As many say, raising kids does not come with a manual and is probably one of the hardest jobs you will ever encounter…it was for me anyway. It takes consistency, energy, trust, respect, faith and intuition to name just a few things but I think, in retrospect, what helped me most is that once they were born and I started to raise them, I always had a vision for success. I wanted my kids to be able to eat at any table around the world (or respect all cultures and their differences), I wanted them to be kind, I wanted them to be well mannered and respectful, I wanted them to fight for the injustices of the world (which starts on the playground), I wanted them to give back to those in need and I didn’t want them to be addicted to any drugs (a fear for any parent). Beyond that, I had no exact plan…no ideas of who or what they should be because I felt that was up to them to show me and the world.
So keeping all of this in mind, here are some tips that span all ages from birth to young adult:
- From the second they were born, I respected who they were as individuals. Some parents look at their kids and think because they are babies or just young, they don’t know anything…I think differently. I think because they are still young, they know everything because they are following their natural instincts, so I followed that too.
- Before they were 3 years old, I did my best to expose them to everything under the sun from various sports, different styles of music, a variety of languages, art, and a million kinds of food so I could open up their brains to possibilities. Science has since proven that this is a legit method to expand your child’s brain so they can easily learn new concepts.
- As they grew and started to communicate, I always listened and then acted on what I observed. One of my sons told me at 4 years old he would be a jazz cellist one day. At the time I had never heard of a jazz cellist but regardless, I found someone who could teach cello to a 4 year old and he has pursued his instrument ever since. Today he attends conservatory and doesn’t quite play jazz (yet) but he is an amazing cellist intending to pursue music performance as his career.
- As grade schoolers, I figured my kids were too young to know what they did and didn’t like so I signed them up for every class and workshop under the sun. Art class, soccer, tennis, swimming, basketball, sports camps with lacrosse, golf and more, languages, general music classes, piano, voice, dance, computer, gifted camp, science, crew, church school…you name it, they did it so once exposed they could make a truly educated decision on what worked for them and what didn’t.
- Despite the diversity of classes they attended, their schedule was never out of control….they only did one class per week and the rest of the time was spent playing whatever they wanted. They always had down time so they could discover more about the world on their own time and in their own way.
- They were not allowed to watch TV during the week and only 1 hour per day over the weekend except for special movies I picked out for all of us as a family that were inspirational movies that taught life lessons (some of the best were foreign films).
- Consistent sleep and a balanced wholesome diet were and are essential to each child’s success! I fed them a well balanced meal three times a day which meant that dessert (normally a piece of fruit) was included with the overall meal so a psychological emphasis was not put on dessert as the ultimate treat (an over emphasis on dessert can get many adults in trouble as we all know). I never urged them to eat something on their plate either. Again kids have great instincts and by the end of the week if you give them all of the food groups, they will take (and leave) what they need. We also had no refined sugar in the house, ever (but they were not restricted either when they went to someone else’s house). Per sleep, they all had the same early bedtime for years (7pm) and even though some didn’t quite get to sleep exactly at that bedtime every night, they knew it was time for quiet and rest and they stayed in their bedrooms (honestly this made me a better parent too because I knew that at the same time every night I would be able to catch a break). Sleep and good food for sure contributed to their success in and out of school…they always started the day with a great base which made learning easier compared to many of their peers.
- Speaking of psychology, I took books (not toys) away from them if they needed to be punished. This said to them at a young age, that books and reading were a gift and something to be treasured which worked because they are all great readers and thinkers today.
- I never, not once, engaged with them as they did homework. Homework was between them and their teachers. If they had issues, their teachers needed to know via mistakes or incomplete homework. This also made them accountable at a young age and, honestly, well prepared once they hit college.
- I never forced them to practice whether it was soccer, basketball, violin, cello or whatever. If they loved what they were doing, they would want to practice. Conversely if they didn’t practice, that told them pretty quickly that the activity was not for them. It was all up to them to figure it out, not me and because practicing was in their hands, they actually did it. A positive cycle that lead to their success.
- Finally (cause aren’t 11 tips enough for right now?), I was always honest with my kids. If they thought they were the best basketball player on the team or in their school and they really weren’t, I would tell them otherwise if they boasted. If they were better than their peers at an activity and they bragged about it, I showed them kids around the world doing the same thing but at a much higher level. Why? Because they needed to know the life lesson that someone out there was working harder and succeeding because of it. On the other hand, if a child didn’t quite see that they had a skill that truly made them unique, I pushed them (and with one child pushed and pushed) until they followed their god given talent which ultimately (and deeply) made them happy.
These are just a few tips that might help you along the way. I don’t claim to be a parenting expert (honestly no one should claim this) but after raising kids who have found their voice and their passions and who I (and others too) believe are making the world a better place one day at a time, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give away some of my secrets. Hope this helps or inspires in some way!!