It’s not that I consider myself a tremendous fount of wisdom (although I sometimes do, particularly when I’ve eaten too much chocolate and feel invincible). It’s simply that by dint of keeping my eyes and ears open, I occasionally Make Astute Observations. I am now going to share an assortment of these Astute Observations with the amazingly lucky parents who are reading this column. And yes, I am humble, thanks for asking!
In no particular order. Here we go.
1. Make your children take music lessons for at least two years. Stay on top of them to make them practice. Weigh the future carefully when deciding to stop music lessons in favor of another activity. As a music teacher, I have heard so many adults lament that they wished they had stuck with music lessons as a child. I have never heard any adult lament that they wish they had spent more time as a kid playing volleyball or learning mime on the church drama team.
2. Apologize when you do or say something wrong. It is better to err on the side of apologizing too much instead of apologizing too little. Even if what you did was completely right, if your child comes to you and says you hurt their feelings, tell them you are sorry that you hurt their feelings. This is not an admission of guilt on your part. It is simply a statement of fact, because you are sorry that their feelings are hurt. You weren’t trying to hurt them. You were simply trying to do what was best for your child and you are grieved to know that their feelings were wounded in the process. Finish by giving your child a hug.
3. Throwing money at a situation is not a substitute for parental involvement. I have seen parents enroll their children in expensive specialty classes, pay for extra-long lessons with a private instructor, or buy an abundance of pricey learning materials and tools in an effort to turn their child into the perfect child. That’s fine, but if what is really needed is parental accountability and enforcement, paying more money doesn’t fix the problem.
4. Grammar matters. No really, it does. In this age of online communication, how you use the written word can greatly contribute (positively or negatively) to the impression that people have of you. Your children might grow up to be little Einsteins, but if they cannot spell or construct a sentence properly in writing, they are going to be marginalized. Barring legitimate learning issues such as dyslexia, every child should receive extensive training in spelling, punctuation and grammar.
5. Turn off the TV. Really. Turn it off.
6. Skip the boyfriend/girlfriend stuff. Boys and girls have been interested in each other since time began and they often start noticing each long before they’re old enough to consider marriage. Why encourage it? Your 13-year-old daughter and your friend’s 14-year-old son might have a crush on each other, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it seriously or legitimize the “relationship” by winking indulgently at them, referring to “my daughter’s boyfriend,” or letting them talk on the phone for hours. There is no point in pre-teens or teens having a “special” relationship with someone of the opposite sex unless they are old enough to seriously consider marriage. At best, it either adds needless emotional complexities to their lives or calls out a tremendous amount of silliness in them. At worst, it can lead to temptations that they do not have the maturity to resist well.
7. Praise your children in public. Don’t criticize or belittle your children in public.
8. Don’t pass the buck. Your child is a child and therefore needs accountability and oversight. He is not magically going to become a perfectly thoughtful, responsible and self-disciplined adult by himself. Yes, if he is not acting in a mature fashion, he is usually responsible for his actions (depending on his age). However, as the parent, you are responsible if you do not intervene and help him to behave better. Parents who do nothing but sit back and blame their child for acting like a child are being just as irresponsible as the child himself.
9. Teens and pre-teens should read an etiquette book every couple of years. The advice contained therein will help them relationally and professionally their entire lives.
10. If you are unhappy with the choices your children are making, take action. If they are not yet old enough to vote and they are living in your home on your nickel, you have every right to step in and set boundaries when you see them making unwise decisions. While you should be sure to have some heart-to-heart philosophical conversations (where you do as much listening as talking), at the end of the day you are the parent. Don’t be afraid to act like it. You are the gatekeeper. If you don’t like what they’re watching, get rid of the TV and put a password on the Internet connection. If you don’t like what they’re listening to, clean off their iPod or take it from them for awhile. If you don’t like who they are hanging out with, stop chauffeuring them to places where they encounter the wrong crowd. If you don’t like what they’re reading, throw it away. This may not make you very popular, but your job isn’t to be popular. It’s to do what is best for your children.
11. Teach your children to value and appreciate the differences between men and women. Many women grow into adulthood and fail to appreciate masculine strengths. If a man isn’t “sensitive” enough or can’t read their mind, he’s off their list. Many men grow into adulthood and fail to appreciate feminine strengths. If a woman isn’t athletic or outdoorsy, she’s off their list. This is foolish. Men and women are different and it is foolish to expect a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body.
12. Put Jesus at the center of your household. Some people prioritize rules and fall into legalism. Some people prioritize “Christian liberty” and wander off the path. Some people prioritize family relationships and neglect the most important one of all, Jesus Christ. Some people prioritize good works and lose connection with the Source of Life. Only when God Himself and your relationship with Him is the cornerstone of your household can you and your children truly walk in the light.
Written by Raquelle Sheen