My children are in their 20’s now. One is a nuclear engineer.
The other is studying for her PhD in English (on scholarship!)
Introduction: Molding children’s characters is the most sacred and challenging
work on our planet. Supporting children in their journey to maturity is
profoundly difficult to do well. Love must be the foundation of our parenting.
All discipline should be done in the context of obvious love. I would like to
share with you the lessons I have learned during my nearly thirty years of
1. Ultimately our children reflect who we are, not who we tell them to be.
Therefore, Understand yourself.
Our words have power, but our actions, intonations and responses have far
more power long term. We learned this with our pets. If we were
aggressive in our actions with our pets, our pets learned to be aggressive
with us. If we were gentle with our pets, our pets learned to be gentle
with others. Be ever aware of your goals for your children. Seek to have
your words match your actions, tones and attitudes. If our children reflect
who we are – then to be effective parents, we need to understand who we
are. What is our personality? What are our triggers? What do we need to
be consistently healthy emotionally? If we are healthy emotionally, it is
likely our children will be. It takes introspection and sometimes deep
reflection to know ourselves
2. Intentionally share with your children. Share the stories of your life,
share your love for them through touch, words of affection and picturing
a meaningful future. I spent years driving my children back and forth to
school. Every day the same ride. One day my first grade girl asked me
“Daddy, tell me the story of your life.” It took me almost 3 years of car
rides to tell my story, but my children were entertained and they knew me
and all that was a part of my life. They always remembered where I was in
the story and they asked me – almost daily. I took my time and supplied
every detail I could. In addition to sharing stories, consistently, daily touch
them in loving ways. Be affectionate with your words to them praising and
honoring them for who they are. Children are not spoiled because they get
consistent praise and love from their parents, they are spoiled because
they consistently get their impulsive desires given to them.
3. Model and share with them your learning from your mistakes. Again,
they will learn from what you do. If they see that you make mistakes and
learn from them, they will be freer to talk with you about their mistakes
(instead of hiding them). They will also develop a boldness for trying
things, knowing that if it doesn’t work out, they will have learned
something. This will support them learning not to cheat and lie, because
they don’t have to cover over and compensate for their mistakes – they
just have to learn from them.
4. Consequences are a more effective discipline than words. Many times,
when my children were little, I would yell at them, or shame them by
silence and ignoring them for something they did. I found out over time
that I got instant results, but more long-term problems. As I matured as a
parent, I began using consequences with a calm, gentle voice and attitude.
That was harder work immediately (and usually took more time), but the
long-term rewards were so much better. I learned that consistency was
huge in the consequence’s arena. If I was consistent in my consequences,
they would avoid the behavior, because they trusted me to follow through
on my promised consequence. Then they were able to start to see into the
future and make choices based on those options. They knew I would
follow through (no idle threats), so they would never risk it.
5. Don’t rescue your children – let them suffer for the bad choices they
make. Experience is the best teacher. When we rescue our children from
suffering in some way because we stepped in and rescued them from the
consequences, we have only taught them that they can do what they want
and we will protect them from the consequences. We set up rewards and
consequences for their behavior (both for doing right, or wrong) and we let
the consequences teach them instead of my yelling at them (often with
long speeches) to try to get them to change their behavior. They learned
more and liked me better!
6. Pour energy into their healthy interests. When they show that they enjoy
something that is healthy (reading, sports, computers, mechanical stuff,
dolls, legos . . . ) Pour your time, energy and money into those things.
These things will become the foundation of their self-esteem and lifelong
interests. Our daughter loved books, our son loved mechanical things –
those were the things we supported. Trips to the library, book store, lego
shop and computer store (on line or in person) became rewards and
bonding time with them.
7. Children need to learn to work hard. Hard work is very healthy. Whether
it is washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping floors, or
helping to clean and care for the car, our children learned valuable skills
and they learned to be comfortable with hard work. This has life-long
value – whether applied to school work, their first job, or their career.
Principal Tom Decker