure in a child’s world. Roosevelt said it best: “Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have.”
*Expect failure…both in being the parent and in being the child. And remember the ‘F’ word: Forgiveness.
*Empower your kids with a self-worth that will not collapse under the pressures of the world. “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t” was my catch-phrase of judging a situation. Oh…and if something happens at a sleepover or party, always supply them with strategies to come home without losing friends or face. I told them they could always fake diarrhea. Nobody wants that kid around! And I would pick them up, no questions asked.
*Each of my four kids has a word: Laugh, Love, Learn, Live…assigned to them by me, based on their gifts and talents and what they brought to my life. Notice: each kid claims their word and two of them wear them proudly—tattoos they had inscribed on their wrists for me for Mother’s Day. One day, I will do the same with all four words on my wrist. Why? A covenant to pray for them whenever I glance at my wrist.
*Never send your kids to church. Go with them. And be brave by not allowing them to work on Sundays. Hard, but workable. (Forgive the pun).
*Listen to their music. Save the notes they wrote to you. Help them with homework, but not every night. If they don’t do it, let them face the teacher in the morning. ‘Bail outs’ are a kid’s strategy to avoid consequences. I honored the parent who did not do the kid’s project; it should look like a seven year old completed it. At my house, I gave them a ‘frame’ of ideas, and then I went back to folding laundry, grading papers, or reading/writing a book.
*I did not give my kids an allowance. But if I needed an extra hand with a chore, I would kind of ‘bid it out’ to one of the four who was willing to work for it. They worked for free, inheriting the privilege to contribute to the good of the family. Many folks do not agree with this, and looking back, I am not sure this was the right thing.
*I usually did not ground them. Why? Because it would punish me to have them around. I just assigned them the worst chores.
*I told them: “You can think it, but you can’t say it.” I pray I never become proficient at reading their minds. It would break my heart.
*Lastly, my one daughter put it quite eloquently. When visiting my classroom, one of the students asked what it was like having me for a mom. She replied, “Well, she’s the kind of mom other kids want, be we don’t.” Enough said.

If you read between the lines I am sure you will see that my four children became great adults, in spite of me. I can ask for nothing more.


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