In a university parenting class I teach, students interview their parents and ask them a variety of questions about what it was like to raise their children.
If we could have brought in these parents to class and lined them up in front, they would represent decades of experience and a rich “lessons learned” dialogue. I wish we could, but in place of that, I took some of what advice they shared and will anonymously excerpt what they said below. There’s so much outstanding advice they shared that we can all absorb, and if we do, we’d be better people and parents. They summed up all they learned in a few sentences and they are GOLD. Take note of how many times the word “love” was used and and the context spoken. Look for other repeated themes that indicate it’s important to a lot of parents looking back on their lives.
“Everybody’s different and every parent will do it a little differently. But if you decide to have kids, recognize the responsibility that it is. A good parent only punishes out of love. Make sure you do all you do with your kids from a place of love.”
“We all just keep learning. We learn first to be parents to little kids, then teenagers, then adults… you’re never a pro at it when you start a new stage.” My mom added, “and we’ve made mistakes at every stage.” My dad’s advice was “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“Everyone has bad days and good days. Sometimes you’ll feel really patient and others you won’t have any patience left. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” My mom said, “If you say it, do it. If you have an expectation, expect it.”
“It’s a hundred million times worth every single effort that I put into being a mom, and it is so joyful. I would not trade it for anything.” There have always been ups and downs, but there are things he has learned as a parent that would not have been possible any other way. My mom said, “ Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re perfect now. Give yourself grace and make sure you yourself are taken care of.”
“Have fun and enjoy your children.” It’s important to enjoy the time you have with them because one day they will grow up and you’ll wonder where the time went.
“Love. Show love to your kids and they will be ok. Love verbally by saying it, physically with hugs and kisses, and love in action. Show them by loving their mom. I believe in and love you very much. You will be a great parent. “
“Show them all the love you can muster and more. The world is a scary place, but knowing you love them and that there is always a place for them at home is the best thing you can do for them.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be too hard on your kids. You aren’t going to do it right, the most important thing is that you do it.”
“You are never going to be ready or prepared. If you wait to be ready to be a parent you’ll wait forever. It stretches you more than anything you ever experience, but also will bring you more joy than anything you’ll ever experience.”
“I would encourage you to enjoy every single second of every age and never wish a stage away. I enjoyed every stage of every one of my children and I would encourage you to do that same thing.”
“Start a journal during the pregnancy of each child, and to continue that journal throughout their life. Write everything down because you think that you will remember it, but you won’t.”
“Never yell at them and show them unconditional love. He said yelling does not get you anywhere, and is a lot more hurtful than helpful for both the parent and child. He also said to let your kids know that mistakes happen and mistakes are okay. My mom said her best advice would be to show them love at all times.”
Make sure that you and your spouse are in agreement on how certain things should be, you don’t want to have somebody that’s “Well we’ll just let it go this time. Well, no, we need to do this.” Be consistent, work together with your spouse.
She also talked about how as a parent, mistakes are going to be made and it’s important to forgive yourself and learn from the experiences and be conscious of what is happening. It is okay to tell a child that you made a mistake and are wrong and from that, kids will be able to recognize and learn to apologize and that it is okay to be wrong. With admitting wrong, children will learn they can be vulnerable and how not to be stubborn and proud.
“DO IT!” My mom said, “You aren’t going to know the best days until you are out of them, so enjoy every moment and just know that everything is going to be O.K.” My dad said, “Always remember that they are each their own individual person. It is so easy to make them feel small and insignificant, so don’t be too blunt or hard on them. Your job is to support, provide guidance, and protect them. Always make sure they know they are loved. Just breathe and relax and know it will work out. What is significant now won’t be significant later.”
“Each child is an individual with individual wants, needs, abilities and goals.. Although families are a group dynamic, each child needs and deserves specific care and nurturing. As the child grows into a teen and then a young adult and then an adult, the parent’s role changes to allow the child to make more and then all of life’s determinations. A parent becomes more of an advisory than an instructor.
“Don’t beat yourself up if children don’t always choose what you would want them to choose. Enjoy each stage, because it will pass quicker than you think. Diversify yourself outside of being a parent. Don’t lose yourself in becoming a parent. Keep your own identity.”
Mom’s advice is to not worry about control and work on fixing the power struggle between herself and her kids. Validate the child’s opinions. Their feelings are valid even if they are different from what I may think they should be. She would also focus on less fear-based parenting, but rather parent her children with hope. Let them experience life, and let them feel how they are feeling.
Take it one minute at a time
– Make sure you are super united with your husband, teenagers will destroy your marriage if you let them. Be united!
– Pray with kids, don’t lose your temper
– Hug them several times a day, tell them you love them every day
– Do activities with your kids, no phones, just quality time with siblings.
– Don’t entertain them to death, then they can’t interact with each other. Go boating, hiking, camping
– Religion is so important! Believe in something bigger than yourself, have hope!!
– Don’t over indulge kids, don’t buy their love, don’t just be their buddy, be their parent
– Eat dinner together with your family (or at least a meal)
– Your spouse is #1, their needs come before the kids. Prioritize your relationship with
them cause they will be there for you after the kids are gone.
“I would tell people the thing I learned is don’t be afraid to ask for help from other adults or professionals, read books about it. I also think that families are really important and that extended families are really important and to be involved with them.”