I’ve grown a lot as a parent in 16+ years.
I didn’t have role models or help. I traveled this journey mostly alone, often with very poor advice and terrible intentions and horrible teachings.
I have many regrets, such as attending a fundamentalist church who taught very harsh parenting practices like blind obedience from the Pearls. I wish I could undo that year, praying the damage to reverse.
I’ve been selfish, hired nannies and babysitters we couldn’t afford in the name of what society has told me I need more of: “me-time.”
We tried day care, preschool, camps, even school for a month. We listened to “experts” who told us what kids “need” to be successful.
After many trials and errors – realizing that kids are not experiments, not wild animals to be tamed, not creatures to be controlled, not extensions of myself, not a vicarious experience, not evil beings to be punished, not inconveniences to be scorned – I have come to realize that children are more than worthy of respect, and control and blind obedience is not the way to parent.
The media and society perpetuates the ideas that kids are a nuisance, born to thwart our every desire, ruin our bodies, mess up our homes, talk back, rebel, and generally wreak havoc on our orderly adult lives.
This doesn’t have to be our expectation or reality.
Children are naturally desirous of being helpful. They are deserving of respect. They need loving guidance.
Our homes and lives can be peaceful, enjoyable, fun. We just need a change of perspective and be willing to take the risk to be different.
“Obedience is doing what you’re told, no matter what’s right. Morality is doing what’s right, no matter what you’re told.” L.R.Knost
My list of top 10 parenting advice:
- Embrace the delicious chaos of babyhood. Put everything else on hold to celebrate every single moment. Take a gazillion pictures for memories, but you don’t have to share them all on Instagram. I promise you’ll look back on this time with fondness, after you’re able to sleep through the night again and wear clean and stylish clothes without worry of breast milk leakage. Don’t panic about milestones. Be knowledgeable about babies and biology and development, but do what you feel is best for your family.
- Please, please, please coddle your infant. Wear her, hold her, snuggle her. Don’t let her “cry it out.” Go above and beyond to meet all her needs so she will trust you and feel safe and loved. Ask for help for household needs from older children, spouse, friends, family members. Your infant is the most important thing in your life. Limit responsibilities so you can stay home and get to know your new little person.
- Respect your toddler. Let him choose what to eat and wear. Don’t allow societal embarrassment to make you feel the need to control him. If he wants to wear sister’s princess tutu and his Batman mask and cape to the grocery store, let him! His feelings of validation are more important than the cashier’s eyes askance or the disapproving glances of strangers. Let him try and fail and help with chores.
- Preschool is not necessary, no matter what anyone says. Preschoolers should play. Give them freedom to learn, explore, manipulate their environment. Let them cook with real tools in the kitchen, explore nature, learn how fire eats up sticks, sing, dance, make messes, and how plants grow. Go outside every day.
- School is not needed, no matter what anyone says. Sure, you can argue that Christian kids need to be a light in a public school classroom, or that private schools will be the best option for high test scores to get into a good university. Don’t try to recreate school at home. Learning is natural. Don’t control it or make it become unnatural and artificial.
- You don’t teach children how to make good decisions by treating them like they are incapable, controlling their every move, and restricting their access to the world that you eventually want them to be part of. When they finally gain freedom and autonomy they don’t know what to do with it. Guide your child lovingly and respectfully, walking together on the journey.
- Give kids real books, not condensed or dumbed down versions. Teach them to read and understand the KJV Bible and they can read anything! Give them a real dictionary and show them how to use it.
- Allow kids to make mistakes and messes. This is how they learn. Natural consequences are the best teacher. Clean up together – without shame or ridicule or blame.
- Limit distractions and organized activities to encourage imagination and creativity. Provide plenty of art supplies and loose parts for opportunities to create and play. Save items you would normally recycle or throw away. Have more open-ended toys than electronics and screens. Don’t guide play. Stand back and watch and listen.
- Deal with your triggers so you don’t react poorly to your children. Heal yourself so you can love your child and respond to frustrations in a healthy way. Many of us were raised in authoritarian (or permissive) households and must work through many issues while raising our children with a better way. We must learn to speak respectfully to all children, even more so since we were not spoken to with respect.