I do not believe that there are any parents who send their children off into the world and say to themselves, ” we really hit it out of the park, we did everything right”.
Parenting is hard, fun, frustrating, joyful, terrifying, rewarding, heartbreaking and so much more all at the same time. Sometimes all in the same day.
I have 4 children an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old daughter, a 14-year-old son and the baby who is 11.
My first child has an iron will, my second was very sweet but sneaky. My son still keeps me on my toes and my youngest child is soo easy. Every child is different and unique in their own way and often requires adjustments to parenting.
One of my first fears before my first daughter was born was: “how can I possibly keep her safe from all the bad things that happened to me”? How do you provide love, nurturing and protection to your children when you were not raised that way? People ask me this all the time and I like most parents do not have a magic formula. I don’t really even know for sure if I am any good at it. Each child is different and each parent is different and just when you feel like your on a winning streak you hit some new phase of chaos. I will share some things that worked for me. I think that all of the kids are pretty cool individuals and as far as I know they feel very safe, loved and supported by both my husband and I. ( most of the time)
- Don’t scream at your children. I know easier said than done, I will fully admit that one of my children knows how to push my buttons until I morph into someone I don’t know. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often. I do know that if you scream at your children all the time that it is harmful and also ineffective. They will simply tune you out and not hear what you are trying to communicate. My husband and I hardly ever raise our voices at the kids that when we do they pay attention. I have counted to 10 and then 20, 30… many times. I have frankly told my children that they need to go hang out in their rooms because I am going to lose my sh$t if they don’t. This is not showing weakness, this is showing your children that it is ok to walk away and calm yourself. We all get frustrated and angry, that doesn’t mean that it is ok to take it out on people.
- Don’t hit, shove, push or use any other physical punishment. This doesn’t accomplish anything other than demonstrating that big people can overpower little people.
- When disciplining make sure that you are not angry. If you need to send your child to their room while you go into yours and find your inner peace do it! I try to offer real consequences for whatever my children have done that require discipline.No matter how young my children were I always tried to explain what they had done wrong, why it was wrong and if possible what they should do differently next time.
- I think sometimes we tell our kids what not to do but fail to tell them what they should do. The goal of discipline is to learn something that hopefully will stick around so they don’t do it again. Discipline is not just for me to relieve my anger and frustration. This is also not as easy as it sounds, the more tired and stressed you are the harder it is. This is one of those things that if you dig deep in your momma supper power reserves it will pay of later.
- Limits, boundaries, and explanations. My children will all tell you that I sit them down for talks way more often then they would like. I have always tried to make sure that my kids know what the rules are and what happens if they break those rules. It is important to follow through, I never threaten my kids and don’t follow through. When the children were little I keep life a series of routines, traditions, and rituals. I believe this helps children feel safe. Children do better when they can predict what’s next and they fight you less too! As the kids got older and their world got bigger we had more ” talks”. We have sat down with the kids and gone over everything we can think of, sex, drugs, navigating relationships, work ethic, their dreams, our dreams for them. My oldest daughter used to think I was crazy for talking to her about ” adult things” until time and time again she found herself in those situations soon after and was grateful she knew how to handle them. This was something I struggled with as well. I wanted to protect my kid’s childhood and let them be innocent for as long as possible, but I didn’t want them to find themselves in situations and not know what to do. Just last night as my 16-year-old went to a party I reminded her that: she is not allowed to drink alcohol or be around others who are drinking, do not smoke or vape anything and if she feels unsafe or uncomfortable we will come to get her. In the end, you can’t protect your children from everything that can harm them and keep them in a bubble. You can, however, educate them and build them up to handle what comes their way. If they find themselves in a situation they can’t handle let them know that you have their back. I also tell my kids that everyone makes mistakes, I’ve been honest with them about mistakes I’ve made and how I worked through them. There is nothing that they can do that would make me stop loving them.
- Kitchen time, bring the kids into the kitchen with you, have them plan and make meals too! Its important that the whole family be part of meal prep and clean up.
- Don’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves. let them get frustrated, watch YouTube to figure a thing out, let them fail and try again. Do my kids get ALL dust off the bookcases?? no, they don’t. Are they learning and figuring out that the whole family is responsible for the condition of our home we share? Maybe. If your unsure of what your kids should be doing by age, look it up there are all kinds of charts. Likewise, don’t load your children up with too much responsibility. This was another area I had to think about. Growing up my mother loaded all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and much of the care or my younger sister. To figure out a good balance I looked up chore charts by age and also set limits for myself for chores and housework.
- Give them choices. My kids often went to school in outrageous outfits. They felt like the bee’s knees so whatever, off we went feeling fabulous and confident. I try to put two or more vegetables on the table, they must eat one of them. I am not strict on their rooms either, there is a limit of course but how they arrange their living space is up to them. You’re going to read a book, but you can choose which one. I didn’t put many restrictions on my kids. Maybe this was good and maybe not, time will tell. My oldest once told her younger teenage sister that if said no to her doing something it was probably because it was really bad. I’ve said no to tattoos, some piercings, some concerts, SpongeBob, grand theft auto and some friends. My kids seem to listen to me when I advise against things and they also don’t ever accuse me of being unfair or out of touch. My oldest daughter once joked that the only thing they had to rebel with was to come home a Republican.
- Play a lot of board games. Playing games helps children, plan, problem solve and regulate their emotions. They also can help children talk about complex issues that they are trying to work through. For my oldest child, it’s Skipbo an easy game that you don’t have to think about much. My daughter will play Skipbo and after a few rounds, I am all caught up on what’s going on in her life. For my second daughter its chess. If she asked to play chess on the back porch alone, I knew she had some things on her mind that she was trying to process. My son who has a higher than average IQ and ADHD, board games are a great way to help him navigate impulse control, stay focused and keep his cool. Board games are often a fun family bonding experience and sometimes end in frustration and tears. Either way, they teach a lot more than just how to play the game.
- Have respect for yourself and others. My children are the most precious and valuable parts of my life. My husband and I have both tried to show them how amazing and valuable they are in hopes that they will feel that way about themselves most of the time. My thought was that if I treated my children well, they would expect other people to as well and speak up when they didn’t. Likewise, if I ever found out my kids called another child names, bullied them or made them feel bad about themselves I would have their butts. This has been hit or miss with two of my kids. ADHD makes this extra challenging but we keep trying. My kids all grew up in a home that valued and respected diversity and people who are different from us. Everyone has their story, has traveled their own road and we don’t know how difficult the road has been. Don’t judge, learn and ask respectful questions if you’re not sure.
- Listen. Listen to your children, really listen to them. Be patient as they try to articulate their thoughts. For years my oldest daughter would need to come home and “purge” everything about her day. Knowing when to just listen and not give advice can be hard to figure out, keep trying. Validate your children’s feelings, but also don’t let them talk to you like trash either. ” I can see that you are upset, but cannot have you say hurtful things to me”.
- Admit when your wrong and apologize. I mess up, I say things I shouldn’t have or screamed or whatever. Sometimes I’ve said things that I thought was funny, but the recipient found them to be hurtful. Sometimes I don’t feel like I did anything wrong and apologize for hurting their feelings. It’s not my job to say if what I did hurt them or not. Show your children that people make mistakes, they say things they don’t mean and hurt people they love sometimes. You can move past it, the love and respect are still there.
- Get your kids mental health help when they need it. Most of us would take our kids to a hospital if they broke a bone or have a high fever. Mental health is no different. One of my children hit their teenage years with rage. They snuck out, broke all the rules, raged against us the whole gamut. It was awful! I did not accept that ” we are just at this stage”. Turns out they had a traumatic experience that they were suffering from and was swallowed up by grief. A few months of therapy and my teenager was back on track. Do Not Ever Give Up On Your Child. If you need help, help is available.
- Time in. Children often ask for love and attention in the most unlovable ways. They often operate on negative attention is better than no attention at all. I have found when my children are acting out its because they need mom time. Of course, none of my children feel like they get enough of me. One thing that we have been doing for a few years is ” forced family fun”. Everyone has to attend unless they are at work. Sometimes we all have a great time and laugh until our bellies hurt, sometimes someone picks at someone and makes them cry and then I have to step in and get annoyed. Don’t aim for perfection, just appreciate that everyone got together and no doubt some kind of memory was made and we all had an opportunity to connect. Remember no Phones!
- You are their parent, not their friend. If your children feel like you are their best friend great! But that’s, not the goal, your job is to love, protect, guide and set limits for them to learn and grow within. Sometimes your job is also to make tough and unpopular choices. I am required to feed my children, it doesn’t always have to be food they love. I have to cloth them, how much I spend on this depends on my budget. My children do expect privacy on their phones, internet or gaming activity. I will get to know the people they hang out with, talk to parents and keep tabs on them. I don’t care if this is embarrassing.
Like I said, I am not saying I have all the answers or am the best parent ever. These are things that I’ve learned along the way and have found to work for our family. There are a lot of parenting and child development books out there. It can be daunting to sort through all the information available. The fact that you do try and educate yourself on how to raise your children earns you major momma points.
Lastly, I want to say, don’t compare yourself to other mommas. Also, don’t judge other mommas. We are all a tribe of women, birth moms, stepmoms, foster moms etc..we should help, encourage and build each other up. If you feel alone and lost in the thick of motherhood, hit me up I will chat with you 🙂