Things We Learned From Our Children Raising Us
As a parent of six, soon to be seven, I’ve always believed that parents were the first teachers of their children. And while there is truth to this, it can also be said that children are the first teachers of their parents on parenting. I’ve gotten all kinds of advice from my parents and little old ladies who pass me in the shopping mall and feel the uncontrollable urge to instruct me on how to “handle that big hoard of hooligans”. However, my greatest lessons have come from my own children.
I have discovered that if I’m not on the same page as my wife at any point in parenting, anything my kids do wrong could turn out to be a fight between me and my wife. So my first rule of parenting is to keep in good standings with my spouse. If not, the little ones see the cracks and they will head right for them. My daughter Emily (when she was 7 y/o), spent most of her life in those cracks and was always trying to widen them. She hit me often with statements like “when Mom’s home she lets me ride the in the street” or “but Mom always lets me watch TV at 11 o’clock at night!” Good thing I’m not that stupid. I knew that there’s nothing worth watching at that time……or something like that.
I’ve also learned that rules are not only vital but also need to be consistently monitored and enforced. Inconsistency is a recipe for children to beg and badger because they know they will eventually wear you down. Stick to what you’ve set and make sure they know that if they go to your spouse to by-pass what you say, they could find themselves copying the dictionary or running numerous laps around the back yard. But also important is for you and your spouse to always evaluate your rules to see if they need tweaking or changing. Sticking to a bad rule just to save face can come back to bite you eventually.
Also, my wife and I are always having to work with our kids on what is a “right” vs. a “privilege” (Dessert is not a right!). Plus, trying to explain to them the meaning of “fair” is always quite the challenge. They use that word often when referring to something their sibling received that they didn’t. I always resort to having them define “fair” and how their statement fits that particular situation. For the most part it shuts them down.
As my wife and I have worked with our children (or they have worked with us) over the years, we have established quite the list of rules. Here are just a few of our favorites.
- No cryin’ unless you’re dying or blood is flyin.’
- No sneezing or coughing on the main dish at dinner.
- If you don’t believe in wiping, you’re on stain-stick duty for the week.
- Trash doesn’t just go out BY the big trash can, it goes IN it.
- There needs to be a long discussion if you only have one pair of underwear in the wash for the week.
- Once food goes in your mouth, it shouldn’t come back out.
- Shirts are not napkins or tissues, nor is our new couch.
- Singing is okay, babbling is prohibited.
- Don’t ask Mom questions while she’s on the phone.
- Shouting questions to Mom under the bathroom door is prohibited.
- Liking it is optional, doing it is not.
- If your stomach is hurting in the middle of the night, don’t lean over us in bed to tell us. Go straight to the bathroom.
- And, if that part of your body hurts when you poke it with your finger, stop poking it with your finger!