Advice for my kids – Because I want you to be happy, successful and decent adults

I’ve recently been thinking about the really important things I should teach my children – the values that will help them to (hopefully) grow into happy, successful and decent adults. It’s the things that aren’t always taught in a classroom – the things that I realize may be lost on some of the present generation. Through my various interactions with adults, it has become apparent that not everyone is taking snaps from the same playbook – some folks just don’t get it.  They don’t get how to be responsible and accountable and cordial. They don’t get the common sense component of how human beings should interact with each other. It’s unfortunate. But that’s one of the cool things about being a parent – getting the opportunity to help mold the little people you created into (hopefully) productive members of society. Now as with everything, part of this is a crapshoot… 1 plus 1 does not always equal 2 – just because you preach certain values doesn’t mean they’ll listen. But I have to believe that providing a foundation rooted in humility and goodness has to play some kind of role. So this is my list. These are the things that count in my book. It’s what I hope I am able to effectively teach my kids, and what I hope they apply when it matters.

  1. Admit mistakes – Period. No one expects perfection, but what they do expect is when you fall short, you fess up, take responsibility. Especially in the workplace. How you act when you royally screw up is one of the quickest way earn or lose respect. Just own it.
  2. You are in charge of your attitude – To pull from the famous Charles Swindoll quote, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Sometimes you can’t control the people and circumstance around you, but you can control how it impacts you. Your attitude is always within your control.
  3. Be genuine – Be you. Whether people like it or not. Don’t let your crowd dictate who you are. It’s okay to go against the grain. People will appreciate your honesty and respect you for it. True authenticity is rare.
  4. Don’t feel entitled – The world doesn’t owe you anything. You’re not entitled fairness or to live the life you think you should. Life isn’t fair. Hard work gets rewarded. Handouts are the easy way out.
  5. Think about other people’s feelings – Taking the extra time to consider the feelings of others will pay off in the long run. Empathy and compassion will build relationships and trust. In a world of people screaming “me, me, me,” showing consideration will set you apart.
  6. Be humble – Don’t ever get too big for your britches. Accept compliments graciously. Don’t boast – let your accomplishments speak for themselves.
  7. Show appreciation – When others make your life easier, be grateful – they didn’t have to. Showing gratitude builds others up. People who feel appreciated give back. Say thank you often and mean it.
  8. Don’t be petty – Don’t make a big deal over small stuff. Forgive quickly. Don’t make the insignificant things significant by giving it your energy.
  9. Be generous – With your time, with your stuff. Give favors easily because you never know when you’ll need one in return.
  10. Don’t expect anything in return – When you are generous, don’t do it with the intent of repayment – you will be disappointed frequently.  If you put enough good out there, it will come back to you, but maybe not in the way you expect.
  11. Don’t take things personally –Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that people have ill intentions toward you. Although it’s easy to take other people’s words or actions to heart, often it’s not even about you. Being overly sensitive and insecure is unattractive. Your friends/family/colleagues don’t want to walk on eggshells, so don’t break at every criticism.
  12. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – Instead, focus on improving your situation. Self-pity is not productive. There is always a bright side. It might not be immediately apparent, but I promise you it’s there.
  13. Respect authority – Teachers, police officers, bosses, the President. Especially the President. It doesn’t matter if your political beliefs align with the person in office; it is patriotic to respect the President.
  14. Be accepting of others – We’re all different. Black or white, gay or straight, Christian or not, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, toilet paper over or under – we’re all human, all worthy of love. Spend more time looking for each other’s similarities. Don’t disparage those less fortunate than you.
  15. Don’t compare yourself to others – Life is not a competition. What others have is irrelevant to you. You don’t know their whole story. Measure your success against your own scale. You will never be truly happy if jealousy is your motivator. Make your own goals and go after them.

So that’s it – my two cents. Knowing it is the easy part. Living it and being an example for my kids is the hard part. Game on.

Advice to my kids

How to Be a Happy Parent

Parenting is hard and it’s easy to find yourself stuck in a rut with all the damn dailies.  But I believe that happiness is relative to your expectations.  We all have this romanticized idea of what parenting will be like before we have kids… and then we have them and realize some if it’s not so glamorous.  Managing your expectations and keeping perspective is key to finding all the joy that parenting has to offer. Juggling your children, your marriage, a job (perhaps), and the stresses from the outside world (strangers, other parents, the media, the “experts”) can be downright stressful.  Hey, no pressure, you’re only doing the most important job in the whole wide world and raising another human being!  Below are my 15 keys to being a happy parent:

1.)       Have realistic expectations – If you expect that parenting is going to be awesome every day, that your kids will always listen and that you’ll always know what to do, be ready for some serious disappointment.  Instead, modify those expectation, account for the hard days and when they happen they will be much easier to handle.

2.)       Focus on the end goal – Isn’t our goal in raising children to develop independent adults who are productive members of society?  So when some days all you can muster is the energy to clothe them, feed them and get them off to school, remember you are working toward your goal! And when they are stubborn and strong-willed and want to do it all themselves, think of it as a preview to the independence you one day want them to have.

3.)       You don’t have to be perfect at everything – Every parent has their “parenting gift”. Whether it’s keeping calm, discipline, dinner, homework, birthday parties, snacks, fun-filled activities or communicating with their children, all parents have some part of this job where they excel.  But no one, let me repeat, no one is perfect at it all.  Attempting to be is a futile effort.  So figure out which part you’re great at and be at peace with the fact that you won’t be perfecting all the others.

4.)       Don’t compare yourself to other parents – Just because other parents do it doesn’t mean you should too! Sound familiar?  What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another, so don’t even try to compare.  We’re all different parents and we all have different kids, so comparing your adequacies next to another parent just doesn’t make sense. Own your own parenting skills!

5.)       Do the best that you can – At the end of the day, this is really all we can do.  So if you can finish each day knowing that you did the best you can, then who cares what craziness took place? Who cares if you got dirty looks from the bystanders at the grocery store for your screaming kids? Be the best parent you can be and don’t worry about the rest.

6.)       Factor in some failures – If we can all go into this parenting job knowing that we’re going to fail miserably at times, it really just takes some pressure off.  I’m not suggesting we lower our standards, but let’s be real, it’s not like this is all within our control anyways.  Think of failures as learning opportunities for you and your kids, and try to make the best of them. They will happen, so it’s up to you how you react.

7.)       You won’t always make the right decisions – There is no crystal ball with kids. You can’t tell if the punishment you dole out is going crack their code or send them into a tailspin.  There are so many decisions in parenting – public, private or homeschool? How much screen time? Finish your plate or not? Stay at home or work? Their friends… their extracurricular activities… their bedtime… It is impossible to get all this right.  And even if you make the “right” decisions, it probably still isn’t “right” for all of your kids. So what to do?  Look back to #5 and pray.

8.)       This too shall pass – Every parent goes through a phase (or two, or three) with their kids that seems impossible to overcome. Not sleeping through the night, wetting the bed, separation anxiety, temper tantrums, etc., etc. To keep your sanity, just remember, this too shall pass.  These times are fleeting.  Not only will the not-so-desirable phases not last forever, but before we know it our kids will be grown and we’ll probably miss it.

9.)       Maintain your own identity – Don’t forget about you.  Make sure you have an outlet, something that makes you happy. Whether it’s a job or a hobby or an hour of solitude to just think (or sleep), just do it. Making time for you will make you a better and happier parent.

10.)   Don’t let the kids overrun your marriage – Make time for your spouse. Go on dates. Take trips.  Buy each other gifts.  Talk about something other than the kids. Make each other a priority. Don’t blame the kids for why you can’t be a good spouse (“I’m too tired…”).  Remember that one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to keep your marriage strong, so don’t let your marriage come second to your kids.

11.)   Don’t impose your dreams on your kids – It’s only natural to have dreams for your kids… just don’t be so caught up on those dreams that your kids not fulfilling them brings disappointment to you. Give them opportunities to pursue whatever dreams they have and take your expectations out if it.

12.)   It’s okay to be like your parents – One day you will probably find yourself acting just like your parents.  Don’t fight it.  You turned out awesome, right?

13.)   Find someone to clean your house – Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you can make sacrifices to make this happen, do it. However, be warned, once you start, it will be hard to ever stop. It is shocking how much stress is removed from your life when you don’t have to spend your weekends cleaning.  The extra time with your kids is simply priceless. This one will really, really keep a parent happy.

14.)   When all else fails, have a dance party – Everything going wrong? Kids in a crappy mood? Dinner was burned? It’s nothing that turning up some music and dancing like a fool with your children can’t solve.

15.)   Avoid taking your kids out in public – No, just kidding. I couldn’t resist. Although, it is tempting sometimes :).

Happy Momma