Raising up the next generation of children isn’t an easy task to do. It takes time, discipline (both on the part of the parent and the child), love, respect and more time. Although cooking, cleaning, gardening, sewing and budgeting are all part of an essential upbringing, there are so many more thing that need to be taught but aren’t as cut and dried. In all honesty, these are things I can’t tell you, step-by-step how to do, as each child is unique and learns in different ways. Still, just knowing what to teach them is half the battle. As intangible as they are, these are things I learned growing up that have served me well.
I have parents & I have friends- but they aren’t the same people: There was a great separation between my mom and dad and my friends. I once asked my mom why we couldn’t be ‘friends’ and do things together. She very quickly told me, “You have plenty of friends. You only have one set of parents. A mother and dad are not designed to be your friend. They are designed to be your teacher; your disciplinarian; your guide through life; your Jiminy Cricket (conscience); your provider, until you are able to provide for yourself.” She was right. My friends would have let me get away with just about anything in the name of ‘fun’. My mom and dad taught me that some things that seem like fun at the time, could be harmful to me and to others. Friends wouldn’t say ‘No’. My parents used that word like a litany. In all honesty, children don’t need more friends. They need someone who isn’t afraid to say ‘No’. My friend Marie also encourages parents to learn to say ‘yes’ as well. It gets tiring for a child to hear nothing but ‘no’ all the time. The trick is finding those precious ‘yeses’ in a turbulent sea of ‘no’s’. The lesson that goes hand-in-hand with that is teaching them the difference between right and wrong – from experience. They need someone older and wiser to guide them through the hidden tangible and intangible dangers of life. To do any less is showing a tremendous lack of respect to our children. Loving children can sometimes be one of the hardest things we do in life – but the rewards surpass anything else we could ever know.
I attended school (AND respected my teacher). I get it. School can be a drag. But have you ever wondered why that is so? In most cases, it isn’t the teacher’s fault. It is the immediate negative expectations of your child of required routine. They can’t do as they please. They can’t talk when they want. And there is self-discipline involved in paying attention, reading, studying and taking tests. But in order to get by in this world, we need some degree of formalized learning. If you want your child to succeed, as a parent we need to emphasize the importance of school. To be honest, they do learn so much more than just English, Science, History and Math. They are taking the lessons they learn at home and how to expand them to the outside world; things like how to interact with people from all walks of life. Tolerance. Respect – for themselves and others. Organizational skills. Creativity. Timing. Compassion. They learn how to balance life, and make it work in a positive way for them and for others. Those teachers who are in front of the class? Trust me. They aren’t in it for easy money. Teaching has to be in the top five of the most difficult and lowest paying jobs in this country – not to mention they are required to have an extensive education just to teach. In some cases, a Masters and/or Doctorate level is required, which is a tough and expensive curriculum. Your child’s teachers know exactly what it is like to be in school – they have already been there for 17 to 20 years of their life – not counting kindergarten. Their goal isn’t just to stand up in front of the class and make your child’s life miserable. It is to assist your child in making their lives productive, with all of the side dressings of wonderful and positive as possible. For your children (and you, as parents) to treat these people with disrespect is a direct reflection on you. No. Not all teachers are wonderful, and can be pretty hard-core. But sometimes, it is those very teachers who teach us the most about the given subject and life itself. I am well past my school years. And I was typical – I would have much rather been running the roads than sitting in a classroom. But now? Given the opportunity, I would be right back in school, getting degrees in Agriculture, Home Economics and Business. And I would show my appreciation to them by studying hard and learning the material. Teach your children that, if they cannot love school, they can at least appreciate the benefits it offers them by studying hard, learning the material and making good grades. Teach them to ‘see the future’ – which is exactly what school is preparing them for.
Teach your children by setting an example. There is a song by The Police that has words every parent needs to know – because it is exactly what your children are silently telling you:
“Every breath you take and every move you make Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you Every single day and every word you say Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you
Every move you make, every vow you break Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you”
Your children do watch your every move. It is those tiny, almost imperceptible things we do that can trip us up as parents. When you do it, they think it is okay for them to do the same. Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you are your child’s hero. They want to emulate you. They want to grow up to be just like you. In most cases, their own unique personality and thought processes will prevent them from being an exact clone, but they can pick up enough actions, habits and beliefs to come close. Are we the people we want our children to become? No. None of us ever believe we are. But in most cases, we can behave in a manner that encourages them to do their very best. If we do something we are not proud of, show your children how hard YOU work to change. Let them know it is okay to struggle to make things better. It is those struggles that refine us. In order for gold and silver to be at its utmost most precious, it has to go through refinement by fire. Teach your children it is okay to go through struggles – and then teach them the most gracious way possible to walk across those coals. When you breathe, when you speak, when you smile, when you give up to have better – make sure it is something you want your child to feel proud and comfortable doing themselves. Teach them the intangible things in life. Show compassion and respect to them, your family and others, as your encounter them. You may not like your ex, but treat them respect – if for no other reason than because they are also your children’s parent. Live a life of doing good; be determined to do the right thing; Be understanding, tolerant, joyful, and happy in your every move, thought, action and reaction, in your day-to-day life. Learn to be content and appreciative of what you have – and not constantly moaning about what you don’t have. By watching you do these things, you are teaching your children a very valuable lesson.
Raising children – and doing it well, is not an easy task. It takes time, discipline, understanding, compassion and a love that is immeasurable and never ending. To sign on as parents means to set aside your own needs and desires in order to be there for your child. Some days that is one of the most difficult things to do. Mostly, though, it is a joy. If you really pay attention, you aren’t only teaching your children, you are also learning from them. And by teaching each other, you will be well on the way to a better life for both of you.