Saturday, October 27, 2012

Raising Kids 101

I was once asked to write a book of practical tips on raising kids. Yikes! I'm no expert. I have failed so many times in raising my children but they are all adults now and all serving the Lord, so I guess, with God's help, I must have done something right. But I am not an expert and every family has a different dynamic than the next so as with most self-help articles or books you have to take the meat and leave the bones behind. In other words try a suggestion and if it doesn't work for your family then switch to something that does. Here are some of my suggestions on raising kids. I hope they work for you. (These are in no particular order of importance.)
1. Set boundaries. It's okay to have rules and to expect your child to obey them. Kids thrive on structure and routine. Have a bed time for your children. Setting up a bed time routine prepares your child for sleep. We would always have bath time, then read a book, say prayers and kiss good night. Kids need routine. 

2. Be consistent. If it's wrong to do today, then it's wrong to do tomorrow. No amount of whining could get my mom to change her 'no' into a 'yes'. I learned that from her and it works. Kids feel safer when they know what is expected of them. They grow up more secure if they can trust your word to always be true and the same time after time. Be consistent. 

3. Show your love, don't just say it. Show your love with hugs and kisses and favourite meals and time spent cuddled up together reading a book. Don't be too busy for your child. Love is an action. It's not a thing, a present or new toy, it's an action. Kids would rather have you spending time with them than a full toy box and no parent around them.  

4. Be a big part of your child's education. We home schooled our children and while I think that a one on one education is the best for any child, I do know that there are some wonderful public schools out there. No matter where your child goes to school, know the teachers personally. Appreciate the teachers and honor them so that your child will. Know what is going on at school and what is being taught. Volunteer at your school. Be a face the other children recognize.

5. Don't make God a 'Sunday only' option. Talk about God. Talk about His creation. Teach your child every day to look for God in the world around them. Teach your child to pray and not just  the lay-me-down-to- sleep prayers but actually talking to God. Teach them God's Word and that they can rely on it. 

6. Teach compassion. Volunteer with your child. Tell them about children less fortunate than themselves and work together to help fill the need. When our children were young we didn't have very much money. Certainly not enough to go out and buy new toys for other children so every November I would have my children go through their toy box and choose toys they could donate to local charities to help other children at Christmas time. We made sure all the parts were intact and we would wash the toys and make them look nearly brand new. Old toys with broken parts were thrown out because if they aren't good enough for us then they aren't good enough for children who had nothing. 

7. Teach your children to think of others before themselves. I know this one goes hand in hand with #6 but so many children today are self focused rather than being aware of others. They're self centered and many feel as if the world revolves around them. Not only is this attitude going to set them up for failure in the future when they realize that the world doesn't revolve around them, but  it does nothing towards creating a kind, compassion person, which we all want our children to be. 

8. Give your children chores to do around the house. It's important for children to learn responsibility and to feel that they are an active part of the family. They will not only feel needed but the skills you teach them in doing their chores will prepare them for their future when they are on their own.

9. Teach your children to cook. When I fell and broke my ankle and tore ligaments in the other leg, my husband was out of town on church business. Our children were only young but they were able to cook Kraft Dinner and grilled cheese sandwiches and fry eggs for lunches and knew how to prepare meat and potatoes for suppers. Many years later when each of them left home I was confident knowing they wouldn't be living on TV dinners or canned soup. I knew they could take care of themselves.

10. Teach your children about money. No, it doesn't grow on trees, nor do Mommy and Daddy have a limitless supply. Teach them the value of money. Teach them to save up for the things they want so they will appreciate the item more than if it was just handed to them. When they are older teach them how to earn money either by doing odd jobs or by yard sales, lemonade stands etc. When they are old enough to have a part time job, encourage them to have one. Teach your children how to budget and to be responsible with credit. 

11. Teach respect. Teach your children to respect those who are in authority over them: parents, teachers, pastors, employers etc. Watch your words when you are speaking about these people. If you are not showing respect towards them, then your children won't either. "Yes, Mam" or "Yes, Sir" go a long way towards your child winning the favor of those around them. 

12. Have a family dinner table. This is a biggy. At the end of the day, when school is over and parents are home from work, the family dinner table is a place where everyone can share their day, tell funny stories and connect. There are no distractions from TV or cell phones or anything else. Family dinner time is one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood and one which I stressed with our children. It is a great bonding time. 

13. Teach social skills at home. Get out your good dishes and silverware and glasses every now and then. Put candles on the table and use a table cloth and nice napkins. Have the children dress up and teach them their manners during a 'fancy' dinner at home. Our daughter is now in university and taking an etiquette class. They recently had a 'fancy' dinner to teach the students how to act in a social setting such as a formal dinner. Many job interviews are now being conducted over a dinner so the teacher wanted them to be prepared to give a good impression. Alannah shared how she dressed up in her nice black dress and heels but only one other girl wore anything other than jeans. All of the boys dressed up with dress pants, shirt and tie but she was sad to see so many girls who didn't know what proper dress for an occasion such as this was. Teach these things at home. 

14. Teach manners and insist on them. Manners are sadly lacking in our society and need to be taught. It goes beyond please and thank you but that is a good start. If you have good manners with your children then they will pick up on that and will be more likely to follow your example. Instead of saying 'pass the green beans' try instead 'could you please pass the green beans?'. It might seem to be a small thing but when your child is out in public they will be thought of in a higher regard if they use proper manners. 

15. Teach forgiveness. When your child does wrong teach them to ask forgiveness from God first, then from the one they have wronged. Teach them that when we repent God does forgive us and forgets the wrong. But it is important to learn the law of restitution as well. If it is at all possible to make the wrong right again to do so. When we do wrong and repent God doesn't hold it against us nor does He remind us of our faults. When your child does wrong, don't hold it against them or bring it up to them at a later date. Let it go. Give them a clean slate. When they are the wronged party, teach them to forgive the one who hurt them so that they will be doing the right thing and not carrying around hurt feelings or bitterness.

16. Teach commitment. Although it has many more letters, commitment seems to be a four letter word in our world today. Lack of commitment is everywhere from employers and employees to marriages. 'If the going gets rough just walk away' seems to be the mantra of today. But that is not God's way. We are to be people of our word . Our word should be something that others can count on. If we say a promise we need to live up to that promise or have a very good reason for not doing so and apologize that we can't. If your child has committed to do something but changes their mind half way through, explain to them that they made a commitment and need to honor their word. When we let our children walk away from their obligations we teach them that their word is easily broken and commitment means nothing. 

17. Insist on kindness. That means towards their siblings, other kids at school, older people, towards parents, towards animals, everywhere and everything and everyone. Kindness needs to be a 'no-option' requirement in your home. Insist on it.

18. Respect your mate. If you respect your mate, your children will learn to respect their father or mother too. Don't do things behind your husband's back, that doesn't teach respect. Be a united front before your children. This 'if Daddy says no, go to Mommy' stuff is ruining families. Be on the same page so your children will learn to respect that no means no and that Mom and Dad are not going to be pitted against each other. 

19. Be loving towards your mate. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the example of a loving marriage. When I was growing up, if we couldn't find Mom and Dad we'd look in the kitchen and sure enough they'd be there cuddled up together kissing. They were very demonstrative in their love towards each other and still are. The security which we can instill in our children from showing our love towards our spouse is amazing. The life lessons on how to love their future mate will stand them in good stead when they are married. 

20. Do things together. Don't just take them to soccer practice or baseball practice where they are doing something and you are watching. Yes, that's important that you are there to cheer them on, but actually plan to do things together. It doesn't have to cost much money, if any. But purposely plan activities which you can do together. Build memories which will live on for years to come and will build relationship between you. Take your kids with you when you go grocery shopping. Don't get a babysitter every time you need to go out. Take the kids with you and enjoy being together. Sing songs and play trivia in the van, dance in the supermarket aisles, play guessing games while you're waiting at a doctor's office. Above all, be together and get to know each other. 

      These are only twenty suggestions but each one is one that we have done with our kids on their growing up journey. If you need help and you feel like you are at your wits end, pray. God will help you. Raising children is a wonderful way to increase your prayer life. Take it from me, you will survive and you can thrive and enjoy the wonderful blessing children are. 

Psalm 127:3 "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. 

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