When I was younger, I worked in a nursing home. It was a sad and disheartening place to work. The people you’d normally find there are not in their best condition and it was heartbreaking on most days.
On weekends, the grown children of some of those people would come to visit. They’d sit awkwardly on the stiff chairs, obviously just fulfilling their duty. However, once the obligatory hour and a half were over, they’d quickly walk out looking visibly relieved.
The parents would be left with nothing else but to look forward to when their children would be back next. Some residents had no visitors at all. It was so sad to watch.
On occasion, there would be a special resident, one who always had visitors. The children of this person would stay the entire length of the visiting hours and show up punctually the next week. Many times, his family members would bring dinner. His grandchildren would come on weekends and the halls would turn into a family reunion every Saturday.
And I asked myself, what was the difference between these two sets of circumstances? How were these residents different?
So, I started to look at my own situation and of the people around me. I finally came up with the most important items that would ensure a long and loving relationship with your children.
1Let your kid be whatever or whoever he wants to be
Identity is very important to anyone.
When you were young, you probably had a good idea of wanted you to be- a teacher, pilot or doctor. Although you did not grow up to be those things, you were pretty much decided at that time.
Kids, as they grow, change their minds almost as quickly as sand falling from an hourglass. It is what they do. If you do not allow them to be who and what they want to be when they want to be it, they will resent you.
2Don’t force them to share their toys
I know this is a sore subject for some.
When we were young, we were taught that nice people share. Our parents would take away our toys and give them to another child to play with.
Let’s look at this from another perspective.
How would you feel if your boss or your parent insisted that you give the keys to your new car to your friend just because nice people share? You would hate it. After all, it is YOUR car.
Well, if the toys truly belong to the child, shouldn’t he be the one to decide whether he should share or not? If you take his possessions away, he will dislike you as much as you would dislike someone who takes your things.
Instead of forcing him to share his toys, keep a separate basket of toys that are for everyone. This will make it easier for him to share with his playmates.
3Stop finding fault
Some parents never realize that their kids grow up. They continue to correct them all their lives without knowing that it embarrasses and upsets the kids. Nobody likes to be constantly told they are not measuring up. No one wants to be corrected all the time.
If your boss did that to you, you’d probably quit. So, validate the things your child does right instead of constantly correcting the things he does wrong.
4Know when there is something very important to your child
When my son was thirteen, he wanted his ears pierced very badly. His dad did not want this. So, my son, being the resourceful and totally badass kid that he is, recruited his little brother to steal sewing pins from my sewing basket and did it himself.
I didn’t realize what had happened until I noticed that he was wearing his hoody all the time- even in 90-degree heat. I pulled the hood off and there were my sewing pins sticking out of his earlobes.
Now, I could have gone ballistic, but all I did was laugh. I told him to take out the pins, let his earlobes fully heal and I would take him to a nurse to have it done right. In short, I knew I was licked.
Now, ear piercing is not a life or death thing so I could afford to be magnanimous. Some things aren’t, so make sure to choose wisely which issues to stand your ground.
5Make the ratio of your time together way overbalanced on the fun and happy side
One of my biggest regrets in life was that I was so stressed out trying to work an insane job while raising my kids. I should have given myself more breaks. For that reason, the happy times were fewer.
Everything that happens to us, we will remember as either happy or unhappy.
Summer vacations and birthday parties are some of the events we consider happy. These are times we think of as pleasurable. Dentist appointments, on the other hand, are sucky so we consider them as unhappy.
6Don’t give them too much
This is a problem for many parents and I’m guilty of this one, too.
I grew up in a house with seven kids. I shared a bedroom with three sisters in bunk beds shoved against the wall. There was little money for buying clothes. It was only when I was thirteen that I could finally babysit and buy the clothes I wanted.
Because of this, I thought it was best to give my kids everything I wanted as a child but could not have. This, unfortunately, made them feel overwhelmed.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was making them miserable while trying to make them happy. They felt that there was no way they could contribute back.
When I finally let them work and make money to buy what they wanted, they became resourceful and happy.
You cannot make up for a hard childhood by buying things for your kids. You make up for it by being a loving parent.
7Let them make you laugh
Everyone loves someone who finds them sparkling, charming and amusing. When your child makes you laugh, have you noticed how he tries to be funnier and funnier? Making you laugh is a gift from him to you. And laughing at his jokes is a gift from you to him.
Was there ever someone who made you feel sparkling, charming and amusing? How did you feel about that person?
8Touch their hair as they pass
There is nothing like physical touch to make a person feel that you really want to share your space with them. Kids love to cuddle and get close.
I have endless photos of me and my son as he was growing up. In each one, our arms are entwined. We were always physically close and that closeness has remained to this day now that he is grown.
9Love and protect your own parents
No matter how much we may have resented our own parents, they loved us and they did the best they could do for us. No parents hate or dislike their kids unless they have serious issues. Our parents just got overwhelmed and upset as we were growing up, and our kids, when they grow up, will probably feel the same way, too.
Show your kids a good example and overlook all the upsets for the time you have left with your parents.
10Always be willing to start over
My oldest son and I used to have fights. If we had kept it up, we would both have been miserable and upset all night.
At that point, I would look at him, hold out my arms and say “Can we please start over?”. He would tear up, come to me and we would be done.
This is a great way to end an upset. You both agree that it’s the end, and you start over.
Love your kids. Tell them how precious they are to you. Use discipline with love and understanding and you will not be alone in your later years.