I love children, which is fortunate since I had five, then later added three stepchildren. Now I have over twenty grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Here are my ten tips.
1. The most important decision you will ever make in life is your choice of a life partner, soul mate, spouse. Choose wisely. This will have the greatest impact on your ability to be the best mother you can possibly be.
2. Never belittle, criticize, ridicule, undermine or otherwise attack your husband to your children. Your children, especially your daughters will mimic your behavior someday with their own husbands. The greatest sense of security you can give your children is the bond of love, respect, and trust between you and your husband.
3. Take the time for one-on-one with your children. I know it’s hard to do in our busy society, especially when most mothers work outside the home. It’s also more difficult for mothers with several children. Even if it’s just five or ten minutes of reading, praying, playing or listening.
· This is one of my greatest regrets, especially when I cuddle a grandchild or great-grandchild to read or sing and talk with them. My mind invariably travels back to when my kids were small and how I didn’t take, or have, the time to do this with them. I missed something so vital and precious with them that can never be recaptured.
4. Listen! Listen, even if you’re busy. Listen, even if what your child is saying doesn’t seem important. When you don’t listen, it says to that child that he/she is NOT important enough to you. Take time to ask them how their day was, even if the whole day was spent with you and you already know how it was. It’s usually too late to establish communication when that child becomes a teenager and shuts you out.
5. Accept all gifts with gratitude and kindness. That child loves you enough to pick that flower, draw, scribble or color that picture, give you a rock or other treasure they found outdoors, or grab you for a hug and kiss with dirty face and hands. Have that refrigerator covered with artwork from your children. Cherish it, save it to give to your adult children someday.
6. Do NOT compare one child to another. Show no favoritism. Each child is unique, with different personalities, different talents, different sensitivities – each uniquely and wonderfully made. No child wants to feel like they don’t measure up to a sibling’s intelligence or accomplishments. And because of this uniqueness, punishment should be different, but fairly meted out. What works for one child will not necessarily work for another.
7. Create wonderful memories. Start family traditions, especially for holidays. Take vacations or staycations (where you stay home or in town) loaded with fun and fellowship – memories. If money is a problem, find freebie or inexpensive things to do. Check your local community events, go camping, camp, do water sports, or other things in your own backyard. Bake, cook and do crafts with your children. Take lots of pictures. Do scrapbooks and journals of your child’s life.
· Now that I have adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, sharing stories and memories, good and bad, is one of the favorite things we do.
8. Share family/ancestral history through stories and pictures. Give your children a sense of their roots. Encourage contact and interaction with other family outside of the immediate family: cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. I can’t stress enough how important family is. If you have adopted children, do not feel threatened or take it personally when they seek out birth parents. It’s innate in all of us to know our roots. If you feel threatened or violated by their need to discover their birth family, that’s your insecurity.
9. Allow and encourage your children to pursue their dreams, goals, talents, and desires. If you don’t believe in them, how can they believe in themselves? Encourage, support, but don’t pressure and ramrod them. Also, along with this, please don’t live vicariously through your children. They are not your ticket to recapture or fulfill your own lost dreams and goals.
10. Snoop! This is probably the one thing that many people will disagree with me about. IF you suspect that your child is involved in something dangerous, criminal, unhealthy, threatening, immoral, or being bullied or may be suicidal, snoop! For no other reason should you violate their privacy, and certainly not because of your curiosity about their personal life. I dare to say that many parents regret not having done so if a tragedy could have been prevented, or the life of their child spared. It’s better to incur your child’s anger for snooping than to live with this form of regret.
I heard a preacher say one time that one of the greatest things God will hold us accountable for is the nurture and admonition of our children. Your greatest legacy will be the lives you've left behind to carry on.