I often get told how “lucky” I am to have such a great relationship with my 19 year old son and my 16 year old daughter. I usually smile and agree that I am, indeed, lucky to be blessed with such a great husband and kids.
Is it just luck, though? Gary Player (the golfer) famously said; “The more I practice, the luckier I get!” With that in mind, I decided to think about what my husband and I did which (I believe) made us “lucky”! Who knows, maybe some of these tips will improve your luck too!
1. Discipline: Before I conceived our first child, my husband and I talked a lot about our families of origin. We discussed how we were disciplined and how we felt growing up. I come from a broken home – a home which was fragmented even before my parents finally divorced – and I remember feeling very insecure because rules and punishments were very inconsistent.
In my opinion, for discipline to be truly effective, both parents need to be a “united front” and should never undermine each other’s authority in front of the kids. It’s also important to “pick your battles” because you don’t want to be constantly punishing your kids for trivial reasons. The big payoff is that our teens have never tried the “If Dad says no, ask Mom ploy” because they know that Mom & Dad always give the same answer!
2. Honesty: Our children actually know way more than we tend to give them credit for. I learnt to tell my 3 year old – “I don’t know, let’s look it up together” after I’d given him a made up answer for how a combustion engine works (I still don’t really know how!) and a week or so later gave a different answer to the same question! Believe me, it’s way better to say “I don’t know” than try to justify to a 3 year old why you just made something up (lied!)
For me honesty is more than that, though. If you say you are going to do something you must do it – whether it was something fun like going somewhere or it is the “consequence” of their misbehaviour! Following through is the way you prove to your children that you can be counted on. Believe me, you’ll really reap the benefits of this one when your children become teens.
You see, kids do what you do, not what you say. It’s really terrific knowing that you have teens who don’t lie to you! By the way, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy etc are an integral part of the magic of childhood … absolutely real!! (Recently my daughter confessed that she’d figured out the true identity of Santa years sooner than I thought she had. When I asked her why she kept playing along, she said it was because I seemed to enjoy pretending and she didn’t want to spoil it for me!)
3. Being Human: Fact – we all make mistakes, it’s a part of being human. The best thing you can do for your children is to accept responsibility for your mistakes and apologise. Trust me, they will respect you more if you show them that yes, even Mom & Dad sometimes get things wrong! The other payoff is that, if you model owning up to your mistakes, they will own up to their mistakes too!
4. Fun: Take every possible opportunity to have fun with your kids. I know it’s a cliche’, but time really does go by very fast! The big payoff is that (if you’ve made time to have fun with them when they are small) they’ll make time to have fun with you when they are teens!
My daughter has a large circle of friends and is usually out on weekends … unless we’re having a Family Game Night – that trumps all! My husband is an avid “gamer” so our son usually brings his friends over to our house so they all (including my husband) can play computer LAN games together! There’s no sound more wonderful than that of laughter – no matter how young or old you are, laughter truly is the best medicine!
5. Listen, don’t just hear: Somewhere I read that God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth because we’re meant to listen twice as much as we talk! If you want your teens to talk to you, make sure that you make the time to really listen to them when they’re small. Also remember that they don’t always want your advice, they might just need to “vent”. There’s nothing better than knowing your teens consider you their “safe place to fall”.
Despite what I’ve just written, I strongly believe that each person and family dynamic is unique. You should only do what feels right for you and your family. Trust your instincts. My children are polar opposites of each other – yet I’m immensely proud of both of them, and have a great relationship with both of them. It just might be “luck” after all!
What makes you feel lucky or blessed? Do you think anything you did helped to bring this blessing into your life?
Mamma Simona lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with her husband, 2 teens, 2 dogs and 2 cats. She’s been both a SAHM and a working mother in many diverse fields. She writes exclusively for WMB.
Photo credit to the author.