My parents had four children by the time they had reached 25 and I was the oldest. I look back at how they raised us girls and I can only admire them. They raised us to be honest, well-mannered girls with good morals and we always felt loved. I had no idea just how difficult it was to be a ‘good’ parent, until I was trying to be one. Here are the valuable parenting techniques that my parents have taught me along the way.
Always back each other up
My parents made an agreement with each other early on in their parenting ‘career’, that they would never disagree with each other in front of us kids. If, for some reason, one parent did not agree with a particular parenting tactic/method used, then it would be discussed later on – in private. In front of us kids, they ALWAYS backed each other up. No matter what.
Parents behave differently and children quickly learn what “works” with one parent and not the other. They learn which parent they can manipulate and which one they can’t. Not once can I ever remember asking dad for somthing and if he said no, then going to ask mum. I knew from a very early age, that if one parent said ‘no’, then both parents meant ‘no’. They were aways consistent with one another. ‘No’ always meant ‘no’. Consistency between parents is so important. My parents’ love and attention was also equally distributed between us four girls. This also applied to gifts; my parents had the agreement with each other that what was given to one child, had to be given to all four. This rule remained consistent throughout my childhood and still remains in place to this day. Also with consistency, comes routine. Children love routine. Simple things like always having dinner together at the dining table each evening or always reading a story before bed. They thrive on it, expect it each day and love it.
Such a basic one, yet so important. This one, I do just as my parents did. Right from the start, I began to teach our children these basic, but necessary skills. Every time I passed a toy or spoon etc onto our first baby, I would say ‘ta’ and every time she gave me somthing back, I would again repeat ‘ta’. Eventually she learnt to say ‘ta’ on her own (this was one of her first words) and this then went on to become ‘thank you’ as she grew older. Same goes for our son. Next step was to get them into the habit of saying please when they wanted somthing, which sounded more like ‘peeease’. Consistently throughout their toddler years I drilled the Thank you’s and Please’s into them over and over again and now, finally, they do it all on their own at the appropriate moments. Never interrupting while my parents were talking and being quiet while they were on the phone were also big rules in our house when I was a child – Still working on these ones with our kids..
Always Follow Through
If you say it and mean it, always follow through with what you say. Children know when you mean what you say and when you don’t. They are cleverer than you think! If you tell them a consequence for being naughty, always follow through with that said consequence. For example, if you use the 1-2-3 method. There is a consequence if you reach 3. If you have told them that this consequence is the naughty corner for example, and they are still misbehaving once you have reached 3, be sure to follow through and do it. I must admit, this has been surprising difficult for me. I give way too my warnings before following through with a consequence. Just how slowly can one count to three? I think because I work full time and I am always tired, I have less patience and give in easier. But it is no excuse and I do realise that this rule is very important and I am trying my hardest to follow through with everything I say. This applies to both discipline and promises.
This was a big one in our family home when I was growing up. Lying was NOT tolerated. Full Stop. My parents also made me feel comfortable enough to be able to speak openly and honestly to them whenever I needed to, no matter how awkward the topic.
Never fight in front of the kids
During my entire childhood, right up until I left home at 18 years of age, I can only remember mum and dad having an argument with each other less than a handful of times. They always kept their disagreements behind closed doors. It was never in front of us kids. This is so important. Kids are so sensitive to tension and other emotions, so do your kids a favour and keep them out of it.
Teach your children the value of money
My parents were farmers, so we were far from rich. Us kids were not given everything we wanted and we never took money for granted. If we wanted somthing, we had to earn it. We took on chores around the farm, such as milking the cows, washing out the dairy, cooking dinner or massaging dad’s feet. We were paid 50 cents per hour. I earnt enough to buy my first CD this way, 50 cents at a time with a tally sheet up on the fridge. I knew from a very young age that ‘money didn’t grow on trees’. Some parents give their children everything they want and rarely say ‘no’. Maybe out of guilt or maybe they believe that their child will suffer trauma if his every desire is not met. Children will suffer much more throughout their lives if they develop the belief that love means others should give them everything they ask for. Teaching our children that money needs to be earned is such a vital life lesson that they will thank us for as adults.
This one almost goes without saying. Showing (and telling) your children each and every day that they are loved is a priority as a parent. Simple things like always giving them a kiss goodnight, playing with them, hugging them, spending quality time with them and praising them when they do well. Make the effort to make your kids feel loved every day.
Parents sometimes believe that giving children what they want, and not burdening them with rules, will show them that they are loved. However, I have learnt that children thrive when those rules, routines and the above tips are in place.
I do not claim to be an expert. Far from it. I am still learning how to put these above rules into practice myself. If, eventually, I can be even close to the parent for my children that my parents were for me, then I will be a very content mum with well brought up kids, ready to take on the world….politely.