Golden Rules of Parenthood
Bold statement alert: I don't care what you do for a living, being a parent is the hardest job on earth (although, technically I guess, it's a volunteer position). Next up would be teachers, nannies and daycare workers. If you have a hand in raising children, you qualify. The big difference between parenting and those other professions is that parents get no formal training, no case studies or intern placements at which to practice and perfect, no certificates or diplomas to hang on the wall and no salary. Flying by the seat of our pants doesn't even begin to tell the tale.
So, in the absence of any manual and keeping in mind that because there is no manual, every parent does it differently, I offer you my own personal Golden Rules of Parenthood, borne of thirty years experience (read: trial and error).
P.S. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Barbara Coloroso, parent educator, I am happy to introduce her to you here
(Dana's) Golden Rules of Parenthood
1. Right off the bat ...
Because I said so is a parent's god-given right to use. It's our get out of jail free card.
Use it when:
They've backed you into a corner with rapid-fire why? why not? why?
Their safety is at imminent risk
You've reminded them 60 times already to put their clean laundry away
When all else fails
Kissing cousins to because I said so are:
I'll think about it
Run and fetch mommy's glass of wine
2. I am not my child's friend. I am their parent, the grown-up. There's a reason (actually a million reasons) why kids don't raise other kids.
3. Establish as consistent a routine as you can and do it early on. That way everyone knows what to expect and when. Your routine needn't be inflexible but just make sure everyone is on the same page when it bends.
4. Follow your child's lead. Unless, of course, they are heading for a busy road. In that case, don't. Otherwise, trust them to know what they need and help them to facilitate the getting of those needs (not to be confused with wants. So not the same thing).
5. Teach them to trust their own instincts because these they were born with them (for further reading, check out this previous blog post). An adjunct to this one is ...
6. Your fears should not be theirs. They're going to develop plenty of fears of their own; they don't need yours. Case in point - when Pilar was just a wee girl, I role modelled for her how to become a fervent arachnophobe when previous to my hysterics, she literally loved every living creature on earth. My bad.
7. Teach kids that mistakes are just practice and not a reflection of their goodness or their intelligence. Not to toot my own horn or anything but I role-modelled the heck out of mistakes.
8. Stop threatening things you know you won't (or shouldn't) follow through on:
If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about
If you can't behave, we'll just turn around and go home (even though it took you an exhausting, close-to-tears two hours on public transit to get to the zoo)
If you don't stop yelling, mommy will take away your (insert beloved object here)
Rule of thumb here - promise yourself that if you do offer an ultimatum (not recommended; ultimatums can backfire), you must employ it; otherwise, it's just an empty threat with no teeth and your children will know this. Let that be your benchmark.
9. Children need boundaries against which to push. It's how they learn and it's their job. Do not take it personally. They are not deliberately trying to send you around the bend. However, if you lose it every time they push, they've learned they have control over you. Food for thought.
10. Your child is not perfect. Be grateful for that.
11. All children are inherently good. "Bad" behaviour is learned (which also means it can be unlearned).
12. No is a complete sentence. No is your friend. No is not to be used lightly; otherwise, it loses its inherent power. However, no is a vital tool in your parenting tool box.
No should be reserved for when:
Your child is asking for something dangerous or unhealthy like an umbrella so they can jump off the roof of the garage, Mary Poppins-style
What they want is contrary to your family's values like when your teenage son requests permission to start a small home-based business in marijuana cookie production and sales
They try to suck you in with, "But all the other kids' moms are letting them" and you know that's not true and/or you don't care what all the other mom's are up to
You know your child is being peer pressured into something and they need a rescue
You have given the request considered and honest thought and you genuinely believe that it is not in your child's best interest
Parents seem to worry that saying no and denying their child something they want will result in said child hating them for life over the unfairness of it all. Not true. If you employ no judiciously and with very good reasons that you have explained to your child, they will feel loved and protected even though outwardly you know there will be drama. Kids need to save face, too. And, if you are getting a lot of push back, refer to Rule #1
13. Manners matter. At the very least, kids should know how to acknowledge people with hello. Savvy parents teach their kids the importance of please and thank you. Why? Because polite and engaging kids get invited on play dates, at other parents' houses, leaving you with free time to take a hot bath or write your novel.
Up for a challenge? Here's where it gets creative, teach them how not to gross everyone else out at the dinner table (does anyone know what I mean by dinner table? No one seems to eat at those anymore).
And, finally ...
14. Treat your children like they are the most beloved, the most cherished, and the most special-to-you person on earth.
Take what you need from this list. Add your own. I'd love to hear what Golden Rules of yours help you get through. You're a super-hero!