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Back to Basics Parenting

1.  Re-learning some basic facts:

     a. Raising kids isn’t difficult – trust your common sense

     b. You don’t need a shelf full of books to tell you how to do it

     c. You can make plenty of smaller mistakes and your kids will still turn out fine - relax.

     d. “Old-fashioned” parenting methods aren’t all bad, no matter what the “experts” tell you

     e. Kids behave like kids because their brains are wired that way – until their early 20s!

     f. Don’t leave parenting your kids to others – it’s your responsibility

     g. Kids are born with the foundations of their personality, gender identity, sexual orientation, certain physical abilities, and intelligence hard-wired into their brains – Parents and life experiences can influence the rest

     h. Kids aren’t “pure beings” that adults corrupt. They’re imperfect because they’re human.

     i. Sugar doesn’t make kids hyper (12 studies have proven this) but it does rot their teeth

     j. Coloring inside the lines isn’t about stifling creativity – it’s about developing fine motor control skills


2. The parents' three basic jobs (BOTH parents!)

     a. Nurturing – helping them develop into good people

     b. Education – not just formal school, but education for life

     c. Health & Welfare (food, clothing, shelter, medical care)


3. Basic parenting goals

      a. Prepare your child to leave home (eventually)

      b. Preserve your marriage so it will still be there after the kids are grown

     c. Teach your child what she needs to know to be a good citizen

     d. Teach your child what he needs to run a household

     e. Prepare your child for a career

     f. Expose and teach your child to enjoy the finer aspects of life – as you see them


4. What kind of kid do you want? What kind of adult do you want them to become?

     a. It’s your job to teach them to be the kind of people you want them to be, and no one else’s.

     b. Do you want them to learn your own religious, political or social philosophies?

     c. How about manners, consideration for others, open-mindedness, social skills?

     d. Before you have kids (or right away if you already have them!), get your minds together on these questions

     e. Set high expectations for behavior, education, and other things that are important to you


5. Get your own moral and ethical house in order

     a. What kind of kids do you want? Think about it.

     b. Think about the examples you set. Do you need to make some changes in your own lives?


6. Keep balance in all things

     a. Nurturing – discipline

     b. Time together – time apart

     c. Work – play

     d. Letting your lives get seriously out of balance is the single most destructive thing you can do to your child

     e. For instance, don’t allow nurturing to preclude discipline when it’s clearly needed

     f. Don’t try to micro-manage “balance” unless you want to drive yourself (and your kids) nuts. Allow things to occur as naturally as possible.


7. Build a relationship with your kids

      a. Spend one-on-one time with them a few times a week, a bit more when they’re younger – let them help you with work, share a hobby, practice sports skills, etc.

     b. Don’t over-do it. Just like food, kids can become addicted to attention

     c. Be accessible, but don’t allow unnecessary interruptions

     d. Don’t hover – supervise and guide as necessary

     e. You are an adult – behave like one – you are not your child’s playmate or best friend


8. Protect your marriage relationship

     a. The marriage came first, and it should be there after the kids are gone

     b. Kids don’t come first – the marriage does (that doesn’t mean you ever totally ignore the kids)

     c. Nothing makes a child feel more secure than having two parents in a stable relationship.

     d. Make time each day for just the two of you – tell the kids to go to their rooms and play so you can be alone for a while. Dinner prep together works well.

     e. For single parents, schedule regular “me time” without kids every day.

     f. Single parents should also take time for themselves, dating, shopping alone or with a friend, adult activities, etc.

     g. It’s never “your kid” or “my kid” – always “OUR” kid. Even if you’re divorced.


9. Protect your child’s future

     a. Little or no TV before age 6 (TV in early years has been tied to ADD)

     b. Watch eating habits – don’t allow between meal snacks with the exception of a small, healthy one after school.

     c. Limit your child’s sugar intake to reduce the possibility of developing diabetes

     d. Parents - give up smoking and other bad habits

     e. Teach kids not to put anything into their bodies that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. This applies to drugs, over the counter medications, excessive food, etc. Don’t run for the medicine cabinet every time a child has a sniffle. Despite what the drug companies have conditioned us to believe, it doesn’t make you a bad parent.


10.  Parents as teachers – your most important role

     a. Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers

     b. You are with them for life – school teachers have them only 9 months each

     c. Remember, you know more than they do

     d. Parents teach all the really important life lessons

     e. Schools are for academics – parents need to teach the rest

     f. Look for “hidden” interests, skills and talents – encourage them as appropriate

     g. Share hobbies and interests

     h. Important lessons need repetition – repeat them consistently and often


11.  Who runs things?

     a. A family can’t be a democracy – kids don’t always have the knowledge, skills, or life experience needed to make good decisions

     b. As they get older, you can bring them into the decision making process when you feel it’s appropriate

     c. Kids’ opinions and preferences can be taken into account when parents make decisions sometimes, but in the end it’s the parents who must make the decisions.

     d. “Because I said so” is a perfectly good reason

     e. Stick to your decisions – don’t let your kids pester you into changing your mind

     f. Be clear in your directives to kids – don’t “ask” them to do something – say “it’s time to put your toys away and get ready for bed.” Asking quickly becomes begging, thus putting the child in control.

     g. Don’t argue with young kids – they aren't yet able to understand adult logic


12.  Discipline & Behavior

     a. Discipline and punishment aren’t the same thing

     b. Discipline is something you teach – it’s also called “self-control” or “self-discipline”

     c. Make sure your kids “take ownership” of their behavior and responsibilities

     d. When the child lacks self-discipline, the parents need to impose it externally

     e. Set a standard of acceptable behavior and stick to it

     f. Use gentle correction whenever possible, but have stronger methods ready when you need them

     g. Be consistent!


13.  Punishment is only used to make lessons “stick” if they don’t seem to be “getting it”

     a. Punishments need to be “memorable” to be effective

     b. Time-outs only work well for pre-schoolers. From first grade on you’ll need to be a bit more creative.

     c. Make the level of punishment roughly appropriate to the seriousness of the behavior you are correcting. Err a little on the strong side if in doubt to be sure they get the message.

     d. Younger kids need shorter punishments. The older they get the longer or more severe they need to be.

     e. Make punishments reasonable so you won’t be tempted to not follow through

     f. Once imposed, never back down from any reasonable punishment

     g. Be sure both parents are “on the same page” regarding unacceptable behaviors and punishment to prevent the child from using “divide and conquer” techniques

     h. Stuff that works:

              i. Grounding

              ii. Missing a favorite activity one or more times

              iii. Loss of a favorite privilege

              iv. Restriction to one room

              v. Early bedtime

              vi. Early bed with no supper for school-aged kids (no, they won’t starve to death!)

     i. Spankings are okay, used sparingly for serious offences, but never beatings!


14. Teaching Manners and Self-Discipline

     a. Set high standards for behavior and don’t back down

     b. Begin teaching basic manners (please, thank you, not interrupting others, basic politeness) as soon as they are able to understand – age two or three for most kids

     c. Teach kids to sit patiently and wait from an early age


15. Contributing to the family and learning life skills

     a. Every kid should have at least one family chore as soon as they can handle it

     b. The complexity and number of chores should increase with age – starting at age three

     c. At 6 a child should be able to set a table, keep his room clean. By 8, they should be able to do their own laundry. By 10 they should be able to cook a complete simple family meal. By 18, they should be able to run a complete household.

     d. Children should not be paid for doing family chores. It’s part of their contribution to the family’s well being.

     e. Chores teach skills, responsibility, and the importance of contributing to the family’s well-being.

     f. Keeping one’s room clean is not a family chore – it’s a personal responsibility

     g. Never do anything for a child they can do for themselves (If your child is sick or injured, or clearly overwhelmed, you can help now and again – that teaches compassion - but be clear that the goal is self-suffiency)


16.  Allowance & Money

     a. An allowance should be provided to teach them how to manage money

     b. The allowance should not be revoked except in cases of seriously poor spending choices, and then only until an understanding can be reached between you

     c. Make the child responsible for purchasing certain luxuries with their allowance – special clothing, snacks, toys, etc.

     d. Teach the concept of saving for larger purchases - no credit!

     e. Money can be earned for “extra” jobs that aren’t their regular chores – but only until they are old enough to go out and get a part time job on their own.


17.  Education and School

     a. Education must begin in the home

             i. Read to your children often – even long after they can read for themselves

            ii. Encourage them to read on their own

            iii. Teach problem solving skills and strategies

            iv. Place a high value on education and communicate that to your child

            v. NEVER say “I wasn’t good at (insert subject) either.” This is the same as giving your child permission to stop trying.

     b. Keep expectations high, and set high academic standards - kids WILL live up to them if they're able

     c. If possible, choose schools that also set high standards and expectations

     d. Let teachers know your expectations early on, and follow up

     e. Encourage strengths, support weaknesses


18.  Addictive behaviors to avoid

     a. Praising everyday accomplishments, when a simple acknowledgement will do

     b. Food on demand – leads to food addiction and obesity

     c. Too much attention – leads to kids who need constant attention and won’t give you a moment’s rest. However, don’t go off in the other direction and ignore them either!


 19.  “Head fakes,” or, why we want kids to do stuff like sports and Scouts

     a. It’s not about the skills they learn or fun they have, but the kids don’t know that.    

     b. Most kids won’t be pro ballplayers or adventurers.

     c. It’s about learning other life lessons

                   i. Teamwork

                   ii. Leadership

                   iii. Value systems

                   iv. Fair play

                   v. Self-sufficiency

                   vi. Putting others before yourself

                   vii. Being of use to the world

                  viii. Good citizenship

d.      Scouting offers a broader range of life lessons than sports – if the group is well run and following the official program.


20.  Countering the “self-esteem” mistake

     a. Psychologists are in growing agreement that the so-called “self-esteem movement” of the last few decades was a terrible mistake. Many schools continue to use the program though, and you will need to temper it as best you can.

     b. High self-esteem is a result – not a cause – of good performance.

     c. Self-esteem is a side-effect of positive results achieved through hard work – it can’t be given out like candy

     d. Kids need to know where they stand – phony praise has no value

                    i. The effort has to be their own - the goal is self-motivation

                    ii. Don’t tear a kid down – be supportive

                    iii. Praise real results, but don’t overdo it. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement is all that’s needed.

                    iv. Recognize effort, but make it clear that results are what really count.

      e. Other people are just as important as you are

      f. You can’t be anything you want to be, but you have the right to try

                    i. You have the right to follow your dreams, but try to temper them with reality – a kid who can’t carry a tune probably won’t make it as a singer, no matter how badly they want it. Desire, not matter how strong, does not equal talent.

                    ii. Only a small percentage of those who dream of it will ever become professional athletes, actors, or performers.

      g. It’s important to be comfortable with yourself – but loving yourself is a dangerous path to travel. Cases of clinical narcissism have reached an all time high since 2000.

      h. Self-control is of more value to future success than self-esteem


21.  “Different” kids

     a. Not all kids are typical – physical and mental disabilities, mental illness, birth defects, sexual orientation, gender identity

     b. Even if they are “different” they still deserve your full love and support

     c. Sexual orientation and gender identity are hard-wired before birth. There is nothing you can do about it.

     d. Gender identity (transgender) disorders are now thought to be the result of a true medical birth defect, and the evidence is strong

     e. Relabeling won’t help much – it’s how you deal with it that makes a real difference (i.e. calling a disabled student “differently abled.” Every label of this sort will eventually acquire a negative connotation – we’re going to run out of accurate descriptions if we change them all the time.


© D. Colter 2008 – Used with Permission



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