Today I'm going to take my own advice. Even though I've got a lot to work on as a parent, I'm taking a minute to acknowledge my strengths. Here are 6 ways I'm glad we're raising our kids.
1. We limit media.
We ditched our TV by accident when our oldest was 5, and it turned out to be a great thing for us. We have family movie night and the kids play some computer games, but the media doesn't have a huge presence in our house.
Besides being a potential time-waster, TV often makes it seem normal for siblings to be enemies, or for parents to be clueless, or for sarcastic insults to be funny. It's not just TV, either. Recently I came across an article in the online version of Seventeen and was really sad how the subtext of it was basically: "Your parents are always getting on your case about something, but we TOOOOO-TALLY get it (so buy our magazine!)"
There's some great stuff out there, but as a general rule the media doesn't care about us or our family's welfare — so we use it sparingly.
2. We mean what we say.
There are plenty of times I say something like "stop bouncing that ball" and immediately wish I hadn't. Because if the kids ignore me then I have to go over there and enforce it, even though I literally just sat down.
But I drag my tired self over there and do it anyway because if I don't, I'll be paying for it forever. I just don't have the energy to spend a half-hour trying to convince kids who are resolutely ignoring me to leave the playground every time for the rest of eternity.
The opposite is also true. If I don't really care if they climb up the slide or run in the hallways, I won't tell them not to. We choose our battles and when we ask them to do or not do something, we mean it.
3. We eat together.
We eat dinner as a family practically every night, and there's one rule: the only things allowed at the table are eating and conversation. No books for our bookworms (in the future we'll probably have a no-device rule, too.)
My favorite way to get the kids talking about their day is to play Two Truths and a Lie: each kid likes trying to trick everyone, the other kids all like trying to guess the lie, and at the end of it I know two things about their day and use them to start a conversation. If we can hear each other over the low level roar of the other kids, that is.
4. We have a family mentality.
Even though we never did get around to creating that family motto, our kids have a strong sense of belonging to the Evans family.
We go on family hikes. We play family dodgeball and have the somewhat regrettably-named family gun time (Nerf guns, people!) If the kids complain about doing chores around the house, our standard answer is "we all have to work together to help the family."
Also, we don't feel the need to fill up every weekend and school vacation day with playdates. Of course we get to know their friends and invite them over occasionally, but we focus most of our energies on spending time together as a family and having the kids play with their siblings.
5. We expect the best of them.
An 18th century German writer named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said "The way you see people is how you treat them, and how you treat them is what they become." Parental expectations are huge.
If we overcompensate because we think a child will resent the new baby, or roll our eyes at sibling squabbles like we expect brothers and sisters not to get along, or allow our teenagers to be rude to us because we believe parent-hating is a normal teen rite of passage, we're setting expectations — and kids are pretty good at living up to them.
We've always tried to expect our kids to be forces for good in our family and in the world, and so far, they are.
6. We're raising them Mormon.
Not everyone is going to agree with me here, but I'd be making a huge omission if I didn't include this in a list of things I'm glad we're doing as we raise our kids. I can't think of any better way to boost their self-esteem than teaching them they're children of God who can always access Jesus' enabling and forgiving power.
At church they're surrounded by a community of people who love them and reinforce the morals we try to teach at home. There's a ready peer group of nice, welcoming kids who are (for the most part) also trying to be good Christians. Church programs encourage them to actively participate in their faith, to improve themselves, be productive, practice leadership and public speaking, show love to their family members, and serve others during a really formative time of their lives. The list goes on.
One thing I can say for sure is that raising kids is hard. It's easy to get sucked into the day-to-day work of making sure everyone is fed and has clean clothes and rides to basketball practice, but these are 6 of the big-picture things we've more or less successfully done and been glad of it.
If someone asked you what you've done right as a parent, what would you tell them?