Friday, January 17, 2014

Raising Happy Kids

*a repost*

I'm not an expert on anything.  I just want to put that out there before I continue on with this post.

Although I'm not an expert on raising kids, I've seen my mother raise six and I'm on my journey raising four.  I have learned quite a bit over the years, and I'm still learning. 

I've yelled (still do), I've grabbed arms and I've thrown out toys that were left on my floor.

I've even spanked a bum.  Gasp.

Parenting is a tricky business, and it's the hardest job anyone could ever have.  You wear your heart outside your body, you worry about tiny people who don't even know how to worry about themselves.

You second guess youself.  About a zillion times.  In a day.

Until someone is a parent, they could never, ever understand what it takes to raise a child.  The job never ends and the mind never stops working.

I've gone to bed many nights telling myself,  I could have done better today.

Many nights.

But the next day, I get up and I do better.  Or at least I try to.  That's all any of us can ever do.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I've learned about raising happy kids.  I'm not talking about raising doctors, engineers or NFL football players.  I'm not talking about perfect kids, because no child is perfect, and no child should ever try to be. 

I'm just talkin' happy kids.

1.  Respond with love.

This seems easy, but I'm talking about loving them all the time.  Even when you want to grab their arm and pull it out of the socket for misbehaving in a store.  Even when they are screaming.  Even when they make you so mad your blood is ready to boil. 

When my oldest was a toddler, I spanked his bum.  He was screaming and flailing that he didn't want to take a nap.  In the moment, I was over the top frustrated and I spanked his little bum right through his pants.

And then he hit me back.

I never spanked him again.  I decided from that moment on, I would just love him.  If he was crying, screaming, tantrum-ing or throwing toys he still deserved my love.  I decided that if I loved him, I would teach him love.  If I'm always angry, all I teach is anger.

And so I loved him (and all my other babies) all the time.  I became their happy, safe place and I remind them constantly that no matter what my reaction may be to something, I'm a "place" they can always go.

2. Give them your time.

There are about a zillion things to do every day.  We all feel it, and time is a precious luxury many of us can't afford.  We're raising kids in a new era, an era of cell phones and the internet.  We have to navigate waters our parents never even dreamed of navigating.

A few years ago I read a magazine article about using time wisely.  It resonated with me.  The article made me think about how if my kids are home, they deserve my time.  Not Facebook.  Not my cell phone.  Not a computer game.

But my kids.

If there is one thing I learned over the last eleven years it's reevaluate my time.  I still Facebook, blog and Pinterest very (very) often.  I still chat with all my mommy friends.

Just not much between the hours of 3pm and 9pm.  

3.  Don't give them everything.

Truthfully, this lesson was learned by default.  I've never been able to buy my kids anything they wanted.  I've never been able to sign them up for everything they want to do or take them wherever they want whenever they want.  I have no nanny, no third arm and no bottomless bank account.

I have four kids.  I'm one person.  That's life.

Even with Hubby home, we're still outnumbered, we're still working in a zone defense.  

I've found my kids to be much more understanding of money and other people because they've had to be since they were born.  I trust that this lesson will be very helpful in life, because as The Rolling Stones so eloquently sang, "You can't always get what you want...."

4.  Sleep is essential.  Food is too.

Sleep is a must.  At least it is in my house.  I can't deal with overtired kids, and I'm very unhappy when I'm overtired.  If I ever wake up really annoyed and grumpy I try to fall asleep to wake up in a better mood.

True story.

My mother was the first person to stress the importance of naps, routine and bedtimes.  Turns out she knew what she was talking about (isn't that always the case?).  I need quiet time, I need rest and my kids do too.  We're all much more civilized when we're rested (and well fed).

(The well fed part is for my Hubby.  You don't want to run into him in a dark alley when he's waiting for dinner.)

5.  Teach them by example.

I do my best to teach my babies by example.  I say please and thank you.  I wait my turn.  I clean my mess and return my shopping carts (well, 99% of my shopping carts..).

I use the word "appropriate" a lot.  I also use the word "inappropriate" a lot.  Truthfully, I use a few other words a lot that I can't write in a mommy blog.  But hey, no one is perfect. 

Rather than tell my kids everything they shouldn't be doing, I try to show them what they should be doing.

So far, it's seemed to work well.

And now, having shared what works for me so far, I'll continue to learn and evolve and adapt.  My kids will continue to teach me more than I teach them, and I'll continue to stumble through this thing we call parenting, hoping not to screw up too much.

What have you learned about raising happy kids?

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