Younger moms, new moms, old moms (lol) often ask me for advice about certain issues they are dealing with so I wanted to compile this list to share with you. These are thoughts gleaned from watching others, from asking questions, from reading books and mostly from prayer and reading the Word. This is very 'off the cuff' and I'm sure will be victim to much editing but until then I humbly offer... my best advice...
1. Be there. Be physically present. Be in the same space as your children. It's not enough to live life with them, you must live life along side them. It's not the same thing. Engage in their lives, engage them in yours.
2. Look at them when they are speaking to you. Look into their eyes. Listen to them. Listen. Listen to their stories, their dreams, all of their little chatter. It's important. You have to train yourself to Look at their faces and Listen to them. Put down your phone, close the laptop... whatever you are focused on. If they learn that you will listen to the little stuff, they will talk to you about the big stuff. And, really, it's all big stuff to them.
3. Don't allow things (behavior, dress, etc...) as a toddler that you know you would never allow as a teen. A "cute" little sassy two year old will turn into a big sassy 14 year old. And it won't be cute anymore. That 'itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini' that looks "so adorable" on your toddler... on a teen... 'adorable' may not be an apt description.
4. Be consistent.
5. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This is one of the ways you build trust with your children.
6. Words have power. Power to heal, hurt, create, destroy, build up, encourage. Don't think your words spoken harshly will have no lasting influence. They will. As will words of encouragement, a child is built of words.
7. Expect their best but don't expect perfection. Expect excellence. Excellence is one's personal best. That does not look the same for every child in every situation. Perfection is a lie. Excellence is our goal. But excellence for a four year old making her bed is not the same as excellence for a fourteen year old making her bed, ya know? Expect what they are capable of accomplishing, just that, nothing more and nothing less.
8.. Teach them how to make decisions. How? Give them choices, give them decisions to make. Talk through the choices, teach them how to discern.
9. Allow them to fail. While they are children. At home, Under your protection and guidance. Failing is the first part of succeeding!
10. Compliment their character not their physical beauty. "You are so pretty" speaks to something beyond their control. God make them beautiful. Compliment their character, "you are kind", "you are good at sharing", "you are such a hard worker". These are things they control.
11. Be direct with your commands. Don't say "Johnny, go make your bed. Ok?" Saying "ok?" implies that it's not a direct command, it's something they can choose to do or not do. You don't mean it that way, you mean "ok?" to say 'do you understand what I'm saying'. Children do not get nuances like this. "Ok?" to them means, 'if you want to'.
12. Don't thank your child for doing what they are supposed to do in the first place. Thank them for their courtesies. Don't say 'thank you' when they make their bed. They didn't do it for you. They did it because they were supposed to do it. It's a responsibility. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't say "Great job making your bed!" because you absolutely should! When you say "Johnny, can you bring me my water bottle? I left it in the kitchen." and he does. Then you say "Thank you". He was fulfilling a request, not a command. It was a courtesy you asked of him and he fulfilled it.
13. Don't use scripture as punishment. 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..."
I don't think this means that you should have a child write "Children obey your parents" a hundred times when they disobey. I think this means when they disobey go to the scriptures, show them where their specific act of disobedience is a sin. But don't leave it there, also show them the consequence of that sin... And, most importantly, show them a loving God who sent His perfect son to pay the price for our sins, all of them. That is doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. Don't use the Bible for a punishment, you want your children to Love the word of God!
14. Time. Quantity vs. Quality? Both. It's not either or. One is not better than the other. Both are necessary. If you are in a season of life where you can not spend a huge quantity of time with your child, don't think that because you can't spend a lot that a little doesn't really matter because it does. Ten minutes of eye-level, eye-seeking, one-on-one, fully-focused time talking to, playing with, interacting with your child... it makes a difference! Conversely, if you are in an extremely busy season of life, don't think since you don't have 'quality time' that the quantity of time you spend is unimportant. Living life alongside your child, having them in the room with you when you are working, allowing them to help wash dishes, and tidy up.. that matters! Being *there* in a physical sense matters.
15. Major on the majors, minor on the minors. And figure out what's *really* going on. It's sorta like allopathic medicine vs. naturopathic medicine. One treats the symptoms, one treats the source of the symptoms. As a parent, we have to find the source and not just apply band-aids. Don't be a Band-aid Parent. Why did you child behave the way they did? What's really going on in there?
16. When at all possible, the punishment should fit the crime (so to say). There is one level of discipline that is effective for acts of direct disobedience... but that is not necessarily (or maybe ever) the best approach for all situations. I think of discipline as meaning to disciple, to teach, to guide... not to punish. Defiance gets punishment and then discipline... other acts of disobedience get discipline (in the teach, guide meaning).