Which one were you? The perfectionist one? The hellion? The two-faced Sally? Maybe you were the one hiding, cowering in the wings, scared all the time. How long did it take you to relax? To learn that life is okay? That you are okay? That throwing your shoulders back and lifting a smile and giving a renewed effort is better than crying, huffing off, or telling off? How long did it take you to become well-adjusted to life? Or are you still getting used to it?
I have a homeschool mission statement: To raise daughters who are physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. My goal is to raise daughters at peace with who they are, where they came from, and what they have (and don’t have). I don’t want lost souls wandering without aim, who bristle at every perceived (or real) slight and criticism. Who hide from life’s problems. I want my girls to know that there will always be somebody smarter or faster or prettier or richer or better-dressed or church-ier. There is always somebody BETTER. And always somebody to throw it in their face and criticize them.
I hope for my daughters a well-adjusted attitude toward themselves, toward life, and toward others. I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know how much parenting really changes things. I’m hoping to hear what others think, either as they go through this parenting stuff with me, or as they look back. But I’ve rounded up some ideas to help my kids steer toward well-adjusted.
Steering towards well-adjusted
1. Give kids awareness of their own individual strengths. Please don’t limit it to the mundaneness of sports, school, or music. Some kids easily learn a foreign language. Some kids can sense a person’s discomfort and reach out to console. Some kids possess deep loyalty. Some kids are good at expressing opinions. Some can cook. Some run like the wind. Some know how to keep quiet. Some are great with little children. These are ALL wonderful, but quite different, strengths, easily overlooked. The world will be more than happy to tear kids down, but maybe they’ll remember what mom and dad said they were good at, even if it doesn’t translate to success in school or on the court.
2. It may be a strength if it drives you insane. A child’s strength may come across as an irritating trait. (Ahem. This applies well to spouses too.) Bounding energy. Constant singing. Super-human independent streaks. Talking incessantly. All these are actually strengths which can be very irritating to us parents and often push us to sad parenting moments. Stop. Separate yourself from your irritation and yelling to see if what is driving you crazy about your child is actually a strength in disguise. Once you identify it as a strength rather than an irritation, perhaps you can take steps to funnel the strength down appropriate avenues–high intensity sports, singing lessons, and appropriate chores which require more independence and responsibility.
3. Ain’t none of us perfect. Gently and with the utmost love and best intentions communicate to them their faults (which unfortunately can also be their greatest strength). Facilitate strategies and techniques to not allow their faults to interfere with life and confidence. Lazy bones? Absent-mindedness? Perfectionistic? Bossiness? Shyness? Too helpful? Too gullible? Too needy? Too overbearing? Too sloppy? Too mouthy? Too opinionated? Too nice? I prefer my children to be aware of their little foibles before they sneak out at age 16 to party with friends. Or before they embark on this voyage called “marriage.”
4. Remind them that another person’s strength does not imply they have a weakness. Many children feel that if they are not as good as somebody else at something, then they are “no good at all.” Even within a family, complimenting one child brings about fears of inadequacy in another child. In my own family, if we compliment one child on her increasing use of Spanish, another automatically seems to hear that she’s not so good at Spanish. If one child pounds out a popular song by ear on the piano, another later tells me, “I’m no good at piano.” If one beats another in sprints, the defeated one walks over to the porch to sit down. Is it a human tendency to think if you’re not the best then you’re “no good?” Or is it just a competitive personality? Or sibling rivalry? Regardless, ouch, man. Ouch. It’s not a good thought-burden to carry.
5. Help your child to not take themselves so seriously by not taking yourself so seriously. Laugh at yourself when you make mistakes as a person and parent. Point out to your children your own mistakes and hang-ups. Although we should always try to be the best we can be, crazy, embarrassing stuff happens. Laugh! It feels good. You really want the statement– “They’re laughing with you and not at you.”–to be true.
6. Teach them that the word “smart” (and other such reductionistic words) should always be followed by the preposition “in” or “at.” Every person should understand that there are hundreds of kinds of smart. I’ve seen a lot of “smart” people who should never have failed, fall flat on their faces. Smart in math does not mean smart in life.
7. Provide a strong foundational belief system and ethical code. It is easier to remodel a house than build a new one with unfamiliar tools. Do you get what I’m saying? They may not agree with my religion later, but they’ve got something to work with.
8. Be willing to admit you’re wrong. Admit to yourself and your kids you don’t have all the answers. You may have it wrong.
9. Be able to see both sides of most stories and explain them to kids. But finish up with what you believe and why.
10. Never place exceptional value in things.
12. Allow them to choose their own clothes at as young of an age as they wish, adhering to simple rules that fit your decency code. I personally make sure my rules can be backed up with reasoning. It has nothing to do with colors. I don’t like leggings when we head out because weirdo men like to look at heinies.
13. Don’t put other people and events above the people and events in your own home. Kids innately know what is important to you.
14. Try to not associate with only one stereotypical class of people. Make friends who are from India. Romania. Africa. Make friends who are doctors. Farmers. Construction-workers. Factory workers. Find people who like to sew. Cook. Run. Talk. Make friends who are Catholic. Lutheran. Hindi. Atheist. Make friends who are younger. Older. Much, much older. The same age.
15. Let them do it themselves. Let them try while you abstain from criticism. Offer encouragement. Bite bleeding holes in your tongue if you must.
16. Provide security. Let your home be a place of warmth. Safety. Consistency. Acceptance.
Would you take a turn? What thoughts can you share for us to think on?