Recently my niece had a baby girl named Lillian Rose, but they call her Lily. I went to see her in the hospital and while I was talking with her I said “Okay, just one – maybe two – unsolicited ‘mom’ advice…” She smiled and humored me…
I don’t presume to know all there is to know about raising kids, especially girls, and I have made TONS of mistakes. But at the same time, I made some good judgment calls as well. I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all, or that anything else will ruin your child, and I didn’t want to overwhelm her either. So, I decided to share, instead, with all of you. Perhaps she’ll read it, who knows…
Here’s what worked for me, and why.
We never told our sons that they were a “Good Boy”.
What? Are you crazy?!
That’s what you’re thinking, right? Let me explain… If, when your child does something that deserves praise, and you say “Good Boy!” – it makes him feel happy and successful. Nothing wrong with that, until he tries to do something else and isn’t able to do it. He fails. If he felt happy with “Good Boy!” when successful, the opposite of that is “Bad Boy!” when he doesn’t succeed. This is so even if you don’t actually say the words “Bad Boy!” – and let’s hope you won’t. He will still feel like a bad boy. “Bad Boy” or “Good Boy” applies to dogs, not children.
Instead, we would say “Good job!”, then if they weren’t successful with something, they knew they may not have done such a great job, but they don’t feel like they are bad. Then, we’d cheer them on and encourage them to give it a go again.
(I am rare in this belief as psychologists say praise is bad. A post on that soon to come… Stay tuned.)
I’m aware of this ‘1,2,3 Magic’ movement and it was even suggested to me when I was pregnant the first time. Personally, I’m from the belief that a child should do what I ask him to do when I ask him, not after I count to three. However, not everyone believes in such a rigid reason. It’s still not a good idea…
When your child is trained to react by the count of three, they rarely do it until they absolutely have to – pushing the limit on that three until the very last second. That’s a very bad thing. Why? What happens if you’re unloading groceries and your child takes off for the road. You yell “Stop!” and he doesn’t. Then you say “By the time I count to three, you better stop!” Well, chances are, your driveway isn’t that long and he’s going to be in the road well before you reach three.
(Again, I am rare in this belief as “1, 2, 3 Magic” is quite popular.)
We never put our children on leashes.
I have always found them to be ridiculous, but there was a number of people who told me I’d change my mind once I had kids. I didn’t. Personally, I find it cruel. Leashes are for dogs! But there are those who said it helped them keep up with their kids when they were young.
Recently I had someone balk at that. They said “You’re going to teach your 2 year old, who screams when you carry him, to not run off and always hold your hand? And yep it’s definitely cheaper in the long run if the kid runs off and gets themselves killed in traffic.”
Why yes I am – and did. I’m going to carry him or hold his hand whether he likes it or not. He screams? So what. Let him scream. I did that many a time and after several such situations where he saw he wasn’t going to get his way, he quit the screaming and learned he had to deal with something he didn’t like for a small amount of time in order to get to the part he enjoyed. (Not to mention someone recently told me of a time a two year old took off running, while wearing a leash and when it got as far as it could go, the leash jerked him backward and he cracked open his head…)
I should note, I don’t count children with disabilities or conditions, like autism, in this same category. I’m still not sure how I feel about leashes specifically, but I do understand there is a need as those children age – things happen. A friend of mine had an ankle bracelet (of sorts) on her autistic son up until he was well into his teens…
When they didn’t get their way and threw fits, we let them scream.
My oldest, now 14, once threw a fit in the middle of the mall when he was 2.5 years old. I would not let him have a toy from the toy store. My mother then took him in the store and was going to buy him a toy and I said “No you, most certainly, are not!” So – he laid in the MIDDLE of the floor in the mall and screamed. I dragged him out of the way of people walking by, sat down on a bench and fed my new baby while he screamed. After a few, okay – several – minutes I asked him if he was done. He said he was, so we went on our way.
I did this with both of them and as time when on and they wanted something and were told no… They may have been disappointed, but there was no fit. Nothing. I told him no to a toy once in the Cracker Barrel when he was around 5. I told him to put it back. He gave a disappointed “okay”, turned and put the toy back. A lady that worked there complimented me on his behavior.
(I’ve also, depending on where we were at the time, been known to scream and cry back – with the child. They usually stop, look at you like your insane and go back to screaming. However, if I kept doing it, eventually they’d stop. Note: Do not do this to the screaming kid in the store that you do not know. Their parents do not find it funny…)
Remember, a child that gets their way when they throw a tantrum becomes an adult that throws a tantrum:
We punish for willful disobedience and willful disobedience only.
You’ve told your kid they have to stay in the yard when they’re playing. After a few minutes, you look outside to check on them and see they’re in your neighbor’s yard. This is an example of willful disobedience and, therefor, deserves a punishment.
You’ve told your kid many times not to leave their bike in the driveway. One morning, on your way to work, you back up, run over their bike and ruin it. This is not willful disobedience as it is something they forgot and, their bike is now ruined. That, in and of itself, is the punishment. Along with, perhaps, a reminder about remembering what they’re told…
Always allow for creativity.
In a couple months, cabinets will have to be locked, doorknob covers will go on doors and plug covers will have to go in the outlets. When we did that, we left one cabinet in the kitchen unlocked and obtainable. The one with the pots and pans and/or tupperware. Who cares if they get into that cabinet? Nothing in there can hurt them, plus they like to climb and hide in things.
This is something that drove Tom nuts at first. As time went on, he changed his mind. Right around the time they were old enough to clean it up…
I’ve been known, on rare occasions, to let the kids bust and egg or two on the kitchen floor. Why? Well, why not? It’s fun and doesn’t hurt anyone. I do, however, recommend doing this only if you have a dog…
We never let our kids sleep with us.
There may have been one or two nights, the first week or so, after we brought them home that they slept in our bed. That was mainly because we were new parents, trying to figure things out and lacking sleep. But after that – we didn’t.
Ours slept in a bassinet for the first month, right next to the bed. After a month, they went in their own crib in their own room. Surprisingly enough, they’re quite well adjusted, independent, but still dependent on us for their needs. It does not created a chasm between parent and child and it’s healthier for the child in the long run.
Your bed is for you and your spouse. A baby, later a child, doesn’t need to be in it. There are many who disagree with this notion, and that’s fine. But, something to think about is the risk of SIDS increases when the baby sleeps in your bed and studies have shown a higher rate of emotional problems in children who share their parents beds. I know moms who sleep in the bed with their kid(s) while their husband sleeps in another bed in another room. I predict these marriages won’t last. Lest forget I’m of the belief that you should love your spouse MORE than your child... Not to mention, you won’t be as rested and that’s never a good thing.
(Again, I am the opposite of popular opinion on this one…)
We used poker chips as currency for when our kids contributed.
I had poker chips I kept on the fridge when my kids were toddlers. If they did something I felt should be acknowledged, I’d give them a chip. It could be for helping me clean something without my having to ask. Getting a good report on their behavior while they spent the day with grandma, etc.
Also, on top of the fridge, were toys that they had previously picked out. They could then cash in their tokens for the toy they wanted. (1 token = $1) This was exciting to them because they could save up and set the standard later for when they saved actual money.
About 2 years ago, they wanted Nintendo 3DS systems and saved up to buy them. $200 each at ages 9 and 12. I know I couldn’t have done it…
(Again, I’m opposite of popular opinion on this one as well. Most don’t believe in allowance or rewards)
Now for a big huge don’t…
Don’t force your kids to use the potty if they’re not ready.
I was cut from the cloth that believed if a kid asked for a diaper so he could go to the bathroom, he’s capable of using the potty. If he knows he needs a diaper, then he can use the potty. Right?
I forced the issue and it was the biggest mistake I made. I thought everything was hunky dory until my kid was 6 and had a blockage so bad that medical intervention was necessary.
I took him to the doctor who told me to give him 5 enemas over the next two days along with a high salt drink. When that didn’t work, we were sent to a pediatric gastroenterologist and eventually, we had to admit him to the hospital where they put a tube down his nose and on a constant drip of Golytely. (That was a HARD thing to watch…)
I remember calling my dad and telling him I was going to feel like an idiot buying 5 enemas at the same time. He suggested I tell the cashier I was playing poker and going for a royal flush…
Anyway, the point is – as frustrating as it may be, don’t force potty training!
Don’t put your kid’s names on their clothing or anything they take out of the house.
When they’re very young, it doesn’t much matter, but as they get older – people who might want to harm a child will see the child’s name on a shirt or bookbag or something and later use it to assure the child that they know them. “How would I know your name if I didn’t know you?”
Never undermine one another in front of the child.
If you think your spouse was too hard on your kid or a punishment given was unfair, pull your spouse aside. Speak to them alone. Never – ever – contradict what your spouse says or say it’s okay for them to do something after your spouse said not to (or vice versa). They will use this against you for years to come. Kids are much better behaved and less likely to try and pull something when they know their parents are on the same page! (They sometimes try, but rarely!)
Hug and kiss your children every day.
Hug and kiss your children, tell them you love them – every day. (Do NOT use Fergie as an example. That is not what I mean…) Studies have shown that children who didn’t have hugs and physical affection on a daily basis have a lack of dopamine and seratonin in their brains. Many times, okay – most times, people who get hooked on substances often have a lack of those things. They use the drugs, alcohol, food, etc to make up for where their brain is lacking. Someone, I can’t recall who at the moment, once said “Heroine is like a hug”. You can’t help but wonder how true that may be.
And for to the daddys with daughters, hug and kiss your daughter – every. single. day. – until she is no longer under your roof. If you don’t, she’ll go out and find someone that will…