Years ago people used to have children at an earlier age and usually, they had many of them. While I had six aunts and uncles, my children only have one uncle, who is also childless, so no cousins on my side. My parents, like most of their friends and siblings, had only two children. My generation also has mostly one or two children and usually at a later age. We were told it would be probably better if we finished our education first, had a job, and bought a house. So, even though we often wanted to have children earlier, we were told to wait until we were “established” enough to be able to provide a good life for our off-springs.
Once they finally came – and often an in vitro treatment was needed to help the nature – we cherished them – we waited so long to be these perfect parents. Our children became extremely valuable to us. We prefer not to take risks when it comes to our precious babies. We tend to them, love on them, cater to them, and protect them. We want them to be happy and go through life without any pain, disappointment, heartbreak or loss.
We shield them from tears and sadness.
But is it the right path?
Are they supposed to be happy or are they supposed to be prepared for life and its surprises? Because life is not easy. Life is actually lethal. There will be rain, better yet, even golf ball-sized hail sometimes. There will be break ups, tears, tragedies and losses. There will be pain and suffering at one point, it’s jut the way life is.
Wouldn’t it be better to equip our children to deal with adversities of life instead of shielding them from all that’s not fun and happiness? Shouldn’t we, as parents, be responsible for preparing them for life’s difficulties by teaching them how to overcome problems?
And let’s not expect the school system to teach your children those skills. This one is on us, the parents. We need to be the source of life’s wisdom, we should be the authority on healthy lifestyle, we should be the counselors giving valuable and practical financial advice, we, the parents – not their teachers.
The solution is simple, yet, not easy. We must spend more time with our children. We must designate a time each day when we can sit down, or go for a walk, or talk to them right before they go to sleep, so we could have a meaningful conversation – without texting or calling.
You might say: “I don’t have time.” That’s actually not true. It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of prioritizing.
Our children are our responsibility. After caring for their physical well being, there comes the time for their emotional and spiritual health, which is equally, if not more important than the food they eat and the clothes they wear.
So, how do we build our children’s emotional strength?
There are some strategies I used when I took control of my children’s lives, as I realized they were just reacting to what we called Life. Some of them were easier to do, some met plenty of resistance, but all of them helped us to be more involved as parents.
1. We set limits on phone and computer use – very painful, but doable. I asked my son what did he think was a sufficient amount of time for a twelve year old to pay games and he said: “An hour to hour and a half tops.” On the weekend I give him a little more time if we are home, but most of the time we are out doing things.
2.Remove the computer and phone from their bedroom – no devices, no temptation. My son’s friends play games till 3 a.m. on a school night, while the parents are sleeping!
3.A child should read for at least 30 minutes every day. No exceptions. If they want their phone, their Youtube and games – there is a trade off – must read! An intelligent person is a well read person. Let’s start them early.
4.A child must write for at least 20 minutes every day. There are writing prompts that are age appropriate on the internet or you can purchase a book with writing ideas. You’ll create a habit of writing – when it comes to writing those lengthy essays, they won’t even blink, as they will simply be used to it. Also, writing improves their logical and critical thinking while they try to formulate coherent thoughts. Review with them their work and offer constructive criticism, better yet, write with them! You’ll show your child you also care about your personal growth and, second, it shows writing must be something valuable if the busy mom or dad does it with them.
5.Encourage quiet time. Let them be bored, don’t jump in and organize every minute of their free time. Good, be bored, go to your room and be bored there. That’s when their imagination starts working and their creativity wakes up. They can’t even hear their own thoughts with all the noise of their busy lives. (I actually suggest the same strategy for us, parents. Carve out 15 minutes to sit alone and let your thoughts run wild. They will then calm down and take a hold of you – you might even find a solution to some of the issues that bother you).
6.Respect your children. Talk to them in a calm manner. Do not yell, do not raise your voice, do not, ever, use profanities. Yelling and screaming will not help, constructive criticism and explanation combined with rationalization will. Saying No to your child without explaining why not, makes you look weak. Don’t you expect people to give you a explanation in a nice respectful manner why are they denying your request? Our children deserve the same. If your child does something stupid in public, please, do not scold him or her in front of others. Give them the “look” or a gentle squeeze and deal with it in private. Moms, be extra careful with your sons. They are young men and they need you to be sensitive in a way you deal with their mishaps – we do not want to wound their souls. Boys are expected to be tough and not to cry. They need to be shown, though, how to be strong and courageous despite their fears, and they need to know it’s ok to cry if the situation calls for it. Is there a father figure in your son’s life he can learn from? Someone needs to be the “man” first to teach a young boy how to be one. There is a great documentary on Netflix called: “The Mask You Live In” which explains how our society overlooks boys and wounds their souls just by repeating meaningless or hurtful slogans and treating boys unfavorably just because they are boys, not girls.
We must become role models for our children. They observe us and record our behaviors, patterns of dealing with a challenge, our ways of conflict resolution and processes of reconciliation. A child is like a recording device till they are about seven years old. What they observed and recorded, they would then replay as adults. Did you ever see your parent’s behavior in yourself? Usually the one you hated and criticized? What you’ve seen, became your way of dealing with life, problems, and words. Therefore, we, the parents, have to model the behaviors we would like to see in our adult children.
I wish you patience, diligence, and success. I wish you courage to be “that” parent that cares. And don’t forget to have fun while doing all these wonderful parenting tricks – our children grow up so fast! Don’t miss these precious moments and opportunities to mold their hearts and souls because you were busy watching your show on Netflix. Be present, be involved.
Be the parent you were meant to be.