I sat down with some moms the other day. These moms have been parenting, grandparenting, and even great-grandparenting for their entire adult lives. The collective years of parenting among the group are well north of a hundred years. It’s a great source of untapped wisdom, this group, and I have the pleasure to know the living results of their parenting wisdom.
Pearls of Wisdom
In Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV), the Old Preacher tells us: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
These moms would agree. Despite technological advances, thousands of books about parenting, and the high-speed pace of 21st-century life, there really is “nothing new under the sun.” The same general principles apply as much today as they did in 1980–or even in 1960, for that matter.
I have spent many hours with these moms, and have extracted some pearls of wisdom from our conversations. I will be sharing a few at a time, in several blogs, because I want to be sure that each one is given the attention it deserves.
The Big Three
The balance of love and discipline, but love first.
When your children know you love them, discipline becomes easier for them to understand. Many parents try to exercise control over their children without spending an equal or greater amount of time showing them their love.
Showing them love does not mean praising every little thing they do, even those things that take no effort on the child’s part. This can make your child a “praise junkie”, relying on external rewards in order to perform. And while you’re at it, dial back the unnecessary criticism. Who cares if the sheets aren’t smoothed out, at least they made their bed. You don’t have to gripe every time they leave their smelly gym socks in the living room. Sometimes you can just pick them up.
When your child puts effort into doing something well, encourage them with phrases like, “Wow! That was hard work, but you did it!” or “It feels good to do your best, doesn’t it!” Show them love in a thousand little ways. Encourage them to overcome difficulties. Let them help you do things for the family (even a toddler can help you rake leaves). Remind them that they have value as a member of their family. Laugh at their jokes. Let them know you love and enjoy them just because of who they are.
Be the house where everyone hangs out.
I grew up in one of those baby-boomer subdivisions where there were twenty-five kids on each block. You could always tell where the kids were hanging out by the number of bikes in the front yard. They were usually in our front yard. Later, there were skateboards. After that, we had cars parked everywhere.
Our yard was also the baseball diamond. Home plate was on the other side of the driveway; the pitcher’s “mound” was in front of the elm tree. What’s a little bare patch in the grass when everyone’s playing and having a good time?
Be that mom. Get to know, and to welcome your kids’ friends, but don’t be the “party mom”. Apply the same house rules to your kids’ friends as you do to your own kids. You will be able to see your own kids’ behavior in the context of their social relationships, and you will improve communication in your family.
Have at least one meal a day as a family. At the same table. At the same time.
The moms I talked to were all raised by stay-at-home moms. It was the custom of the time. Most of us had breakfast and dinner as a family, and lunch, too, on the weekends.
Today’s parents have a different routine. School hours and bus schedules often have children out the door by six a.m. Some parents work from home. Other parents travel every week.
When my kids were growing up, I worked either part-time or full-time. One thing that I never gave up, though, was having family dinners together. Even if time was tight, we still sat down to dinner together. When we ate, we talked–about their school days, about politics, about anything and everything. In other words, we communicated. The t.v. was off, and in later years, there were no cell phones allowed at the table, either. That included Mom and Dad.
Teach your children the lost arts of communication and problem-solving.
Screen time. It’s a part of everyday life in the world today. However, too much of it can cause us to lose the valuable skills needed for interacting face-to-face. Also, if your kids are always on their devices, they aren’t learning basic survival skills. Try engaging your kids in something you’re doing, like cooking, gardening, or woodworking. Give them something that involves measuring, calculating, following directions, and troubleshooting. I can remember, for example, one of my daughters helping her dad put in a sprinkler system.
Have your child with you when you grocery shop, fold laundry or work in the yard. Make them part of the experience, not just passive observers. Always show them, teach them, and remember that someone patiently taught you. While your child is working or creating with you, you’ll have a chance to talk, and you’ll probably re-discover what a great kid you have. More importantly, you’ll discover what a great adult they will become.
Remember, you are your child’s first teacher, first role model, and probably their first hero. Put your phone down and get in the game.