Raising Kids You Like

I am cross-posting this blog post from Life in Grace where it was actually posted as a guest post somewhere else.

I love her reflections on raising kids. I actually worry more about raising kids who like me. Now, before you shake your head at me, hear me out. I want to be a kind, compassionate, strong, fair mother. My thought is that if I can be those things, my behavior will influence and guide my boys to become their best selves.

I want my boys to remember being loved well. I want them to feel the security of a parent who can not just take care of them but raise them. I want to be fair. I want to be consistent. And, while I know they will feel injustices and have hurt feelings ultimately from my behavior (I’m human for pete’s sake), my ultimate goal is to raise kids who I like and like me back.

I want to like them because they turn out to be kind, loving, compassionate, independent, self-starting, Jesus-loving men.

It is mornings like today that I go digging for inspiration to re-think and re-work my actions and help my boys with theirs.

Anyway, enough from me and my soapbox. Here are some wise words from Edie.

***

We all love our kids.   That’s a given.

But have you ever asked yourself whether or not you  like them?

Are they generally likable pleasant human beings?

Can you spend a whole day or week or month with them and really like who they are becoming as people?

Summertime often is the pressure cooker that brings out all our imperfections and it’s a great time to be intentional with our kids.

One of the things I’ve learned since I quit working to stay home is that the more I’m with them the less tolerant I am of their bad behavior.   When you  spend long stretches of time with your children,  you begin to require of them that they be decent people, who are pleasurable to be around.  Most of us can tolerate bratty spoiled kids for about an hour.  It’s hard to be around them for much longer than that.   I think that as a society we are raising a generation of kids who are lazy, sarcastic and demanding and have a tremendous sense of entitlement.   And it’s our fault.   We have the best intentions.   We  want them to have the best of everything, we’re worried about their self-esteem.   But in an effort to give them what we never had,  we seem to have lost the courage to say no.    I’ve been as guilty as the next guy and I want to recognize my  errant ways and make the necessary changes while there’s still time.

Summer is a great time to take stock and to look for areas of our collective  attitudes and behaviors that need improvement.

Here are five little tips that come to mind:

1.  Repent.  I think we must first start with the premise that we are all sinful, selfish people who are in need grace and forgiveness.   Our most grievous sins are often against the little neighbors that we live with everyday.   We must teach them by example to live in repentance.  I think it’s important to say the words,  “Will you forgive me?”   and  “Yes, I forgive you.”       We live in forgiveness or we live in broken relationships and we must lead by example.

2.   Resist  the temptation to over-indulge.   Famous child psychologists have said that over indulgent parenting is worse than neglect for children.    And often, we are really indulging ourselves and we are not doing our kids any favors.   In the end, we are making it impossible for them to be content with the things in life that matter.   It’s okay to say no and it’ s a word that doesn’t come easy for me.   But I’m getting better.   And it’s teaches them to say ‘no’ to themselves which is a hard lesson for all of us.

3.   Read, Read, Read      I find that there’s no better way to inspire them toward right thoughts and actions than with the heros and heroines of good books.   After reading hundreds of books together with my girls,  I am convinced that those books are changing us all.   They see in books examples of bad behavior that they want to avoid.   I don’t even have to point out the selfish, whiny, bratty characters because they can spot them a mile away.  They recognize the traits easily and don’t like seeing them in others and can often see similarities in themselves that they’d like to change.

And there’s nothing like a courageous, honest, pleasant character that you’ve grown to love in a book to inspire you to be the same.   Choose wholesome, classic books and watch your children imitate the good they see in others.  It sure makes the job of teaching and discipline easier and more pleasant.

4.  Require much.     Children tend to rise to your expectations—-so raise the bar higher.   They are capable of far more than we think and we’ve let our society of peer-driven child rearing dumb us down.  Just read a book from a hundred years ago and see how the children were expected to behave.   Ten year olds back then were treated nearly as adults and expected to behave as such.   We tolerate such poor behavior in kids sometimes and give all manner of excuses as to why little Susie acts the way she does.    Little Susie acts that way because we are too busy and have let down our guard.    We must do the courageous thing and stand up tall and be parents.   Parents that teach our kids how we want them to act.   My favorite little trick is to give the girls a pep talk on the way to various activities to tell them exactly what I expect of them.

“When you go into dance today, I want you to make it a point to talk to everyone and be nice to all your friends, not just your favorite one.   Ask the other girls if they’d like to sit with you too.   Look for someone who’s lonely and try to make a friend.  Use a kind welcoming voice and don’t be sarcastic or harsh.”

“When we first arrive at the party, look Ms. SoandSo in the eyes and tell her  thank you for inviting you.”

“When it’s time to leave from Johnny’s house, I don’t want to have to tell you repeatedly that it’s time to go.   No whining or asking if you can play 5 more minutes.  No asking him to our house.   Just say yes ma’am and get your stuff and say thank you for having me.   Okay?   Are we all clear?

It’s amazes me everytime that when I make the expectations clear, they almost always follow the rules.

5.   Redeem the time.      They often spend so much time with their peers that they’re not even sure what mature, virtuous behavior looks like.    They need you to model it for them.   Even though we homeschool, I can tell in my girls’ behavior if they’ve been with peers too much.   They’re more sarcastic and shorter tempered with each other.    Usually, it takes a few hours of time at home to play or read and it resets their attitudes.   I think we highly overvalue childrens’ need to spend time with peers while undervaluing what they gain when they are able to spend long stretches of time with parents and family.    This subtle shift in priorities may have a devastating impact on kids.   Kids need to be loved and to be understood and noone can do that for them like their parents.    If you have kids who are emotional and acting out,  it can usually be remedied by time with you.   I think we easily forget what pressure it is to try to fit in and do and say and wear the right things in order to be accepted by peers.     They’re stressed out and we would be too.    Take the pressure off and limit their peer time in favor of time with the family.

We often hear that a small amount of quality time is better for kids than quantity.  I read recently, and forgive me that I can’t remember where,  that our kids are starving to death on tiny morsels  of filet mignon.

They do need large quantities of time  from us.   And then everyone wins because they get what they need and we, in turn, get kids that we like as well as love.

p.s.  Let me let you in on a little secret in case you wondering.    I don’t always like mine either, which motivates me even more to do the hard work of repenting, resisting, reading, requiring and redeeming!  We’re all in this together. Summer is a great time to be intentional with your parenting.    I wish you much joy in the sacred task!

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