Here's the thing, kids do grow up. One day they will figure out how to live in society and get along with others. But what a horrible childhood and adolescence if they have no one to help them out along the way!
I was talking with my husband the other day about this, and he said there's a difference between growing up and being raised. That hit me pretty hard.
Now, I'm not saying I'm a parenting expert, or that I'm doing a better job of raising my kids than another parent with their kids. I'm only saying that we shouldn't let it take a back seat to everything else that is going on in our life.
I know that some parents have a lot going on (single parents, two-income families, lack of extended family support, special needs etc.). But rather than give these parents an "out" by saying just let them grow up and they'll be fine, let's try to give them a hand up. Offer the single parent some time off so they can deal with their kids a little less stressed. Give the two-income family a hand up by offering to cook dinner or fold some laundry, or mow the lawn. Give the family with no extended family some free babysitting or outgrown clothes or books. We need to live together as a community, not stay in our own little castles keeping our princes (or princesses) safe from the outside world.
Now, how do you raise your own children? I will agree that the method isn't as important as people make it. Here are a few simple steps to consider.
- Mission Statement. Take some time with your spouse or by yourself and make a mission statement for your family. I know a family that relates most of their "child-rearing" to getting along with others and competition. That's fine, as long as it's cohesive in their mind what they are raising their children for. Again, I do agree that to some extent the how doesn't matter, as long as you are okay with where you are leading your children. Our personal mission statement will be much different than yours.
- Family Statement. Especially if you have older children, let them in on the fun! Have them come up with some ideas of what they want their family to be. Their heart and passion may surprise you!
- Family Rules. These should not just be rules for the kids. Depending on your kids they won't let it be. Keep the number of rules according to average ages of your children. For pre-school children, keep the rules to 3-5. Early elementary may be able to handle 4-6 rules. Later elementary and early middle school could handle 5-7 rules. Once your kids are teenagers, start dropping the rules back. Your teenager (hopefully) does not need a rule to keep hands and feet to themselves, and also needs to start developing a personal moral code rather than solely a family code.
- Consistency. Here's the big thing that should result from all of the above. Your corrections, your enforcement, your consequences, your daily schedule should all wrap around your personal and family mission statement and family rules. Whatever you do with your thoughts, your time, your finances, should reflect your mission statement. If not, you may need to make more changes than just in raising your children. Raising your children is not just discipline, but a lifestyle. If you are only disciplining your children, but they see you living something completely different, then your discipline is ineffective. If you don't have faith and passion regarding your family rules, then your discipline will not be enforced consistently, and your discipline will be ineffective.
- KISS. Put the KISS principle in play (keep it simple, silly). If you're talking all the time to your kids about the same thing, they will stop listening. If you are having to constantly enforce a rule (past the age of 3 or 4) then it may be either a rule you need to get rid of, or you've not been enforcing it the right way. Any needed discipline should be simple with a short explanation and a swift and rational consequence.
Seeing yourself reflected in your kids can either be a disheartening prospect or an encouraging one. If you're feeling disheartened on a regular basis, consider making some changes in how you raise your kids. It's hard work, but it's definitely worth it.