The older my kids get, the more I find myself asking if I’ve done a good job (so far) as a parent. I went from being a clueless, single parent to a dedicated and proactive pain in their backsides. Is that enough for raising children, however?
I know that I’ve evolved as a father. I’m constantly learning from the mistakes I’ve made and am careful not to repeat them. I am my own worst critic and work extremely hard to be a positive example that my kids can always look up to. But again, is it enough?
My children are amazing. I say that a lot and will never stop but they are all uniquely different too. My 13 year old son (Michael) is an athlete. Brandon, my 11 year old son is funny, book smart and questions everything. My 5 year old daughter, Brianna, she’s just a princess and my boss. There is no cookie cutter formula for raising children because they each require their own separate rules and guidelines on life.
As a parent, my ultimate goal was to help them become the best possible versions of themselves. But since I am only one man, I needed to find and/or create a system that would allow me to raise each of them as individuals. I found what I needed and turned them into habits…
8 Effective Habits for Raising Children
1. Set boundaries.
Setting boundaries and telling your kids “NO” doesn’t make you a mean parent. No matter how much they cry and make you feel bad, children need the structure and discipline that can only come from boundaries. Boundaries show that you care, that you’re always watching and are there to protect them. Boundaries keep your children safe and help them to be more responsible as they grow.
2. Know that quality is just as important as quantity.
Because of work, most parents never have the amount of time they’d like to spend at home with their children. We’re too busy putting food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof on their heads. The one thing I do to make up for the amount of time I miss, however, is to make sure the amount of time we do have together is special.
Let’s be clear. Spending money on your kids is no replacement for time. They need you. For me, family time can be anything from cooking and enjoying dinner together. I coach my 13 year old’s basketball team. We go to their boy scout meetings, hiking and camping trips together. I even take my daughter with us.
Yes, a lot of these things cost money but it isn’t about that. I’m spending as much time as I can with them and making our moments count.
3. Teach empathy.
Help your children to understand the humanity in other people. By trying to see the goodness and reasons someone might do things differently, we’re teaching our kids how to compromise with life and to be more open about the decisions we make.
4. Respect your kids.
The best way to teach kids about respect is to be respectful to others. Children need guidance but they also need the space to grow and the right to make their own decisions. As long as those decisions don’t violate house rules or put them in harm’s way.
5. Encourage them.
We all need encouragement sometimes. A child more than anyone. That doesn’t mean you have to cater to your kids or do everything for them. Encouragement means that you’re there for support and allowing them to learn from their own mistakes.
Just knowing that you’re there to help if they need you can be all the motivation they need to do better or try something new.
6. Be thankful.
I teach my kids to appreciate life and focus on what they have, not on what they don’t. It’s been a long and hard lesson for them to learn (and they still don’t have it right) but it’s an important quality for them to have. It helps children to accept failure and disappointment. To be grateful for their success.
Being thankful gives children the freedom to enjoy life more.
7. Listen to your kids.
Communication is a big part of how our family works. Whether they are speaking to me or not, I do my best to pay attention and listen to what my kids are saying.
I want to know what they’re afraid of, what concerns them, how their day was at school. I encourage them to ask daddy questions. Listen long enough and kids will give you the insight to help and support them.
You can also choose not to listen and then wonder why your kids stopped talking to you.
8. Say I LOVE YOU.
I tell my kids that I love them every single day. So much so that my daughter and younger son will come out of nowhere and beat me to the punch. “I love you daddy”! They need to hear it, feel it. I need it too. I kiss them to bed at night and in everything I do.
Believe it or not, I tell my kids how much I love them even when I’m frustrated or angry. Love is the one thing your kids will never grow tired of and something we always have to give.
Show your kids you love them but tell them you love them too. Every single day.
I’ve been raising my kids for 13 years but it feels more like yesterday. No matter how much I know, I know that I will never know enough. All we can do is have fun, make mistakes and be there when our children need us.