Wednesday, January 18, 2017

6 Things We're Doing Right With Our 6 Kids

About the same time kids enter those pubescent middle school years, they start to exaggerate their faults and don't give themselves enough credit for all the amazing things they do. The other day I sat down with one of my kids and listed all the good things about them we could think of!

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.

If someone asked you what you'd done right as a parent, what would you say? {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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 and watch TedEd videos on YouTube, 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 and no cell phones for anyone else.

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 actively raising them in our faith.

Not everyone is going to agree with me here, but I'd be making a huge omission if I didn't include our membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 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?

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Crystal said...

Wow, what a great list! You are an amazing example. Sure I do a few things right, but this list gave me some ideas. I've got being Mormon down pat though. ;-)

The Lady Okie said...

I like this. I was just telling Jordan last night that sometimes I feel like every little thing we do or don't do with R is either going to make her awesome or land her in jail at the age of 23. But we are doing things right so far. Trying to limit her device time (she's only 17 months, but we don't let her play games on our phone or sit and watch cartoons or anything), we try to eat together when we can (although with both of us working FT it's hard), and we are trying to mean what we say. I guess it starts young! She needs to know that when I say no, I mean it and will enforce it.

Jenny Evans said...

Most of us are probably doing better than we think. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about the ramifications of everything you do and don't do as a parent.

Janine Huldie said...

Love, love, love your list and we do many of the same, as well here with our two kids ;)

Katy said...

Thanks for helping us all focus on the positive. I totally agree with meaning what you say. Now, if only I could help them learn to discern when and who don't mean what they say so they know how to handle that in the real world.

AnneMarie said...

Good job, Jenny!
I love how you mention that with limiting media, your kids don't know that it's "normal" for kids to be enemies and that kind of thing. Being sheltered from the onslaught of ridiculousness that is in so much of the media is so refreshing! Though it did cause me a huge amount of culture shock when I went from being homeschooled to attending school as a 7th grader-I was so confused as to why many of my classmates talked about "hating" their parents and teachers, because that was such a foreign concept to me!

Anna said...

This is great. We aren't Mormon, but I really appreciate #6. If there's one wish we have for our kids in their lives it's that they growing up loving God, loving themselves, and loving others.

Unknown said...

Dinner time was really important in our family, we ate and talked. We did not allow teasing and bullying in our family, and now as adults, they really love and support each other. We didn't have a tv for many years, and never had more than one family tv. We went to church every Sunday, and Wednesday night for youth group (We are Mormons). We went to choir practice, usually with one or more kids. We sang together, we played musical instruments together. We played board games together. After dinner, kids stayed home unless there was a real activity to go to. No hanging out with friends at night. From the time they were toddlers, if they made a mess, even accidentally, they helped to clean it up. They were taught to respect adults. The substitute teachers were glad to see our kids in class.
Now, they love each other, they love their parents, they love their spouses and their children. They care about others. They are Good People.

Jenny Evans said...

Several years ago I was reading a picture book where the older sister was SO MEAN to the younger sister, who just shrugged and went on like it was totally normal... and I realized that to her (the younger sister) it WAS totally normal. Kids are blank slates in terms of social norms, so whatever they see the most in their earliest years will absolutely be adopted as "normal!" Carried to an extreme, that's why kids from abusive homes often become abusive and so on. This has reminded me to be extra-mindful about what I put in front of them on a regular basis.

Jenny Evans said...

I think not allowing teasing and bullying at home is huge. Even if it's just joking, it can still hurt someone's feelings or have a kernel of mean-spiritedness in it. We always tell our kids that being mean is never funny, end of discussion.

Robyn said...

I'm (trying to) teach tolerance and compassion. I'm also teaching them to stand up for those who cannot speak up for themselves One time, my younger son had gotten in trouble for arguing with a kid at school. Turns out, he was standing up for his older brother, who is non-verbal. I could not have been prouder of was an ice cream night for him!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog, and I have to say, I couldn't agree more about limiting media! I find that when my kids watch any TV geared toward kids 5+, their behavior implodes. They become sarcastic, rude and snotty with each other. They also seem to think biting remarks toward their parents is acceptable. The media, peers and overall society has such an impact on children (and adults). I appreciate the idea we can limit it and be quite find. Lovely blog. Amy

Unknown said...

Raising kids in the faith isn't a good thing. I think we should teach children not to blindly believe, but to choose their own faith. Choice prevails over blind faith. That is what truly matters.

Jenny Evans said...

We are indeed raising our kids to know, understand, and evaluate what we're teaching them and most importantly, encouraging them to seek spiritual experiences of their own so that they have a firm foundation for their personal beliefs versus just doing what we tell them - thank you for pointing out how important that is!