Although the largest responsibility I’ve had thus far in my life is a chia pet, I know I can use some great tips for raising an amazing child. After watching my stepbrother and his family emulate the Brady Bunch over the last decade, I decided to ask them how they do it. I consulted my stepsister-in-law Rachel and after having three children, she had a few tips worth sharing. Here are seven tips for raising an amazing child.
1. Make the Finish Line Your Starting Point
The first piece of advice Rachel offered was start out where you want to end up. Naturally, I was confused, but it makes sense if you think about it. “If you want your kids to eat vegetables, then feed them vegetables. If you want them to sleep in their own bed and not between you and your husband, then make them sleep in their own bed,” she said. Things tend to get out of hand when life speeds up; before you know it you’re meeting your child halfway to avoid conflict. Rachel encourages parents to see the big picture and set patterns early on. You won’t face as much strain as you would if you try to change your tune halfway through. Decide how you want your family to function and start off on that note. Knowing what you want from the get-go is one of the most effective tips for raising an amazing child.
2. Make "No" Your Friend
While I am a firm believer that the word "no" can be applied to all aspects of your life, Rachel stressed the importance of having the final say as a parent. “I am continually telling my kids that once they get it all figured out then they can move out, but until then I get the final say. Kids need to be told no.” After that, you have to find what form of discipline works for you. While having the final authority has been the backbone of her parenting, her specific disciplinary technique is “giving choices.” This has been the most unique and effective method I have seen work on both young and preadolescent children.
3. Giving Choices
Probably the most innovative parenting technique I have seen my stepbrother and his wife implement is their use of choices. If their child is misbehaving, they give them two behavioral alternatives versus bossing them around. The trick is, they offer two choices that they are prepared for the child to pick. The catch: one is clearly the better option. For instance, say one of their children is yelling and crying at the dinner table. Instead of telling them to stop, they say “you can either stop screaming and eat with the family or you can go sit in your room.” They allow them decide their own fate. In turn, the child feels respected because he or she had a say in the matter.
4. Relax, Monkey See Monkey do
Parenting is a roller coaster. “Kids make messes, they throw tantrums. They hit you, don't eat their food, or fail to go to bed on time. Their nap schedule gets messed up and you feed them fruit snacks. Your kids are watching you and will know how to handle life by how you handle it. Roll with the punches, keep your kids up late and feed them ice cream for dinner,” Rachel said. They will watch you handle life’s bumps and learn to do the same. You’ll teach them to be flexible and adapt anything thrown their way. Smile and laugh where you can. Freaking out does nothing for a situation.
5. Love Thyself
Similar to relaxing, you should love yourself and make it visible to your children. Both my mother and Rachel have both done a flawless job with this. Although my own mother has been overweight for the vast majority of her life, I have never met someone more confident than her. Growing up, she never based her self worth on her physical appearance. My mom derives her confidence from her wit and profound intelligence of practicing medicine. Growing up, I never knew anything different, which I can’t say for a lot of my female peers. I learned to value myself on my sense of humor and academic capabilities; Ultimately, I learned to care about aspects of my life that would never fade. If you love yourself and take care of your own needs, your children will follow suit without a second thought.
6. Pick Your Battles
Marriage counselors say this phrase a lot, but they wouldn’t have to if everyone learned a simple lesson: Don’t nag others. As a parent, you should learn what is worth fighting over and what to let pass. If your child feels you’re ripping them apart with criticism or even polite suggestions all hours of the day, they’re going to avoid you. Your best bet: try to only argue over issues of moral judgment and functionality. (Functionality being something that bothers you that happens daily, i.e. chores)
7. A House United
First and foremost, you should encourage your children to respect every family member. DON’T pit them against each other or the other parent. Try to position your family as a team in everything you do and make them understand that you are all working cohesively toward a common goal. Rachel has done a great job with this one also. She always refers to her family as a group. It’s not the kids against the parents. She phrases everything in terms of what’s best for the family. When rounding up the group to go out, she says things like “let’s go Brooks family.” She puts equal responsibility on both the children and parents.
At the end of each day, whether you hit the pillow exhausted or relatively unscathed by life’s curve balls, you just hope that your children will wake up happy and healthy. Some of that is within your control and other parts, not so much. Control what you can and relax about the rest. What gives you an edge as a parent?