Thursday, April 24, 2008

13 Rules for Raising Kids

After seeing a promotion for Chris Rock's mom's book on raising children a couple of people suggested they'd like to know my rules. So, here goes:

  1. Be the parent. They can make their own friends and don't need to add you to that list. They need you to be the parent. Otherwise, they'll likely make themselves or someone else the parent.

  2. Be consistent-but flexible. They need to know the rules and that the rules don't change, nor does the fact that breaking the rules will result in consequences. However, occasionally there will be extenuating circumstances when you will need to either temporarily or permanently change the rules.

  3. Play. Let them see your fun side. Playing with them, whether with building blocks, board games, a Wii, or miniature golf, allows for bonding at all ages. It both keeps you in touch with them but often offers good teachable moments when they are most receptive. Note: If you were "too busy" to play Candy Land with them at four expect them to be suspicious and less than thrilled when you want to play Scrabble at 14.

  4. Encourage them-often, about everything. Statements like "You can do it.", "Good job.", " I love your smile.", "You can be anything you want to be.", should be a regular part of your conversations with your kids at every age.

  5. Allow them their feelings. It is okay to guide them on how to handle their feelings (ie. we do not throw temper tantrums) but not to ignore them or tell them how they should feel.

  6. Allow them to suffer consequences. You are not helping them by rescuing them, making excuses for them, or bailing them out. By the time you are not there and they do have to reap what they've sown it will likely be very costly.

  7. Make the "punishment" fit the" crime". Discipline should be age appropriate and logical. It is ineffective to ground a four year old or to put a 16 year old in time out. It should also match the severity of the offense (ie. punishment for your 14 year old sneaking a piece of dessert before dinner should not be the same as for sneaking out of the house). Keep in mind that if the punishment is always severe then it is likely when they get old enough to start deciding if the crime is worth the punishment they will likely make the worst choices since they will get punished the same either way.

  8. Be realistic. Expecting your toddler to be good an not fussy at the store when you've kept them out past their normal bedtime is unrealistic. So is expecting your teenager to always agree with your rules or decisions. Especially with toddlers and teens, pick your battles. Yelling, scolding, pushing, or nagging them all the time is unproductive. If your toddler only wants to drink out of the green cup - wash it, take it with you, buy more green cups. If your teen's room is messy (not to be confused with filthy) just close the door.

  9. Apologize when you are wrong. Yes, sometimes you will be wrong - blame the wrong child, be short tempered because of things that have nothing to do with the child, or forget to do something you told them you would. When you are, apologize. They don't need you to be perfect. In fact, if you try to come off as perfect you will 1) set unrealistic standards for them to reach, and 2) fail - sooner or later they will find out you are fallible.

  10. Encourage creativity and make believe. There is research that suggests that the smartest children have imaginary friends - within reason, play along. Don't tell them they can't color the cat blue (remember, someone made a fortune with a purple dinosaur). If you're really brave, let you teen decide what color they want to paint their room and how they want to decorate it (again, within reason!).

  11. Encourage independence. Start early letting them make simple decisions - Do they want strawberry or grape jelly or would they prefer juice or mild with lunch. As they grow the decisions and the options should both increase. A child whose parent has made almost all their choices for them will implode when they go off to college. They'll either be incapable of making a decision on their own and return home or they will go wild with their sudden power and control.

  12. Know their friends and their friends parents. The older they get the more important this becomes.

  13. Teach them responsibility. When I asked my adult children what one thing was that they thought their father and I did right in parenting them, that was the answer. Kids need to understand they have a responsibility to their family, their community/school/ team, their church, and their planet. This helps them recognize that the world does not revolve around them and that their choices and decisions effect other people. They also learn that others have needs and feelings too. Additionally, it helps them recognize that they matter - that they, as an individual, can make a difference and that they are important to other people.


Anonymous said...

Great list. I especially like the apologize when you are wrong. People try to tell me that I should never apologize that it would undermine my authority ... what? That's crazy.

BTW, I'm visiting from Thursday Thirteen.

Jenny said...

I can't seem to grasp #2. I try, but I fail so bad. LOL

Eve said...

I like your rules. They are very much like the rules my mom and dad used when I was growing up. I tried to use these with my daughter, also.

Shelley said...

Thanks for this great list. Mine are 9, 8, 6, 3, and 1...I need all the advice I can get. Well, all the solid advice, anyway!