Parenting Basics 101
Parenting 101 - The Parenting "Back to Basics" Outline
1. Debunking some myths, and re-learning some basic facts:
- Raising kids isn't difficult - trust your common sense
- You don't need a shelf full of books to tell you how to do it
- You can make plenty of smaller mistakes and your kids will still turn out fine - relax.
- Not all "old-fashioned" parenting methods are bad, no matter what the "experts" tell you (but some definitely are, like beating your kids!)
- Kids behave like kids because their brains are wired that way - until their early to mid 20s!
- Don't leave parenting your kids to others - it's your responsibility
- Kids are born with the foundations of their personality, gender identity, sexual orientation, certain physical abilities, and intelligence hard-wired into their brains - parents and life experiences can influence the rest
- Kids aren't "pure beings" that adults corrupt. They're imperfect because they're human.
- Sugar doesn't make kids hyper (12 studies have proven this) but it sure does rot their teeth
- Coloring inside the lines isn't about stifling creativity - it's about developing critical fine motor control skills
- You don't need to watch your kids every second of every day. Creative playtime alone or with other kids is essential to learning problem-solving and social skills. Keep an ear open for serious problems or violence, but don't hover or intervene unnecessarily. Kids can solve most of their disputes on their own.
- Kids are safer now than anytime in history. Crime in general, and crimes against children especially, have been in steady decline since the 1950's, notwithstanding occasional blips in larger cities. Don't listen to the fear mongers!
- Kids are 10 times more likely to die in a car you're driving than to be snatched by a stranger. Worry about stuff that counts. Wear seat-belts!
2. The parents' three basic jobs (BOTH parents!)
- Nurturing - helping their children develop into good people
- Health & Welfare (food, clothing, shelter, medical care)
- Education - not just formal school, but education for life
3. Basic parenting goals
- Preserve your marriage
- Prepare your child to leave home (eventually)
- Teach your child what she needs to know to be a good citizen
- Teach your child how to live well with others
- Teach your child what he needs to run a household
- Prepare your child for a career
- Expose and teach your child to enjoy the finer aspects of life - as you see them
4. What kind of kid do you both want? What kind of adult do you want them to become?
- It's your job to teach them to be the kind of people you want them to be, and no one else's.
- Do you want them to learn your own religious, political or social philosophies?
- How about manners, consideration for others, open-mindedness, social skills?
- Set high expectations for behavior, education, and other things that are important to you
- Before you have kids, (or right away if you already have them!) get your minds together on these questions
5. Get your own moral and ethical house in order
- What kind of people do you want your kids to become? Think about it. Make a list of desirable attributes.
- Think about the examples you set. Do you need to make some changes in your own lives?
6. Keep balance in all things
- Nurturing - discipline
- Time together - time apart
- Work - play
- Letting your lives get seriously out of balance is the single most destructive thing you can do to your child
- For instance, don't allow nurturing to preclude discipline when it's clearly needed
- Don't try to manage "balance" unless you want to drive yourself (and your kids) nuts. Allow life to occur as naturally as possible.
- "Balance" doesn't mean equal. Some things need to be given greater weight - for instance, time together as a family should have more weight than time apart when they are younger, but the opposite might be true as they near adulthood.
7. Build a relationship with your kids
- Spend one-on-one time with them a few times a week, more when they're younger - let them help you with your work, share a hobby, practice sports skills, etc.
- Don't over-do it. Just like food, kids can become addicted to attention
- Be accessible, but don't allow unnecessary interruptions
- Don't hover - supervise and guide as necessary
- You are an adult - behave like one - you are not primarily your child's playmate or best friend
8. Protect your marriage relationship
- The marriage came first, and it should still be there after the kids are grown and gone
- Kids don't come first, the marriage does (that doesn't mean you ever ignore the kids)
- Nothing makes a child feel more secure than having two parents in a stable relationship
- Make time each day for just the two of you - tell the kids to go to their rooms and play so you can be alone together for a while. Dinner preparation works well
- For single parents, schedule regular "me time" without kids every day
- All parents should take time for themselves, dating, shopping alone or with a friend, adult activities, etc.
- Parent as a "team" - be on the same page as much as humanly possible
- It's never "your kid" or "my kid" - always "our" kid. Parent as a team, even if you're divorced.
9. Protect your child's future
- Little or no TV before age 6 (TV in early years has been tied to ADD)
- Watch eating habits - don't allow between meal snacks with the exception of a small, healthy one after school.
- Moderate your child's sugar intake to reduce the possibility of developing diabetes
- Parents - give up smoking and other bad habits
- Teach kids not to put anything into their bodies that doesn't absolutely need to be there. This applies to drugs, over the counter medications, excessive food, etc. Don't run for the medicine cabinet every time a child has a minor sniffle. Despite what the drug companies have conditioned us to believe, it doesn't make you a bad parent. Children shouldn't learn that pills can fix every problem.
- Educate your kids about things like personal ethics, right and wrong, consequences, and consent
10. Parents as teachers - your most important role
- Parents are a child's first and most important teachers
- Schools are for academics - parents need to teach the rest
- You are with them for life - school teachers have them only nine months each
- Parents teach all the really important life lessons
- Remember, they aren't "little adults." You know far more than your children do
- Look for hidden skills and talents - encourage them as appropriate
- Share hobbies and interests
- Important lessons need repetition - repeat them consistently and often
- Most education needs to happen before they reach adolescence (age 11-13 depending on the kid). Once those hormones kick in, kids will be driven toward independence and may not listen to you as much.
11. Who runs things?
- A family can't be a full democracy - kids don't have the knowledge, skills, or life experience to make good decisions yet
- As they get older, you can bring them into the decision making process when you feel they're ready, and when it's appropriate
- Kids' opinions and preferences can be taken into account when parents make decisions sometimes, but in the end it's the parents who must make the decisions
- "Because I said so" is a perfectly good reason
- Stick to good decisions - don't let your kids pester you into changing your mind
- If you make a bad decision, don't be afraid to admit and correct it. Your kids will likely respect you for it. It's also a teachable moment for the kids.
- Be clear in your directives to kids - don't "ask" them to do something - say "it's time to put your toys away and get ready for bed"
- Don't argue or negotiate with younger kids - most can't understand adult logic yet, just their own selfish wants and needs. You'll have better luck after they're 8-10 years old, depending on the kid.
12. Discipline & Behavior
- Discipline and punishment aren't the same thing
- Discipline is a skill you teach - it's also called "self-control" or "self-discipline"
- Make sure your kids "take ownership" of their behavior and responsibilities by holding them accountable
- When a child lacks self-discipline, the parents need to impose it externally until the child learns and internalizes it
- Set a standard of acceptable behavior and stick to it
- Be consistent!
- Both parents need to be in agreement about acceptable (and unacceptable) behavior
13. Punishment is only used to make lessons "stick" if they don't seem to be "getting it"
- Use gentle correction as much as possible, but have stronger methods ready when you need them.
- Punishments need to be "memorable" to be effective, but don't go for the "nuclear option" every time.
- Younger kids need shorter punishments. The older they get the longer they need to be.
- Short time-outs work well for pre-schoolers, about one minute per year of age. From 1st grade on you can be a bit more creative.
- Make the level of punishment roughly appropriate to the seriousness of the behavior you are correcting. Err a little on the strong side if in doubt to be sure they get the message.
- Make punishments reasonable so you won't be tempted to not follow through
- Once imposed, never back down from any deserved and reasonable punishment
- Be sure both parents are "on the same page" regarding unacceptable behaviors and punishment to prevent the child from using "divide and conquer" techniques
- Stuff that works:
- Missing a favorite activity, one or more times
- Loss of a favorite privilege or toy
- Restriction to one (boring) room for up to a few hours
- Early bedtime
- Any mix of the above
10. Brief spankings are okay, used very, very sparingly for serious offences, but never beatings - ever! This is very much a personal choice issue (unless your state has outlawed it.)
14. Teaching Manners and Self-Discipline
- Set high standards for behavior and don?t back down
- Begin teaching basic manners (please, thank you, not interrupting others, basic politeness) as soon as they are able to understand - age two or three for most kids
- Teach kids to sit patiently and wait from an early age
15. Contributing to the family, and learning life skills
- Every kid should have at least one family chore as soon as they can handle it
- The complexity and number of chores should increase with age - starting around age three
- At six, a child should be able to set a table, keep his room clean. By eight, they should be able to do their own laundry. By ten, they should be able to cook a complete simple family meal. By eighteen, they should be able to run a complete household.
- Children should not be paid for doing family chores. It's part of their contribution to the family's well being.
- Chores teach skills, responsibility, and the importance of contributing to the family's well-being.
- Keeping one's room clean is not a family chore - it's a personal responsibility
- Never do anything for a child they can do for themselves (okay, you can help out if your child is sick or injured, or clearly overwhelmed - that teaches compassion)
16. Allowances & Money
- An age-appropriate allowance is a tool to teach kids how to manage money
- The amount should be based on age and needs
- The allowance should not be revoked except in cases of seriously poor spending choices, and then only until an understanding can be reached between you
- Make the child responsible for purchasing certain luxuries with their allowance - special clothing, sports equipment, snacks, toys, etc.
- Teach the concept of saving or investing for larger purchases
- Money can be earned for "extra" one-time jobs that aren't their regular chores - until they are old enough to go out and get a part time job on their own.
17. Education and School
- Education must begin in the home
- Read to your children often - even long after they can read for themselves - if they still enjoy it
- Encourage them to read on their own
- Teach problem solving skills and strategies
- Place a high value on education and communicate that to your child
- NEVER say "I wasn't good at (insert subject) either." This is the same as giving your child permission to stop trying.
3. If possible, choose schools that also set high standards and expectations
4. Let teachers know your expectations early on, and follow up. (Just don't become a pest the teacher will avoid.)
5. Encourage strengths, support weaknesses
18. Avoid creating addictive behaviors
- Don't praise everyday accomplishments, when a simple acknowledgement will do
- No "food on demand" - this leads to food addiction and obesity
- Too much attention - leads to kids who need constant attention and won't give you a moment's rest. However, don't go off in the other direction and completely ignore them either!
19. "Head fakes," or, why we want kids to do stuff like sports and Scouts
- It's not about the skills they learn or fun they have, but the kids don't know that
- Most kids won't be pro ballplayers or wilderness adventurers
- It is about learning other life lessons
- Value systems
- Fair play
- Putting others before yourself
- Being of use to others and the world
4. Scouting offers a far broader range of life lessons than sports - but only if the troop is well run and follows official kid-leadership principles.
20. Countering the "self-esteem" mistake
- Psychologists are in growing agreement that the so-called "self-esteem movement" of the last few decades was a terrible mistake. Some schools continue to use the program though, and you may need to temper it as best you can.
- High self-esteem is a result - not a cause - of good performance (some parents and educators have it backwards)
- High self-esteem is a side-effect of positive results achieved through hard work - it can't be given out like candy
- Kids need to know where they stand - phony praise has no value
- The effort has to be their own
- Don't tear a kid down, or call them "stupid" - be supportive
- Praise important results, but don't overdo it. Most of the time, a simple acknowledgement is all that's needed.
- Recognize effort, but make it clear that results are what really count
5. You can't be anything you want to be, but you have the right to try
- You have the right to follow your dreams, but try to temper them with reality - a kid who can't carry a tune won't make it as a singer, no matter how badly they want it. Desire, no matter how strong, does not equal talent.
- Only a small percentage of those who dream of it have what it takes to become professional athletes, actors, or performers
6. It's important to be comfortable with yourself - but truly loving yourself can be a dangerous path to travel. Cases of clinical narcissism have increased significantly since 2000.
7. Self-control is proven to be a better predictor of future success than self-esteem
21. "Different' kids
- Not all kids are typical - physical and mental disabilities, mental illness, birth defects, sexual orientation, gender identity
- Even if they are "different" they still deserve your full love and support
- Sexual orientation and gender identity are hard-wired before birth. There is nothing you can do about it. This is long-settled science, no matter what your pastor says.
- Atypical gender identity (transgender) is now thought by some researchers to be a true medical birth defect, and evidence seems to support this view. Regardless of cause, it's real, and not a fad.
- Sexuality and gender identity exist on a continuum, a spectrum with wide variations. Think of the artist's "gray scale."
- Relabeling won't help much - (i.e. calling a disabled student "differently-abled.") Every label of this sort will eventually acquire a negative connotation - we're going to run out of accurate descriptions if we change them all the time. It's how you treat them that's important.
The legal stuff...
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