Many people tell me that my children are well behaved. Some actually gush over them. I don’t say that with as much pride (though there might be a little) as thankfulness and humility, knowing that I have very little to do with their character. I honestly give God the glory because I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. But, in thinking about what I have done right (and wrong), I’ll share my personal parenting philosophy. Actually, it’s more about what I don’t do than what I do.
- I don’t let my children talk disrespectfully to me or their father or any other authority figure. Ever. We joke and tease a lot, but they have to learn where the line is between teasing and insulting. Among ourselves, those times are teachable moments. When one of us feels the teasing goes a little too far, then we let them know in a friendly way that they have crossed from humor to unkind comments. If they don’t take the hint, then the teachable moment becomes a little more stern. We don’t back down because I would rather have this line drawn now as young sweet children than as surly teenagers.
- I am not my children’s personal maid. I am greatly outnumbered, and I cannot cook, clean, homeschool, and run them to their activities unless they pitch in. They are all required from a young age, which is as soon as they can walk well, to help with something. Toddlers can throw their own diaper away. Five year olds can take the clothes from the dryer and transfer the ones from the washer. Older children can sweep, separate out clothes to wash, make their beds and put up dishes. All of them can put up their own clothes, though I institute a buddy check for the young ones to make sure they are put in the drawer and not back in the laundry basket, which is closer and easier to reach.
- Five girls can make a LOT of noise, much of it ear-piercing. Just ask my neighbors. That’s fine at home or in the great outdoors, but they must learn to dial it back several notches in public. I am not afraid to discipline in public. When my kids know I will take them to the bathroom or car to administer their punishment, they tend to learn self control at an early age. It’s just not fun for anyone to be around ill-mannered, wild and raging children.
- I talk kindly to my children, and I expect them to return the favor. Experts call this “modeling behavior”. I can hardly expect them to act or talk in a certain way without experiencing it firsthand. I say please, thank you, and complement them on trying even if the job isn’t perfect. Then, I require them to do the same with us and others. One of my children requires more coaching than the others. Her problem lies more in shyness than impoliteness, but that’s no excuse. I work with her several times a week on how to act and speak in certain situations. She’s come a long way.
- As I said, I’m not a perfect parent. I mess up. I lose my temper. I lose my patience. I might even lose my sanity on occasion. And when I do, I apologize. I fess up to being human and ask for forgiveness.
So, my personal philosophy for raising nice kids is pretty simple. Give them a good model to emulate. Involve them in daily life with responsibilities that contribute to the operation of the household. Be humble and ask for forgiveness when you are not a good role model (for me that’s just about every day). Set real rules with real consequences and mean what you say. Raise them in a tight family setting with enough love that they feel it like a warm fuzzy blanket, even when you’re not there.