To say I am a proud Mama would be a gross understatement. I am in the season of my life where I get to watch my adult children take on the world and make a difference, and I find myself reflecting back to the days they were home becoming the unique individuals that they are today.
Raising kids is not an easy task, and there are days you feel as if you have done more wrong than right. But I have found children are forgiving and have a greater capacity to realize that we all make mistakes, and they tend to remember the times we tried over the times we failed.
Over the course of my 35 years of being a mom, I have learned some valuable lessons on what it took to raise successful, hard working adults. Please understand that I am not perfect, nor do I claim to be a parenting expert, however if some of the things I have learned help a few of you along the way, then I am happy to share.
1- Speak life into your child
One of the things I learned early on was the power of words and that sometimes words become weapons that will deflate, discourage and destroy a child. The words we choose in conversation with our kids can bring life or death to their character. A situation will happen in the course of your child rearing years where you can either say “You’ve disappointed me” or “The decision you made wasn’t a good choice.” Kids need to know they are valued all the time, even in the times we need to discipline them.
The world is filled with naysayers and people who will put our children down. There are bullies, teachers, friends and a slew of others who will cast negativity in their hearts and minds each and every day. It is our job as a parent to speak life, where others may have caused a part of them discouragement. By speaking encouragement and life into your kids, they, in turn, can do the same to their friends who may not have the same support system at home.
2- Apologize to your child
Let’s face it, as parents we make mistakes. We discipline in anger; we yell when should speak and we sometimes accuse the wrong child of breaking a rule when in fact it was one of their siblings. Don’t be too proud to apologize when you see the error. One of my greatest memories is when my husband disciplined one of our kids for something and later realized he was wrong. He went to our son and sat down with him, looked him in the eyes and said “I was wrong for the way I handled this situation. I am very sorry. Will you forgive me?” The look on my son’s face when his Dad asked for forgiveness was one I will never forget. My son reached up and gave his Dad a hug and smiled.
Kids need to know that we grown-ups are human. They need to understand the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and there is no greater example than when a parent models accountability to their child.
3- Believe in your child’s dreams
Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up and the answer will probably change from year to year, and that is okay. They are discovering who they are and where their passions lie. One year your child may want to be a police officer and the next they may want to be an astronaut, until finally you are sending them off to college to become a world famous chef. During the years of transition, whatever they say they want to be, feed into that dream and help them discover the skills needed to achieve their goals. Buy them the toy handcuffs and police badge. Teach them about the planets and the stars and let them dirty your kitchen when they want to practice their cooking skills. Through each phase they go through, children are developing the tools needed to become the adult they will be in the future.
By believing in your child’s dreams, you are teaching them to believe in themselves as well, and they are going to need that when other’s try to limit them. We must become our children’s biggest fan early in their life, so they know that they are capable of doing great things in the future.
4- Give your child tools to achieve their goals
When I was young, my parents would ask what me what I wanted to be when I grew up. For years, I would say I wanted to be a teacher, and when the time finally came for me to graduate and move towards my goal, I had no idea how to get there. I knew college was the next step, but honestly had no clue how to make that happen. I knew nothing about scholarships, grants, or even how to apply. So, I married a Navy man and started my life as a military wife. It wasn’t until years later that I had a friend come alongside me and show me what was needed to apply to the local community college, apply for financial aid and earn an associates degree.
It is important to teach our children what it will take to turn their dreams into realities. Some will go to college, some will join the military, some will become a manager at McDonald’s. Whatever your child’s goals are, it is important to equip them with the tools they need to get there successfully. The major key to this is become a hard worker. We can teach this from an early age by picking up the toys they have scattered all over the house. By mowing lawns, babysitting, helping a neighbor with a project. Teaching children the art of hard work will pay off in the future when they have to work hard in the real world.
5- Say “I Love You” A LOT!
Lee Brice’s song “Love Like Crazy” has a line that says “overuse I love you.” and I can’t even begin to describe how important this is to our kids today. Kids come into the world feeling love. They feel the warmth of mom and dad nuzzling them when they are minutes old. They may not understand what love is, but they know the feeling of love from birth. As they grow older, that feeling can sometimes be lost during their day by peers, family, and even total strangers. Kids rely a lot on feelings, so when the world comes in and diminishes that feeling it is important for parents to remind them that they are loved. Saying I love you, can be done in many ways, the most obvious being verbal, but there are other ways to recharge their love meter.
One of the best books I have ever read is “The 5 Languages of Love.” by Gary Smalley. This book will help you understand not only how an individual receives love, but how we can show love based on the person’s love language. The five types of love languages are; Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. Every child is different so doesn’t it make sense that we, as parents, discover how a child receives love to best give love?
As I stated earlier in this blog, I am no expert on parenting. I am just a woman who tried her best to raise healthy, hard working, confident and prosperous children so they could tackle this big world when they became adults.
It takes a lot of work to raise healthy, happy adults, but one day you will be on the other side of parenting like me. You will find that despite your parenting failures and successes, your children will thank you for raising them to be hard working and capable of doing great things.