Writing a book on parenting has never been on my list of goals in life. It might make the list if I ever felt like I knew what I was doing, but the more children we’ve had, the less I know. There are many conflicting opinions on parenting and people waste a lot of time arguing, so I usually avoid the whole topic, preferring to sit on the shore and stay dry.
Still, raising seven kids to adulthood—with only five to go—I’ve noticed some things that worked along the way. Our children have been generally happy and mostly well-behaved, although definitely human.
Unfortunately there have been times when I expected them to behave better than I do.
Eyes closed, talking fast before I chicken out, here are three tips for happy kids:
1. Set limits. Children are like pinballs, bouncing to see where they hit and what will stop them. They may not act like it at the time, but they feel safe and loved when someone sets limits. Out-of-control kids are unhappy kids.
2. Stay positive about their other parent. It is painful and scary for a child to hear criticism and disgust aimed at a parent, most especially when it is spoken by the other parent. Find a trusted mentor to counsel you through your frustration and problems. Don’t use your children as a sounding board—that load is too heavy for kids. (Bonus tip: this goes for talking about your church and pastor, too.)
3. Let them have some free time. A quiet afternoon at home, unscheduled blocks of time to play and create, and time to just “be” are invaluable childhood experiences. Be aware of where they are and keep an eye on them, but don’t interrupt or embarrass them. Children benefit from some “hands-off” parenting sometimes.
Whew! Okay, that wasn’t so bad. I can do tips for happy kids. It’s a little like dipping my toe in the water without getting in all the way.
Your thoughts are welcome—please leave a comment below.