The 10 Commandments of Healthy Parenting, Part III

7) Respect goes both ways

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Aretha Franklin sang about; and, we all expect, no, demand it, from others, especially from our children. But oftentimes we fail to show our children the very respect we are seeking. A few respect rules in our house are:

  • Wait until mommy and daddy finish talking before you interrupt and start asking us a million questions
  • Make eye contact when we are engaging in conversation
  • Knock before barging into mommy and daddy's bedroom
  • Simply respond "yes m'am/sir" or "no m'am/sir" rather than sighing heavily, pouting, yelling, or stomping off even when you don't like what we saying or asking of you
  • Ask before digging in mommy's purse or unlocking her iPhone even though you know the password

In turn, we strive to demonstrate a mutual level of respect for our children. We knock on their bedroom doors before entering,  we put down our phones/tablets when our children are recounting the day's events, and we greet them warmly when they wake up or at after school pick up before rattling off a list of demands.

Lead/teach by example!

8) Practice kindness and gratitude

An attitude of entitlement abounds in this culture. Adults and kids alike expect big rewards for just showing up rather than for a strong work ethic, discipline, and a job well done. So how do we as parents counteract such a pervasive sense of privilege? We intentionally practice kindness and gratitude every day. We say "please" and "thank you" in our house. We give and expect nothing in return because we know how incredibly blessed we are and because we are filled with the love of Christ. We focus on all that we have and not what we lack. We remember that there are those in this life who have very little and that sometimes we take things for granted. We take inventory of the good in our lives - wonderful family and friends, food to eat, a beautiful home and neighborhood, clean clothes and shoes to wear, our church, and the list continues.

9) Model good choices

I have a bad sweet tooth - I mean BAD! I love cupcakes, cookies, chewy brownies, and all things apple. But I, too, am on perpetual quest to "get my summer fine on" permanently, and I want to embody good health for my children. My husband has already achieved his permanent summer fine status, so I clearly have some work to do.  To that end, we buy fresh fruit and vegetables, drink very little juice or sodas, take family walks for exercise, and I try very hard to limit sugary sweets though I do struggle with this one.

Many times as parents we adopt this "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy that is, frankly, unhealthy for our children. We should not only tell them our expectations but demonstrate them as well. We have household rules in place that we ALL must follow. We ALL have to eat our veggies, we ALL need to exercise, we ALL have say our blessing before we eat, we ALL should respect each other's time and personal space, we ALL need to manage our frustration in healthy and respectful ways (no yelling, slamming doors, throwing things, or name calling), we ALL need to practice patience, and we ALL need to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. If we ALL do these things, it can eliminate confusion for our children. We no longer send the message that it's okay for parents to make bad choices without fear of consequences while our children have to be perfect or else!

10) Give your children the freedom to make mistakes but maybe just the small ones

Childhood is such a magical time, especially for parents watching their children go from adorable babies to walking, talking, potty trained toddlers to fresh faced school-aged children to pimply faced teens to amazingly gifted adults who contribute to society in meaningful ways. But the journey to adulthood is not always an easy one.  It's often fraught with disappointments, failures, heartaches, missteps, and sometimes bad decisions. Some bad choices are reasonable and expected like choosing not to study for a math test and failing, losing a friendship over unnecessary drama, or waiting until the last minute to start your school project and turning in an incomplete assignment.  However, there are other bad choices that most parents work hard to prevent like distracted driving, dating someone who is verbally or physically abusive, or dropping out of high school. That being said, children need to learn how to make decisions, how to strategically evaluate options, weigh the pros and cons, and determine the best option. Let your children start with the small decisions. With a little oversight, help them work through that process but allow them the freedom to make their own choices, good or bad. Then they will be more receptive to your guidance with the bigger decisions but already have practical decision-making skills in place and the confidence to make them.