Parenting 101: the facts, as learned by me

I don’t have a degree in child psychology or education. My “facts” come from the wisdom of others and on-the-job training. This blog will share the opinions and experiences from me, a Midwestern conservative Christian. I will not necessarily bring in my faith except that our life is based on our Christian life. BUT…what I write could be followed by any person of any faith or someone without faith.

First of all, children should be conceived out of love, not lust, PERIOD! If a child is brought into this world because of lust, there may not be the commitment by both parents to see that their child is raised in a loving and giving family. Now, I am not saying that a child will not be loved when it is conceived due to lust (a one night stand, an oops on a vulnerable night, or a rape) but a child has a definite advantage being wanted, even before conception.

Even before the child is conceived, make sure the person you are with today, is the person you want to be with tomorrow, five years from now, 30 or 50 years from now. This means being truly committed, even during the difficult times. Our society is a throw away society but we need to realize that people are not things; people are not meant to be used, but loved and cherished. I know it is hard, but if you can’t see yourself with that person 15 years from now, maybe you should not be having a child with them. I have taught my children from the time they could understand, that marriage comes first and then children.

So you are now married and want to have children. Don’t forget that you were a couple first. My mom always told me to remember to be a good wife; Take time to be with your spouse. If you aren’t a good spouse, you can’t be a good parent. I know that your life revolves around your children for many years but they will grow up and leave the nest. If you do not stay connected with your spouse, then when they leave, your marriage will suffer. Your children are there because of the love you had for your spouse. That loves need to grow and continue throughout the growing up of your children.

Let your children know that your spouse is really number 1. Once, when my son was being disrespectful to me, my husband said, ‘Do not speak to my wife that way!’ Sometimes, the children forget that you are more than a mom (or dad). It goes back to remembering that before children, there was a different dynamic in your relationship and it needs to continue to grow and develop.

Wisdom from my grandpa, ‘Your life revolves around your child the first two years and then their life needs to revolve around you.’ What he was telling me, in my opinion, was that your child cannot take over your life. They need to learn that a child is not the controller of life but it is the parent who decides what will and will not happen. That doesn’t mean that you don’t go to the soccer games or dance lessons; it means that the parent is in charge, not the child.

Stand firm in your parenting. Say what you believe and believe what you say. As I said above, I have told my children from day one that you marry, then have children. I have not changed my stance. What my children decide to do is their choice, but I cannot change my morals and values because they are no longer five. In addition, I have told them if they are not mature enough to walk into Walgreens and purchase condoms, they are not ready to have sex. Purchasing condoms is easy, compared to raising a child.

Many years ago, my husband gave me a radar detector for Christmas. At the time, I was driving 1,000 miles a month for my job and he thought I might need one. Well, I was driving with him and speeding. He said to me, ‘Why are you speeding?’ I said, ‘You gave me a radar detector. If you gave it to me, I would only need it if I was to speed, so…’ That is why I will never purchase condoms, or put my daughter on the pill. It is an easy excuse to have sex before marriage.

I do not like the comment ‘I am not your friend, I am your parent.’ I am first a parent but that does not mean that I don’t want to be friendly with my children. Even though my daughter is 17, she is someone with whom I am most close. But I am still her parent and will always be a parent first. I am there to be the guide and role model for my son and daughter. I expect them to speak with me respectfully. While they may use language that is a little more loose than I would use with my mother (like saying crap and sucks), I do not allow them to swear in front of me or use any type of derogatory language.

Speaking of language, I have always told them that they should not tell stories or write things that they would not tell their pastor. I know that there are people who do not have a pastor, priest, rabbi, etc…so the point is to be careful what you say or post so it does not come back and bite you later in life. Because what you do as a teenager could affect opportunities when you are in your 30’s or 40’s. (That is another post about how my college grades came back to haunt me 29 years after I graduated!)

If you have the opportunity, take your children to museums. What they learn at a museum is sometimes more important that what they learn in the classroom. We had the privilege of taking our children to the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Lincoln Children’s Museum, the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Durham Museum, the Omaha Symphony and the Rose Theater on a regular basis. We gave our children a variety of experiences which have allowed them to communicate in a mature manner with adults. It also taught them how to behave in public.

Make them eat their vegetables. My daughter called herself a ‘Meataterian’! She hated fruits and vegetables. We would sit with her at the kitchen table while she refused to eat. My husband and I got to the point that we would do the ‘one for one’ game. We would get a spoonful (or forkful) of fruit or vegetables and we would eat one for one with her. While it may seem cruel, it is important that our children have the proper nutrients through food. It cannot be achieved through junk food. I would always tell her that I felt sorry for her children because they would have such a limited diet if she only fixed the food she liked. She now eats all kinds of fruits and vegetables. If we did not make her try a variety of foods, who knows what she would be eating now. I had to tell her that there is an in-between love and hate. I would say that if the food would not make her throw up, she needed to eat it.

Teach your children how to live in the world. We homeschooled for six years but kept them involved in the community. I always said that we needed to teach them to be strong, confident and faithful to survive in a world that will challenge them daily to compromise their morals and values. While it would be nice to have a compound for our family where we could protect them, the reality is, they need to live in the world.

Teach your children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I know it is old-school but boys should open the doors for a young lady or an older woman. Both men and women should have a firm handshake and be confident enough to have eye contact when speaking.

At least when they are young, limit their exposure to electronics. When we were homeschooling, unless they were doing school work, anything that had to do with electricity (except lights) were off-limits until 4:00. And that only was in place a few days a week because we had many activities which took us out of the home for educational purposes.

Teach them that there are consequences to their actions. Whether it is as simple as not following simple instructions to breaking the law, let them know that they need to own their actions and be willing to pay the price for their error(s).

It is important for your children to know that the world is bigger than they are. They need to learn that their community and world is only as good as what they put into it. Volunteering and giving service is very important. Giving to those who are less fortunate humbles a person to appreciate what God has given them.

Always be grateful for what they have. They may not have the nicest home, or the current fashion, but you need to teach your children to be thankful every day for what they do have. It may not be much, but to even have life is a miracle and something to be thankful.

Be an example for your children. Show them that working hard and being the best you can be will be a prize in itself. You may not be a millionaire, but being proud of what you have and what you do to contribute to the family and society is worth more than anything. Not everyone can be a millionaire. Not everyone can be the valedictorian but that does not mean that you shouldn’t be proud of what you do or what you have. Work hard to own what you have. It is probably the best feeling in the world to know that you are not beholden to anyone; that you do not live off of the government but you help others when they are struggling.

There is so much more I could write about being a good parent. I feel I have hit the top ‘facts’ for parenting. By far, the most important thing is to love. Loving is giving your children rules and sticking to them. It is giving them expectations and helping them reach their goals. Provide them all of the opportunities you can, while you can and be there when they struggle. Be a good parent and part of that is being a loving a forgiving spouse.

My children are still growing and I am still evolving as a parent. But I will tell you that my children are intelligent, respectful, courteous, kind, educated and a joy to be around. While there are many things that may have not gone as planned, there is so much more that has gone according to plan. What you put into your children is what will help be their future. Don’t you want their future to be bright?

Don’t think that parenting is simple. I had pretty good parents and I am sure they wanted better for me. Well the same goes for me. I think I am a pretty decent parent but I want more for my children. I want them to learn from my mistakes and my rules, lessons and life experiences to be a beacon in this world. I think their future is bright!

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