30 Ideas on Raising Children

The apple does not fall far from the tree.
30 Ideas on Raising Children
by Sue Basko 

As a little Christmas gift, I want to share my tips on raising children.  I raised children into happy adults.     Unlike most people, I sat down with a pen and notebook at the start of my child-raising career and made a list of how I wanted to do it.  And this, I share with you:

1. Think of raising your children as a career or job.  You are there to do a good job. To do that, you need to be in good shape physically and mentally.  You need to be ever-conscious of the goals, the process, and the success (or lack thereof) of your techniques.

2. Give your best to your family.  Use your best manners on your family.  Give your best efforts to your family.  Use your best furniture and dishes on your family.  Invest your money and time in your family.    Home should not be where you slack off and give your least; it is where you should be on your best and give your best.  Please, thank you, respecting privacy and property.

3. Don't tolerate a degradation of the family or home environment from anyone, including yourself.  "Sorry, we don't do that in our family" is legit.

4. Be sober and sane and healthy.  Drinking, using drugs, unchecked depression or mental problems, obesity --  all these are incompatible with parenting.  To be a good parent, you need to be in great shape physically and mentally.   Think of parenting like being a Marine or astronaut (or some such thing).  It takes all you've got to do the job right.

5. Every child is different.  They have different temperaments, different interests, different gifts. This is because God makes each person unique so we have a full society.  No child is made "wrong."  Your job is to watch and see what are your child's unique gifts, and then nurture those.   The things that a person is good at and that they enjoy are the things they are meant to do.

6. The more time and attention you put in while your child is a baby and preschool age, the easier your job is later.  Laying that solid foundation really pays off later.   

7. Think in terms of giving your children skills and experiences that will last a lifetime, rather than giving your child things.   Make a list of skills you want to help your child acquire: Play a musical instrument, sing, cook, hike, jumping rope, sew, draw, swim, doing math.   And so forth. Your child should leave home with a set of skills sufficiently developed that she or he could teach those skills to someone else.  

8. Prepare your children to be independent.  When my children were young, I made a list of skills I wanted to teach them so they would be able to leave the nest and be independent.   With each skill, I showed the children and then made them do it at least once.  That is enough for a skill set that lasts a lifetime.  I made a list and checked off each item as the lesson was completed.  The list included such skills as:
  • Making basic meals with simple foods, such as grilled cheese sandwich, an omelet, a casserole, bake a cake, bake a loaf of bread.
  • Sew by hand with a needle and thread.
  • Sew on a button.
  • Iron a shirt.
  • Clean a bathroom.
  • Wash a window.
  • Use basic handtools: screwdrivers, drill, hammer, saw, sandpaper.
  • How to shop for food: how to shop the perimeter, how to choose produce, how to pay.
  • How to do laundry at a laundromat.
  • How to write a thank you note.
  • How to use public transportation: reading maps and schedules, planning times and routes, paying, being alert.
  • How to fix a bike tire.    
I got some good laughs when my son called me from his first college apartment to say, "Apparently, I am the only person my age in all of New York who knows how to clean a bathroom."

9. Think of toys in terms of their play potential.  Spend more of your money on things with a lot of play potential.  How many hours of play will come from this?  Things with a lot of play potential include Legos, art supplies, a computer, a camera,  a bike, a skateboard.  Things with little play potential include action figures, gag gifts, single-purpose toys.  Of course, if a child has a dream toy and it is affordable and reasonable, you want to try to fulfill that dream.

Children do not need new toys every week.  It is perfectly reasonable to have gift-giving limited to birthdays and holidays.  Children who are given toys with a lot of play potential can always do something new with those toys. Children who are given toys with little or no play potential will always want new toys, since there is nothing to do with their toys other than possess them.  Such a pattern of toy ownership sets kids up for a lifetime of dissatisfaction with what they own.

10. What goes into our heads manifests itself in attitudes and actions.  Thus, we did not watch any violent or horror movies or television shows.  Actually, we did not watch any TV until the children were about 10 years old, and then only 2 hours one evening a week.  Teach your kids that they control what they put into their heads and that what goes in is important.  What manifests from a brain filled with violence and horror?  There are now many families that avoid TV and carefully choose movies and video games.  It feels joyful to consciously pick good entertainment.

11. Eat healthily.  Plan and make good meals with high nutritional content.  That means you are not buying junk food.  Just don't have it in your home.  If you don't buy it, you can't eat it.  Skip the soda, sugared "fruit" drinks, candy, chips, cheetos, white bread, fried foods.  Almost anything that comes in a package or can is not going to be as healthy as something from the fresh aisles of a grocery.  Childhood obesity is rampant and those foods cause it.  Raise healthy kids.

12. Eat meals together.  Set the table nicely every day, with napkins, flowers, candles.  TV, radio, or phones should not be at your meal.  It is time for you to be together.

13. Communicate.  Talk with your kids. Listen.  Listen. Listen. Be trustworthy.  Don't repeat to others what your children say.  Respect the communications.  If your kids are not sharing with you, it may be that you have not respected or valued their communications in the past.

14.  Don't snoop.  Period.  Of course, be aware and take action if your child seems to be acquiring weapons, drugs, stolen goods, etc.  But other than the obvious, don't snoop.  Respect your child's privacy and rely on communication with them.

15. Don't be afraid to tell your children that you have expectations.   Tell them you expect them to do well in school, keep out of trouble, go to college.  Or whatever you expect.  Tell them why you don't want them to do certain things or hang around with certain people.  Tell your children fact-specific things to do to handle certain situations.  For example, one of my children had some friends who were into shoplifting.  I told my child I would prefer he not hang around with those people, but that if he was going to be with them anyway, if they started to shoplift when he was with them, to immediately walk out of the store and leave them behind.  Do not discuss with them, just leave.  Not long after I explained this to him, he had the occasion to leave a store when his friends started shoplifting, and then to watch his friends taken out in handcuffs and put in a police car.  Whew, what a sad lesson.

16.  Share your faith and beliefs.  Wherever it is you draw your strength, share that with your children. I have a prayer-based faith, so I prayed with my children every day.   I also take a lot of joy and strength in nature and wanted to share that, too.  We often visited the beach, listening to the surf as the sun set.  We went hiking in the woods, pretending to be little Native children, trying to be silent in our footsteps.  Whatever is your source of strength, share it with your children.

17. Value education.  Spend your time and efforts helping your children learn.  Get them to bed on time so they have enough rest.  Give them a good breakfast and send them to school ready to learn.  Participate in the parent groups.  Get your kids plenty of books from the library or book store or yard sales.  Keep your home clean, non-chaotic, and quiet, so your kids have time and place to learn.  Bring your kids to museums, galleries, parks, plays, concerts, and other cultural activities.

18. Sing together.  Sing together as a family.  Make holiday videos or perform a family show where you sing together.  Nicer still if your family plays musical instruments.  Dance together.

19. Tell your children, "I love you," every day. Or several times each day.

20. Praise your children every day.  Tell your children they are good, smart, pretty, handsome, good artists, clever, good cooks, handy.  Laugh at their jokes, listen to their stories, tell them thank you.

21.  Be grateful and teach your children to be grateful.  Talk about how you are lucky to have each other, to have a home, food to eat, health.  Thank people. Teach your children to say "Thank you."  Thank your children.

22. If you are ever feeling bossy or on a power trip, stop and calculate the time until your child turns 18 and can be on her own and do whatever she pleases. The purpose of raising children is to let them learn how to make decisions for themselves.  A 16 or 17 year old should be making all their decisions on their own, with you there as guidance.  If not, how will they be ready to be 18?  A child should be allowed to make some of their own decisions, from a very early age.  Give children choices, where each choice is acceptable.  A 14 year old should be able to pick their own classes and activities, choose their own meals, choose their own friends, do their own schoolwork, choose their own clothes and hair style, set their own schedule.  If you want to control those things for your child, then don't be surprised if your child is not "ready to launch" when it is time.  Learning comes from making some mistakes.

23. Teach your children compassion. Teach them not to bully, to be kind to the underdog, to respect people of all races and religions. Take them on cultural excursions to meet different kinds of people and share in different cultures.

24. Teach your kids to be part of a community.  Take them with you as you volunteer.  Bring them with you while you give food to the homeless, go to protests, work on a community garden.  Teach your kids how to pass a petition, form an organization, stand up for what is right.

25. Let kids play outside.  Every day.

26. Teach your kids how to choose friends and how to be a friend.  When one of my children started at a big high school in seventh grade, he was concerned about having friends.  He had the lead role in the school play, so he was popular, but needed close friends at this new school.  I told him to look for people who shared his same interests and values and to make best friends with those people. I told him that anyone that has one or two best friends is automatically popular because they feel happy and secure.  Others will gather around that core of two or three close friends.

27. Laugh a lot.  Joyful laughter, not mean laughter.  Don't mock, tease, or taunt.  Have a lot of fun laughing with your kids.  Have family in-jokes.   We had a joke that ran for many years, where whenever we just missed a bus or train, we would say we did not miss "our bus," that the next one was "our bus." This extended to anything we missed: it was not ours, ours was the next one.

28. Teach your kids about sex. Teach them that their bodies are sacred. Teach them to respect others. Don't sexualize your children.  Dress your kids as kids, not as sexy little adults.  Give your kids a simple rule: Don't have sex till they are in college.  In California, it is illegal for anyone under age 18 to have sex.  That makes this an easy rule to explain and insist upon.  The legal age is lower in some states, but it is rarely conducive to getting an education and good start in life to have sex younger than age 18.

29. Have open communication with your children about the internet.  Talk to them about sexting, revenge porn, bullying.  Let them know the internet is wonderful, but is also a playground for predators.  Teach them that not everything is as it seems.  Teach your children to respect others on the internet, and not to engage in hacking, bullying, or posting sex photos.  Teach them to keep their computer cameras covered, except when in use. Teach them never to agree to meet anyone from the internet unless they run it by you.  Tell them that many sex predators meet victims this way.  Yes, this means you need to explain to your kids about sex predators.

30. Take pictures often.  Children grow up quickly.

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