In the spirit of full disclosure I am not a therapist, but I do have a really awesome couch in my office. I do not specialize in child behavior other than my own two. I have not had any formal training in child psychology. I did have some extreme on the job training like the time that I was wrapped in a towel getting ready for work as I hear one kid scream (imagine: blood curdling, there’s blood all over the carpet because someone lost a digit scream) “HE’S KILLING THE FISH! COME SEE WHAT YOUR SON DID THIS TIME!” Only to round the corner and see my beautiful blonde haired-blue eyed angel standing on the dresser emptying what was left in the 3-gallon fish tank into his toy box. I am the daughter of a licensed clinical social worker and had access to tons of parenting videos, materials, suggestions, and opinions. Like most parents I made a ton of mistakes (shocking, right? I know) before I figured out what worked and just when I thought I had it all figured out for one of them– the other little bugger ripped the carpet out from underneath me.
I’ve compiled a list of 6 things I learned while parenting those two people; I call my greatest blessings that may be helpful to you. I share these things because I probably came to understand them too late in some situations but managed to hit the mark occasionally and am finally fully grasping how important our jobs as parents really are. Our responsibilities are so much more than just making sure they can tie their shoes, read a book by kindergarten, and cross the street without being hurt. Our responses to them, our interactions with them, our attitudes and habits around them are shaping who they will become. We’re shaping the friends they’ll hang out with, the mates they will ultimately chose, even the amount of crap they’ll take from someone in the workplace!
1. Children are all different
I don’t just mean the obvious difference between what they look like or whether they’re girls or boys. I mean they really are different. They have different wants, desires, likes, and dislikes. Just because one child liked peaches, as their first food, doesn’t mean the second one will like them at all. One form of discipline may work for one but not for the others. Be prepared to try to nail Jello to a tree at any given moment. The moving target is forever your challenge.
2. Honesty is always the best policy
I have to qualify this by saying honesty with age appropriate information. There is no harm in explaining to your school-aged children that the $200 sneakers (everyone else is wearing and they’re dying to own) are not in your budget. Maybe ask if it’s in their piggy bank and if they’re willing to spend it on those sneakers. When they have skin in the game the game changes.
3. Children are little people
I’ve heard conflicting opinions about this one. My opinion is they are. They have feelings too. Most importantly we should be mindful that how we speak to them is how they may speak to others or how they’ll tolerate others’ behavior towards them. Conflict resolution skills are just as important in elementary school as they are in the workplace. Teaching children appropriate ways to communicate their feelings is important to them learning boundaries they’ll use as adults.
4. Being silly and crazy experiments aren’t just ok – they’re a necessity
Crazy experiments are part of learning. You know, when the house rule is you finish what you put on your plate (or in your glass) and some wise guy wants to mix his tea and milk? Allow children the opportunity to just be silly. While their hectic little schedules may seem like a cakewalk to you they have pressures in their world too. Laughter is good medicine for all of you.
5. Now is the time to parent – friendship will come later
Our jobs as parents are serious business. We’re raising and shaping future productive members of society (yes, my father was an Army officer and this was his mantra). Being “friends” on Facebook and Instagram is great if you’re using it as a tool to monitor their safety but if you’re posting your “adult material” and sharing with all of their friends or participating in the teeny-bopper drama you may be crossing a line that will be difficult to return from when it comes time to assert your authority.
6. Nutrition isn’t just for adults
Nutrition is paramount to a child’s development both physically and emotionally. By adjusting the meals you prepare or the foods available in your home you can feed their brains for better learning and emotional stability; curb temper tantrums with the little ones and PMS symptoms with the teens; help with acne breakouts and teach weight control techniques for use later in life.
Our health happens by choice not by chance. This means that we are exactly what we eat, drink, think, and do…even the little people.
Looking out for your Long Term Wellness,