Have you ever received an instruction manual for something you bought that was 50 pages long, but included in the box was also a Quick Start guide? Do you ever wish our children came with a Quick Start guide? We spend years worrying about whether or not we are parenting our children correctly, and it often takes over 18 years for us to find out the results.
Well, I’ve been parenting for almost 21 years now and so I feel pretty safe in writing this so-called “Quick Start Guide”. It doesn’t teach you how to change diapers, feed your kids, or any of those things that the books tell you. But what it does tell you is what I’ve learned about being a mother through years of trial and error, tears and joy, ups and downs, mistakes, great choices, and everything in between. These are the 10 most valuable lessons you can adopt right now, and cut down on your learning curve, so you can have the greatest impact on your child’s life.
1. Always Say You’re Sorry
You will make mistakes from day one until the end, and it’s okay. What’s not okay is not apologizing. Your child learns to be humble from you. Even if your child misbehaved, and you handled the situation badly, you should apologize too. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We all have permission to start over, and learn from our mistakes, but if we can’t admit we make mistakes by apologizing, then how do we learn?
2. Listening and Coaching is Far More Effective than Giving Advice
Get into this habit early because sooner or later your children will tune you out. You are doing your children a disservice to not teach them how to solve their own problems. Very few people like to be told what to do. Children, and especially teens, are no different. Isn’t it better to be a sounding board and guide someone to make the right choice for their life? That’s what coaches do.
3. The Simple Memories will Last a Lifetime
You don’t have to do anything elaborate to create memories for your children. You will be amazed at the simple little memories that will stick with them. My most heartwarming memory of my mother is coming in from playing out in the cold and her putting my feet in one of those old hairdryers to warm them up. She told me she was going to go make me some hot chocolate, and all I remember was happily drifting off to sleep with warm tootsies.
4. Be the Unique Mom you were Designed to Be
Mothers spend way too much time comparing themselves to other mothers, wishing they were more organized, or could cook better, or play sports better, etc. But what you don’t realize is that your children are attached to the unique mom that you are, and they don’t want any other mother. My son Kai absolutely loves the macaroni and cheese I make for him, and it comes from a box! How crazy is that?!
5. Let Your Children’s Misbehavior Tell You What’s Going on in Their Inner World
Your children are misbehaving for a reason. It’s not because they are bad kids. Your kids are trying to communicate something to you. Your child could be angry. He could be hungry. He could be tired. She could be needing your attention. She could be having a hard time verbalizing her feelings. Your child may want more independence. There are so many things that could be going on inside your child or teen. Seek to get inside your child’s inner world before you seek to punish.
6. Walk and Talk Your Family Values and Beliefs
Many moms say they know what their family values are, or what their beliefs are, but do your kids know what they are? Are you truly walking your talk? If you say you value kindness or health, does your life reflect that? If you say all people should be treated equally, do your children see you doing that? Talk is cheap, but modeling is powerful.
7. Work on Yourself before Your Work on Your Children
Think your children have problems? Slow down. Take a look at yourself first. Could you be parenting differently to correct these problems? These are little human beings we are shaping, and we shape them by shaping our behavior. So before we ground our kids or put our children in therapy, we too need to consider how we can grow as parents ourselves.
8. Let the Consequences of the World Teach Your Children Lessons
As hard as it can be to let our children fall down and take the hard knocks, the natural consequences of life’s lessons are often the greatest teachers. Let your child get an F instead of making her do her homework. Don’t remind your child to take her lunch; he will probably remember when he is hungry at school. If you protect your children when they are young, they will be in for a rude awakening as adults in the real world.
9. Don’t Lose Yourself in Motherhood
You were a woman before you became a mom. And that woman had interests and passions. Do you remember what those were? Or have you sacrificed all those for motherhood? I have coached too many mothers who have lost themselves because they gave up who they were when they became moms. Don’t do this. Be an example to your children (especially your daughters) of what it means to take care of yourself and be yourself. Having a kid-centered family does them a disservice.
10. Encourage Your Children to Nurture their Talents and Passions
Just like you have talents and passions, so do your children. There are so many adults in this world today that have no idea what they are good at, or what they are passionate about. Don’t let this happen to your children. Give them the opportunities to tap into what God gave them so they can contribute to this world in a big way and be happy about it.
Whether you are a new mom, or a veteran mom, implementing these ten parenting habits will surely make a profound and positive difference in your child’s life. But you will still have to wait to find out how well this Quick Start Guide works. So enjoy the process!
QUESTION: What advice would be in your Quick Start guide?
CHALLENGE: In the comments below, please let us know what tips you would add to Lori’s.