Continuing the journey of #40TipsForParents with another five you might find helpful:
40 Tips for Parents: Tip #21
Give them Justice/Compassion/Generosity-flavoured experiences.
We have spoken about being honest and dealing with difficult topics when it comes to things happening in the country or tricky questions they may be asking [Tips 4 and 14]. But i want to encourage you to do things with them that teach them about Justice and bridge-building and compassion and connection.
i remember spending part of Christmas day with my sister-in-laws two girls sharing some sandwiches and sweets with some people who lived on the streets in our area. Another December we volunteered with our nieces with an organisation called ‘Carpenter’s Warehouse’ [Now Hope Exchange – https://thehopeexchange.org/] handing out hot meals and juice to some of the Cape Town city residents who don’t have proper homes.
Others i know have taken their children with them to protests, explaining to a level they can understand what is going on and letting their children make their own signs or decide how they would like to protest. On Friday my mate Wayne and his two boys were part of the L of the word CLIMATE STRIKE that was being spelled out on the beach as part of the Greta Thunberg inspired Protests happening around the world.
Get them involved in recycling, in doing the work of the eco-brick stuffing, in growing food in your garden that you can eat and share, in giving away nice toys/clothes they have to someone who has little or none, and more.
Children respond well to vision in my experience. If you can give them the ‘Why?’ they will blow you away with how far they will go and sacrifice to give and share and make right and help out.
It can be a family-building experience, as well as a world-transforming one.
i also remember a friend in the States who told his young kid to pick any family in the restaurant and they quietly settled the bill for that family, and have known people who have left extra money to cover that of the car behind them in the drive through – i bet if you ask your children to get creative with ways we can help another person or family today, they will come up with some great ideas.
Let’s model Compassion/Justice/Generosity to our children, but let’s also find ways and occasions to do Generosity/Compassion/Justice with them
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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #22
Give them time and opportunity to be children.
We have been handling some quite heavy topics in here, which i think are important, but what is equally important is making sure your children just have time to be fun-loving mud-soaking ball-bouncing Lego-crafting window-breaking children.
There is a fine line between the idea of kids-being-kids and this need for them to get serious and grow up and take responsibility and good luck to you all trying to figure that one out. If they’re going to be a Formula 1 champion or a Wimbledon Tennis Tournament winner then you better get them training while in diapers and watching Greta Thunberg bring the world to its knees at 16, well, you had just better get going is all.
But for the rest of us mortals, this is probably an area for balance and the younger they are, the more space we should be making for them to just chill and vibe a bit. Balance that with chores and responsibility and understanding. But then make time for fun and water fights and eating ice-cream for breakfast and fort-building in the lounge and camping out in the back garden and just being silly.
If you ever catch yourself shouting or disciplining your children for laughing too much, then take a moment to think about your life decisions and maybe send yourself to the naughty corner.
Life gets too serious too quickly and it can be an overwhelming and frightening place, especially the closer you get to this mythical thing known as ‘adulting’ [i feel like i am super close!] and so amidst all of the things that are helpful and good when it comes to raising passionate, values-driven, people-conscious, boundary-aware, community-focused young people, please also make sure you make time for silly and weird and games and dress up.
And if at all possible do it with them. Children who still have space and invitation for their parents to play with them? Well that feels like an absolute win.
Give your children time and opportunity to be children.
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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #23
Don’t refer to dad looking after the children as babysitting.
This might be a tip needed for people who aren’t parents as well, but if you as mom or dad ever say that what the dad doing is ‘babysitting’ you need to stop.
Dad doesn’t ‘babysit’ – dad parents. Perhaps the fact that many people tend to refer to it as ‘babysitting’ when dad does it is a sign that he is out of the space so much that when he is around it feels like an anomaly and needs to be called something different. But he is a co-parent.
Dad doesn’t babysit, he looks after his kids, just like mom does.
So let’s stop calling it that.
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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #24
Don’t pressurise your children to ‘succeed’.
When it comes to schoolwork, but also sport and hobbies, some parents have a tendency to almost try to live their life [and failed hopes and dreams] through their children, putting incredible pressure on them.
It is helpful to remember that each child is different and to not expect children two and more to do things exactly the same way child number one did. So as each child grows and matures there should be a sense of curiosity and learning from you as the parent as you do your best to figure out what works well for this particular child and what doesn’t.
i imagine it must feel like something of a fine line between leaving your children alone completely with the potential of the lazy procrastinators like myself ending up doing night-before-exam studies and scraping through, and the other extreme which is a micro-managed helicopter parent overburdening your child with studies and extra studies and bonus enriching materials and possibly exhausting them or causing them to burn out. The best path likely lies somewhere between these two spaces.
But also maybe take a step back and redefine what ‘success’ looks like. Is it achieving an A for Maths and English and entry into a top programme at University? Or is success possibly raising a child with good manners who makes wise decisions and surrounds themselves with good friends? There is obviously space for some Both/And in here as opposed to the extremes of Either/Or but i would strongly suggest that character and values and faith might be three of the categories you would look at for success. Obviously not everyone would include the faith category, but for those of you who would i would suggest a faith that your child has investigated and interrogated and explored and chosen for themselves might be a lot more valuable than anything they hold on to simply because you had it first.
i really appreciated my parents’ mantra of ‘Always do your best!’ when it came to schoolwork in particular.
The lessons/material learned in school feel largely unhelpful in the bigger picture of the world when i look back [and the whole system feels like it needs to be revamped, especially with access to Google meaning we never really have to know facts in our head if we have access to them elsewhere] and so things like teamwork, asking good questions, respecting people around you and more feel like the real things we should be caring more about.
Remember Tip #22 about letting them just be children in terms of playtime, exploration, imagination, colouring outside of the lines and figuring out who they are in the world. And then temper your expectation and pressure when it comes to things in life that really don’t matter [exam results, a sports match score] and rather engage them in the things that really do.
Redefine what success really means, inviting their thoughts and ideas and experience into that conversation and stop pressuring them towards the things that don’t. Let them know you love them, support them and will cheer them on regardless of result and that most of all you want them to grow up to become decent people who love people and thrive at living life well.
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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #25
Limit your screen time.
If you’re looking at your phone more than you’re looking at your child you need a serious intervention. But even if it’s not that bad, you may likely need to throw in some boundaries.
This was probably a tricky tip when we were talking about the screen times of our children [Tip #12] but i imagine it is a lot harder to navigate when it calls you to account.
If a child has to compete with your phone for some face time then something is seriously wrong.
i don’t want to be prescriptive for this one because each child and family and situation is different and so you need to take those things into account. But here are some ideas off the top of my head of practices to consider if you don’t already do them.
Mealtimes: So a future tip will encourage mealtimes with your children. But for those of you who already eat together as a family on some occasions, how about a ‘No cellphones at the dinner table’ policy? This feels like an easy one and if you can’t put your phone down for an hour then there is an Anonymous group with your name on it.
Restaurants: One of the saddest things to see in life [hand up – guilty!] is to be in a coffee shop or restaurant and every person at the table is on their phone. No conversation, no eye contact, just a glazed look and the smell of relationships dissipating into the ether. So if you restaurant or coffee shop or day out on a public holiday or beach or park, how about a no phones [for everyone!] policy there?
[i would add a little bonus tip here on photos because we love to take photos of things and that is good but sometimes we are too busy taking photos of memories that we are not making the actual memories… so i would suggest every now and then choosing to do something as a family and not take a single picture but just be fully in the moment. Other times take photos!]
Third suggestion is a no-fly-zone type time period that would be family-specific. So maybe between 6 and 8 pm or between school and children’s bedtime for the parents to be off phones. Or one day of the week. Or Sundays after lunch for the rest of the day. Facebook and the Twitterer will still be there. Messages from work can wait. Family whatsapp group crises can be resolved without you. If you are unable to make some times to strictly be off your phones, then i would suggest you have a problem.
Limit your screen time [and add television and tablet and computer to things that keep your attention away from your children and need some monitoring and yes, i see what i did there].
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[To return to the beginning of the series and catch up on any tips you may have missed, click here]