with Tony Seton
More advice on child-rearing from thoughtful correspondents.....
And--parents are NEVER, NEVER perfect. This is much harder for the child to accept than it is for the parent.
The earlier generations learned not to praise too highly, that nothing the child ever did was quite good enough. We've gone too far the other way these days, lavishing praise when little is due, failing to distinguish between working hard and being productive.
Read books, take courses in child psychology. Talk to parents you think are doing a good job with their children and learn the keys to their success.
I see in our adult children today traits and talents that they exhibited in early childhood, especially temperament and affinity for music.
Do a gut check and make sure you are ready for a tremendous amount of responsibility and change in lifestyle. You have to be willing to accept that when you have children, you and your spouse are no longer first all the time. Then take your children everywhere, when they are ready to go places. Don't take them on planes or to nice restaurants or entertainment events before they are ready to attend without disturbing others.
Having conversations about basking sharks with a 3 year old is both surreal and immensely rewarding.
Have dinner every night as a family. Spend time in your children's rooms.
Be positive that you have a strong marriage and that you are prepared, mentally, physically and financial for such an awesome RESPONSIBILITY. Parenthood is a tremendous joy, but comes with heavy responsibilities as one now has a duty to properly raise and instill values in another human being.
Always encourage your child to try hard at anything he or she does. I always told my son to try hard and he'd have fun, and that if he had fun, he'd try hard. It's a circular thing. Also, if you see an area where they lack confidence at an early age, figure a way to do something about it.
Parenting never ends. You'd think when they left for college, it would be essentially over. Wrong. Even if they don't live at home, you're not finished as long as you and they are alive.
Don't try to be a friend. Be a parent.
If you are not willing to give 100% all the time; putting your career, hobbies, personal life on the back burner, don't have children.
Remember from the day that child is conceived he/she is a unique person. Early and continuous communication to the fetus acknowledges that fact to this being and maintains a healthy anticipation for birth and life for the mother, the father and the child.
That you recognize the child as a full human being on birth whose needs frequently if not almost always take precedence over one's own.
Be prepared to eat banquets on the words, "I'd never do that to my child" or "I'd never allow my child to do that."
Make sure that you are willing to learn from them and about them. They will teach you more about themselves and about yourself than you can imagine -- if you are paying attention.
To look at their life now, and look at their plans, hopes, and dreams for the future. How will twenty years of an extra mouth to feed, an extra body to clothe, an extra mind to interact with, an extra being to be responsible for affect those dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Can they rise to the challenge(s) or would they rather not be responsible?
It takes two parents who love the child. I believe that it is very difficult for a single parent to raise a child. You need to discipline children if you are to expect them to grow into responsible adults. This requires two adults working together bolstering each other.
Give them the tools necessary to learn from the collective wisdom and mistakes of the human race, so that they can make their own decisions intelligently.
Some parents say the biggest surprise in their child-rearing experience was how little influence they had in shaping their children's personalities.
Be ready to be totally involved in your children. They need your attention and interest. I don't know about the "quality" time hype. They need all the time you can give to them. If you are going to consider that time "a sacrifice" then you might not be ready for the parenting responsibilities.
Young children are remarkably perceptive. Because they donít yet have language skills, their receptors are focused on visual and auditory cues. And on their intuition, which has gotten them this far. At this stage, infants rely heavily on discerning the "vibes" or energy patterns of people around them. While it would probably be very nurturing for a child to be surrounded by happy people all day long, itís not soon coming in our real world. And maybe thatís for the best, so that children get a sense about conflict and pain in their early years so that it isnít too much of a shock later on. But parents investing in their children will make every effort to keep their anger out of sight and out of mind of their children. If tight jaws and loud words need be exchanged, do it outside, and then compose yourself before you come back in the house. If you can lower the flames from boil to simmer, you will protect your children from unnecessary harshness. One of the worst things you can do is pick up a child when you are still angry, because the child will think that the ire is directed at him.
Since your children are more than likely to adopt your attitudes and copy your behavior, live your life in a way that would bring them respect, too. Remember Aesop's fable about the mother crab trying to teach her baby crab how to walk straight ahead. But crabs walk sideways, so the mother was forced to say, do as I say, not as I do. It's better to show a child how to do something, but if your child can do better than you, explain how she might and why it is important.
Be honest. Don't lie. Tell the truth. It may be too complicated for a child to understand, which means that you have to have a relationship of trust with them so they will believe you when you tell them to hold on until they're old enough to understand the full story.
Read to your child every night. Talk about what you read. Put the images and ideas in context. The boy is wearing a coat because it's winter and in winter it's cold outside.
You are not going to create a child's personality. All you can do is to help shape it. You can tell a child what you think and why, but you can't make her believe what you do. Even she doesn't have a choice about what she believes. As much as she might want to, as hard as she might try.
The changing attitudes toward child-rearing can be seen in the difference between referring to them as children instead of kids. When you speak of a child instead of a kid, somehow there seems to be more respect in the word. Try using child and children for a week. Make an effort, correcting yourself right away if you slip, even when the word is just in your mind. It may only take a few days to get into the habit but stay with it for a whole week. You'll discover that it makes a surprising difference.
If you don't think evolution makes children more advanced beings, worthy of your complete respect and caring and support, here's another way to think about it. Pretend that your infant is a messenger from god, and it's your job to nurture this messenger ó to make him as healthy and happy as possible ó until it's time for him to deliver his message. Or if you're not the religious type, how about imagining that this little child in your arms is actually an alien from a higher life form in another galaxy, and you have to provide the most nurturing possible environment so that she can tell us how to solve all of the world's problems.
Your child is a sponge. She doesn't have to understand everything to learn. Even before she's born. Sing to her mommy's belly. Tell stories. Dream aloud. It's good for everyone.
Take your children with you to work, to play, do the dishes, work in the garden. They often like to just sit on your lap when you are at the computer.
Invite and assist your children in their own exploration. Don't do the work for them.
Don't say anything in front of your children that you wouldn't want repeated, likely in mangled form, by their friends to their parents.
One of the greatest values and purposes of children is to help their parents grow wiser and warmer. Every time you feel the urge to raise your voice, take the very next breath in slowly and a little deeper, until the urge goes away. In that space, you will recognize the confusion, guilt, anguish, and need in your child's face, and you can now respond appropriately.
You always know what is right. All you have to do is be still for a moment and listen. The answer will always be there.
Never discipline when you are upset. Don't make threats. Offer explanations, and say if they don't see it the same way, you're ready to discuss the matter with them, but you're the parent.
Remember how much you thought you knew before you had children, and how much you realize you didn't know afterward. Let your children be different, have different tastes, temperaments, schedules, with attention and guidance from someone who wants the best for his children.
Encourage your child to try different activities. They may not be headed for a career in tennis or chess or dance, but they could learn a sport or hobby that might be something they come back to when their children are grown. They will be grateful for having had a taste when they were young.
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