So far, I’ve talked about breastfeeding, sleep training, and reality… If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you. I know that every parent has a different philosophy and style, and I realize that there are probably several people who are reading my blog and disagreeing with every word I say. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, please allow me to reiterate: I am not a perfect parent, and I am not here to judge you. If anything, I’d like to create the opportunity for open dialogue about parenting philosophies. So, here we go….
As a parent, my goal for parenting is to mold the people my children will be as adults. How can I help my child be independent, courageous, compassionate? Though I crave an overly dependent relationship, as a mom I want to help my kids find their wings… and not be the one who clips them. Here are some basic guidelines I try to follow:
- Don’t hover.
- When your kid falls, don’t react. Allow your kid to react and follow his reaction. (Example: Cam and I are walking, and he trips and falls. Cam stands up, giggles, and continues walking. -OR- Cam stands up, crying for me. I immediately take him into my arms and comfort him.) The reason? If you gasp or carry on every time your toddler falls, you’re teaching him to seek that attention. You’re also creating a more whiny, fearful toddler. I am thinking this will also apply as my children age–allowing them to be the one to react when bad things happen in life, and then helping them learn to react appropriately as they wade through the various emotions in life.
- Allow your kid to reap the natural consequences of not listening. This one is HARD, and obviously, there are limits; for example, I’m not going to let Claire run out in the road. This teaches: cause and effect; mommy knows best; and believe it or not, confidence. When you allow your child to make mistakes, you’re helping them to see that a mistake, though painful, is not the end of the world.
- Love. Offer hugs and affection as often as possible, and be in tune with when they are craving your affection.
- Be honest. Parents, this is another hard one. For example, when my 4 year old asked me how babies come out of the mommy’s tummy when they’re born, I had to answer that (with as few details as possible, but still…) I want her to know I will answer her questions without being awkward. I want to be the one who answers those questions, too.
- Help them identify other people’s emotions. I tend to do a lot of this as I’m trying to help Claire (4) see Cam (2) as I see him. “He wants to be right in the middle of what you’re doing because he loves you.” “He thinks y’all are playing a game… ‘Break the dinosaur and see if sister can fix it.'” “He is grumpy because he’s getting tired.”
- Help them identify their own emotions. This comes in really handy for dealing with Claire and all of her drama. When a tantrum is looming, I tend to get down on her level and verbalize what she’s trying to communicate, usually with a slightly more positive spin. For example, we went to a Christmas party, and she was devastated when it was time to leave. When she piped up in a whine, I gave her my mom look and said, “Hey,” as a way to remind her that whining isn’t an approved form of communication. Then I got down on her level and said, “You’ve had a lot of fun tonight, haven’t you?” Her eyes lit up and she nodded. “We should go say ‘bye’ to everyone, and thank them for such a fun night.” She immediately threw herself into that task. Crisis averted.
- Understand your own absolute boundaries, and communicate them clearly and consistently. For instance, running away from me is never, ever an option, especially if I’m calling to that child. Why? Because I may very well be attempting to keep my child out of danger, and I need to know that my child knows to listen for my call. Claire and I had it out over this one Sunday morning, and we most certainly had to go to the bathroom to have a “talk.”
- Whatever form of discipline you choose, be consistent. Your child WANTS you to be consistent. He wants to know where your boundaries are. There is safety and security within those boundaries.
- Let them be responsible for themselves. I vow to not clean up after my kids constantly. Instead, I want to teach them to see the mess and instinctively know to clean it. Annnnd if you have any advice to help with that, PLEASE leave a comment!
- Embrace the mess. Learning is often messy, and that’s ok. Let them get dirty. Let them get egg everywhere as they’re learning how to crack open an egg. Annnnd help them learn to clean their own mess as they go.
- Teach decision making skills from an early age. I try to help them see every action as a choice, whether it be acting out in anger, willful disobedience, or picking up their toys. There is empowerment in choices, and I am hoping the whole “good choice/bad choice” routine will help my kids know how to evaluate their options and choices when they are older.
- Be the one to talk to your kids about God. I know it’s intimidating, and the church has made it so easy to bring your kids to “Sunday School” and entrust them with their religious education… but they need to hear it from you. We’ve made it part of our daily routine: we pray before meals, sing songs throughout the day, and read a Bible story and pray before bed.
- In the same vein as the previous point: find a church you love and be consistant in attending. I know this is a complicated subject that deserves its own post in and of itself, but for the sake of this post, allow me to keep it simple… attending church consistently greatly extends your family. It allows your kids to develop relationships with both adults and other children. It gives you friends who are in similar life situations as yourself. I really cannot emphasize the value of the community experience of church enough, and that doesn’t even touch on the mutual encouragement of your faith that you experience through church.
I’m sure my list isn’t exhaustive or even original, but this is, in a nutshell, my parenting philosophy. What would you add to the list? What would you change?