When It Comes to Parenting

Item 1:  Did you hear the one about the woman who left her 12-year-old daughter naked in the car? Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it?

Well, it isn’t.

Turns out the mother is a substitute teacher, and left her daughter naked because she didn’t want her daughter to run off and rummage for food in trash cans, while she was teaching in a nearby elementary school. Which is exactly how the girl was found: eating out of trash containers, and trying to modestly cover herself with a car floor mat. (You can read all about it here: “12-year-old found naked, rumaging through trash in Temecula“)

Hmm. I wonder what the mother was planning to teach that day? Hopefully, nothing to do with effective parenting skills.

One of the few photos I have of my mother and daughter.

Item 2: Speaking of which, there’s a new book on parenting out that says the French know how to raise healthy, well-rounded and, most important of all, kids who behave well in public. The book is called, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.

Apparently, Druckerman is a journalist, so I’m going to assume she did her research before coming to this conclusion. I don’t doubt that the French know how to raise their kids. I’m sure the Spaniards and Italians are also apt at it. And, it’s unlikely that this book will be as controversial or as divisive as Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is known in some circles as “extreme” parenting. Though, if you think about it, the substitute teacher mom was also practicing “extreme” parenting, of sorts. (But, let’s just hope substitute teacher mom doesn’t decide to throw her towel in the ring, too, and write a parenting book of her own.)

Item 3: Without having read either book, I’m going to go out on a ledge here and say, that neither the French nor the Chinese have cornered the market on proper child-rearing skills.  On the other hand, my mother may well have. 😉 And since she’s no longer around to tell you herself, I will share with you some of the skills I learned from her.

  1. Resist the urge to make your child the focus and the center of your life. It’s simply not healthy for you or for your child to be on a pedestal. You’re not doing them any favors, except raising them to have the expectation of entitlement and that they will be treated in the same fashion by everyone they meet. If you ask me, that’s setting them up for disappointment.
  2. Enjoy your children for what they are. Curious, creative beings. Treat them as the individual your child is. Listen to them, and be firm when needed.  Try to be courteous, in the same manner as you want them to treat you. With respect.
  3. Set limits. In other words, make sure they know that “No” means no. There’s a time and place for negotiation but there can also be a fine line between negotiating and letting your child take advantage of you.  Contrary to popular belief, being strict doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. For proof on how well it can work, I suggest reading Shenk it Up, a blog by Nate Shenk, a young, blogger pal of mine. In his post, Without Parents, I’d Probably be Smoking Crack, Nate writes with humor and love about his rather strict parents. Here’s a sample: “For me, I grew up with a set of rule-enforcing parents who loved their children so much that they would have given their own lives for the sake of mine, or my siblings. I was never without either rules, or love.”  Pretty cool, I’d say.
  4. Teach etiquette. P’s & Q’s are a start. But also convey to them the value of civility in every aspect of their life. Teach them, too, the importance of offering appreciation by writing the tried and true, Thank You Note.
  5. Give them rituals and a schedule: Like bedtime reading, Saturday morning visits to the library, family meals, etc. Kids look forward to such rituals, and like knowing what to expect. It’s when they don’t know that they start falling apart and having melt-down’s.
  6. Leave guilt at the door. Yes, I know you feel guilty because you work full time and you’re often the last parent to pick up your child from daycare or school. Been there, done that. But it’s no reason to cave and give them what they want when they want it. You’re not doing them any favors by letting guilt manage your parenting skills, which brings me to my next point.
  7. Do not tolerate insolent or unruly behavior: At the first sign of an attitude, I used to ask my kids to go to their room and return when they were ready to behave and speak respectfully, which meant using words, not wails. In fact, whining was not tolerated in my house, period. You want to teach them the kind of behavior they’re going to need in the real world. Besides, I’d rather listen to them vent and scream for a while while they’re in their rooms, rather than have throngs of strangers witness them have a tizzy fit while out in public. Something they never did.
  8. Play with your kids. Make time to get down on the floor with them and play what they want to play. Play in the car while you’re driving (assuming you know where you’re going and it isn’t distracting). I used to pretend I was the car radio, singing my heart out and announcing the news, as my mother pretended to keep switching the channels to different stations. Sounds corny, but I loved it.  Pretend games are always fun and encourage creativity.
  9. When they’re old enough, around 18 months or so, make sure they learn to put away their toys when playtime is over. Do not let them leave a mess just because it’s easier, and you don’t want a scene. By doing it for them, you’re not helping them at all. Teaching responsibility is always a good thing.
  10. Lastly, try to avoid talking about your kids all the time. Yes, we know you think your child is the best. We all feel that way about our kids. But, unless you’re talking to the other parent or a grandparent, keep the discussion brief about how cute your child is. My mother made it a habit to never talk about me in public, not even to my teachers during the parent-teacher conference and, for that, I’m grateful. After all, no one needed to hear about all the darnedest things I was saying.

People tell me I’m fortunate because I have two grown, fairly happy and responsible kids, who never gave me any real trouble–and who actually like me! No rebellion, no back talk. So maybe I am lucky. But I’d like to think that the way I raised them had something to do with it, too. And though my kids never really knew their grandmother, because she passed away when they were very young, I’d like to think I channeled the best of her, when I was raising them, and so they got to know a little of her, through me.

Well, these are just some of the basic skills my mother passed on to me. Soon, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about getting through the teen years. Now, how about you? I’d love to hear about any effective child-rearing tips you may have.