If all the grandmothers of the world got together, we could write the greatest of all manuals on raising kids. And if someone were ambitious enough to make that happen, then this would be my contribution. I would insist, however, on reserving the right to an addendum if some more priceless advice comes to my mind.
Affection Children need to be hugged at all ages. Wrap them in your arms even if they act like you have a transmittable disease or even if you feel awkward doing it. If a hug feels too intimate, at least rub their shoulders while they’re sitting down somewhere and you need to tell them something, especially if it’s something good. “I’m so proud of you for getting an A in PE (rub, rub).” Eventually, you will both be comfortable with touching. Children need it so much and so do we. According to Virginia Satir, a family therapist, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Believe Believe in your children and make sure they believe in themselves. My mother had a wonderful way of doing this called the TL which stands for Tell Last. If Mom had heard something nice someone had said about me she would say, “I have a TL for you!” That meant I was supposed to say something nice I had heard about her first and then she would tell me my compliment. As a child I didn’t hear as many great things about her to share, but she would always tell me my compliment anyway. I thrived on the good things others said about me that got carried to my ears by a loving mother. These positive comments added much to my belief in myself.
Choices Give them choices but not too many. “Do you want to wear this red shirt or this blue shirt?” “Would you rather take out the garbage or vacuum the family room?” “Would you like to practice before lunch or after lunch?” Children need to feel that they have control over something.
Discipline Ignore their bad behavior whenever possible by distracting them with other subjects or activities. But when discipline is necessary, never scold a child in front of someone else. Children are so sensitive and get embarrassed so easily. Some parents act tough just to show who is boss. Others yell for awhile without any effectiveness and think they’ve carried out their parental duty. The Prophet Eli did that in the Old Testament. He had two wayward sons and instead of insisting that they change their ways or suffer the consequences, he just verbally reprimanded them. Eli then went about his business and his sons went back to stealing the meat sacrifices and seducing the women at the gates of the temple. The Lord was not happy with Eli’s parenting methods and some pretty bad things happened to Eli which you can read about in I Samuel.
Eating Don’t ever make children eat things they don’t like because they will most likely hate that one food forever. They should be encouraged, of course, and introduced to lots of foods so they can learn to not be picky. Good eaters are much more pleasant to have around. And don’t forget that if they don’t eat much in one meal, they will often make up for it in the next.
When he’s having a treat, be sure to tell a child at the beginning that he only gets one helping if that’s the case. Think how you are when you’re eating a fabulous piece of cheesecake or whatever seems exquisite. While you’re eating it, sometimes you’re thinking about the next delectable piece you’re definitely going to have. Your taste buds are all ready for it. You wouldn’t feel that it was fair if someone bigger and more forceful than you told you that you couldn’t have anymore. That’s how kids feel. Warn them up front, that’s all.
Go with the Flow As you envision the outcomes of certain events, it is easy to be disappointed when things don’t turn out as you hoped they would. Children are known to mess up outcomes. But if you can be flexible enough, the endings, though different than you had supposed, can still be wonderful. Inflexible people break while flexible people bend to each occasion and enjoy the whole process whether it is going their way or not. Deleting people from your life might help but that wouldn’t be quite as satisfying in the end.