As a parent of six kids, I know a thing or two about ways to completely screw up your children. My kids’ ages range from five years to 20 years, each one uniquely weird and wonderful. I’ve discovered there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to guide your progeny through the choppy waters of life, but there are some holistic things you can do to give them direction. These six ideas could mean the difference between your children living epic lives of impact or uninspired “meh” lives of just OK.
Your Child Is Not Your Friend
If we parents don’t stop trying to get our kids to like us, they will have no understanding of the importance of authority. If you need friends, join a bowling league. Our children need guidance, no matter what the hot “clickbait” Facebook ad tells you. Sometimes that guidance causes our kids not to like or even hate us. It’s OK. They will get over it. You will get over it. Point them in the direction they should go, and even in old age, they will not depart from it.
Tell Them Who They Are (Before Instagram Does)
The worst thing we can say to our kids is, “Go find yourself.” The world is ready to slap our kids with all kinds of labels, the kind of names they will wear for the rest of their lives. Stop that from happening! We can give our kids identities based on what we see in them, the good we see in them. Consider rights of passage for your kids. Mark phases of life by celebrating and affirming who they are. There will come a day when your child will go out into the world to find something; make sure they know who they are before they go. If not, you may not recognize them when they return.
Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
If you want your child to flourish in the identity you’ve called out in them, set up limits. Bedtimes, curfews, rules, and morality are all excellent things to establish for our children. I am an artist, and the worst thing to tell me is “just make something, anything.” I need parameters to make great art. Otherwise, I’ll flounder in uncertainty. The same is true for our kids.
Boys and Girls Are Different (And That Is Good)
If we want the current culture of rampant misogyny and sexual abuse to stop, we have to teach our boys how to be men and girls to be women. According to our entertainment industry, men are either booze-swilling, gun-wielding, “shoot first ask questions later” types or blubbering, spineless morons. Women are either a body with a face or man-hating, “I don’t need nobody, thank you very much,” Beyoncé-wannabe types. (Though, for the record, I am a HUGE Beyoncé fan.) Men should be trained to fight and to love, to identify and celebrate beauty of all kinds, not objectify and exploit it. Women need to be told they’re worthy because of who they are—not graded by any marks from pop culture’s scorecard. They need to hear they can be strong and weak, independent and interdependent. We’re different, and it’s good.
Show Them, Don’t Just Tell Them
I am terrible at this, and my kids are quick to point it out: “Because I said so” only works once. Failing to model these things for my kids has made me have to do a lot of parental backpedaling. Showing my sons how to respect a woman by loving my wife well is 1,000 times more effective than telling them about it.
Let Them Fail (Maybe Even Set Them Up To Fail)
I will never criticize my kids for failing. Failure and suffering are the best teachers, and they’re free! Instead of removing the potential for failure from our kids, let’s teach them perseverance. Give them backbone! Allow them to fail, and go out of your way to share your failures. Participation trophies don’t exist in the real world.