Do The Work!

Years back, Kathy and I visited my Grandfather when he was sick in the hospital and his health was failing.  During this visit, my Grandfather was of good energy and he shared a quick snapshot of his life and some of his best life lessons.  One thing that he shared was that he believed that you really only have until a child is eight years old to mold them and teach them to behave and be a good and successful citizen.  After they reach eight years old, he believed, you now have a small person who has essentially figured out the world and changing them is very difficult.  Kathy and I were young when this conversation took place and we were in the process of raising our kids.  I am thankful for the advice.  While we were young, we took child raising very seriously.  We disciplined when it was necessary and taught our children to behave, get along with others and excel in their work.  We were not perfect but worked hard at it.  It’s not easy and you can get lazy sometimes.  But with children, you have to do the work!

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I have often said that it would be great if they gave you an Owner’s Manual when you leave the hospital.  But instead you are handed this amazing miracle of life all wrapped up in a blanket and off you go!  You may have some babysitting experience and you will certainly get lots of advice from your family on what you’re “supposed to do”.  And… you are likely equipped with the life baggage of knowing what not to do.  And you are way young and just trying to process everything and figure it all out.

You absolutely want the best for your kids.  That is a given.  So what does that look like in the inexperienced parent’s mind?

  1. Provide For Your Family:  I work really hard to give my children the things that they need.  I spend much of my time on my career and work really hard to give them financial security.  Is that what they need or do they need you to spend more time with them?  Is money the best thing you can give your child?
  2. Be Their Friend:  I want to spend every minute that I can with my child and I keep them connected at my side at all times.  Is this providing an environment where you are teaching, leading and parenting or are they really just filling a need that you have?  Have you noticed serious separation anxiety when you leave your child with someone else?
  3. Wrestling Buddy:  I want my boy to be a man and be good at sports so I love to wrestle with him.  Is this really something he needs or is it something you need?  Are you raising up a little bully by getting him “toughened up”?
  4. No Daycare For Me:  I don’t want my child to be watched by anyone else but me.  I don’t trust others- I have had bad experiences in the past.  Is this really a good thing?  Are there social skills that your child may be missing by isolating them from other kids?  Do they know how to interact with other kids?  Can they share toys and play with other kids?
  5. He’s A Good Kid:  My child is a good kid so it’s OK to give him what he want.  If he wants chicken nuggets every night of the week that’s OK as long as he is being quiet and not misbehaving.  So who is eventually going to tell them no?  Who is going to erect boundaries?  Who is the boss?  Too tired is not an excuse here.
  6. We Are Always On The Move:  My kids love visiting others and being up late.  They are used to eating on the run.  They love the adventure!  Really, kids like structure.  They need a schedule.  They want to know the rules and what is expected.  They need sleep.  They need to be able to process what’s going on.  They need calm and normal.
  7. I Never Spank My Child:  My kids don’t need punishment.  They are different than the other kids.  Are they learning that there are consequences for their actions?  Although you may be against spanking, are you teaching your children that bad behavior can lead to big trouble in later years?

Raising children is hard.  It is a full time job.  You must fight the urge to get lazy.  Children are like clay when they are young.  Yes, I believe they are born with unique characteristics, but kids need leadership, structure, direction and boundaries.  They do not do well in chaos.  They need to figure out what the world is all about and chaos does not provide the framework for growth and understanding.

Have you ever considered what a child learns in the first two years?  They are like little sponges.  So what are they learning?  Are they learning that there is order to the world?   Are they learning about authority?  Are they learning about consequences?  Are they learning how to interact with other kids?

I know this.  Good parenting does not come easy.  When done correctly, it will be the most fulfilling project you will ever undertake.  It’s a long and tiring process.  But just remember- you have to do the work!

So what do you think?  Do you have any good parenting advice?  Please press comments and tell us your story!  

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

What If Today…We Chose Kindness?

Today we have a guest post from Betsy Cross, mother of nine, ages 4-25, former ballet dancer, artist and genealogy enthusiast, she directs the Family History Center on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and spends her free time either helping people with their family history or writing for one of her blogs. Her newest blog “What If Today…” is a blog dedicated to thoughts on life and leadership.

 “The ideas that have lighted my way are kindness, beauty and truth.”

~Albert Einstein

We’ve all heard the story of the man on the bus with his unruly children. His children were misbehaving and upsetting the other travelers, one of whom asked if he could help the father settle them down.

“Thank you,” the father said in response to the stranger’s offer. “We were just at the hospital. Their mother died  and they’re having a hard time.”

What if the stranger had been cruel with his words? What if he only thought about himself and took the role of spokesman for the other travelers, and demanded that the father do something about his children?  Can you imagine the outcome? Or how much worse the father would feel?

And what about the ripple effect of our kindness and cruelty?

The opportunity to be kind instead of cruel presents itself every day. Sometimes we don’t know it was there until we see and understand how our cruel words would have fallen on someone and we breathe a sigh of relief because we never let them fall from our lips.

I watch my children’s’ behavior a lot and look for signs of the negative ripple effect…a day void of kindnesses. When they lash out at each other I know that they’ve had a hard day. It would be easy for me to jump into the flow of negativity and let it consume me to the point that I send it back to them or the next unlucky soul to cross my path.

But when I stop and consider the needed healing that a smile, a hug, or a listening ear can make room for, I absorb the bad and do my best to carry their burden with them instead of turning my back on them simply because I don’t like their behavior.

And then the magic happens: the splinter rises to the surface. Then the tears start to flow, exposing the pain and cruelty that was inflicted.

The burden and darkness start dissipating, and love starts making its way in soon after.

And the ripple starts flowing in the opposite direction…

I hope to do that more often.

When I was in my 20’s I worked for a bit at a French pastry shop on Main Street. I always worked alone and I was typically overwhelmed because there were a lot of business people who swarmed in for an hour every day.

One day, as I stood behind the counter, I watched as the front door opened half way and an older disheveled woman poked her head in and viciously called to me,” DON’T look at me with that CAT smile!” And then she walked away returning a little while later. This time she came all the way in.

The customers who’d witness the strange confrontation said nothing. I was dumbfounded to be blind-sided with such rudeness, but I kept smiling, hiding the hurt. I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.

She slid into a chair and sat. I asked her if would like something to eat.

No, she had no money, she quipped.

So I paid for her lunch. And she came back for the next two days for more until she asked for money for a bus ticket home and disappeared out of my life. My friends chastised me for being so gullible and such an easy mark for “someone like her” to take advantage of.

But I knew exactly what she was doing. The way I saw it I had three choices, maybe four.

  • Ignore her.
  • Feed her, but nothing more.
  • Do what I felt was right, no strings attached.
  • (here’s where you give me another option…)

Nobody backed me on my choice to “let go and let God”. And I didn’t really care.

She may have walked away laughing at my gullibility. But I walked away with a memory of a friend that I had for a few days who chatted with me as she ate food that I’d prepared for her. She shared some of her stories and brightened my days. Her life was rough.She didn’t ask me to fix it, and I wouldn’t have known how to or where to start anyway. I was just so happy to see her smile every day as she learned to trust me. I really felt connected to her. I didn’t pity her. I didn’t judge her. My motives were all about friendship and showing up as myself for the brief time we shared.

I will never forget her smile and kind eyes.

I’m pleased with the choices I made. And I’m pretty sure that the Man Upstairs is, too.

  • Do you think it’s important to be kind always?
  • Is it hard for you to be kind with no strings attached?