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The Art Of Parenting: 10 Invaluable Lessons To Pass On To Your Kids

The Art Of Parenting: 10 Invaluable Lessons To Pass On To Your Kids

By the time your newborn has collected himself enough to be able to grab your finger and smile, you probably have his entire life planned out for him. Holding your baby for the first time, you see all of his hopes, dreams, and accomplishments throughout his lifetime laid about before you as if they were drawn on your hospital gown. Perhaps it’s around this time when you realize you don’t have the slightest clue of how to make these dreams a reality. After all, you’re new to this whole parenting thing. So much can possibly go wrong that it’s tough to imagine everything going right. Don’t be intimidated. As long as you impart the following notions to your child over the course of his lifetime, he will turn out just fine.

1. Seek Wisdom

There’s a saying that goes something like: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.” Don’t just ensure that your child grows up knowing a lot of factual information. Teach him the importance of being able to use this knowledge to be productive in life. Reading with your child on a daily basis is a good start, but he must also learn to utilize the lessons and information gleaned, whether it’s how to treat others, or how to make homemade lasagna. The smartest person in the world can make unwise decisions; make sure your child knows how to choose the right path.

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2. Show Gratitude

A funny thing happens in November. When Thanksgiving rolls around, everyone all of a sudden starts boasting about how grateful they are for everything they have in life. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but there is definitely something inherently wrong with being superficially thankful simply because it’s the time of the year in which it’s popular to do so. Teach your children to spend time every day thinking of the advantages they have, and praising the people who have given them these advantages. Teach them to write thank-you cards after a party, and to recognize when someone has gone out of their way to help them. Expressing gratitude is the best way to show someone else how much they matter in this world.

3. Have good manners

“Please” and “thank you” go a long way in today’s world. But good manners go beyond simple words. Teach your children how to behave at the dinner table, in public, and when they are guests in other people’s homes. The way they act toward others sets the stage for how they will be perceived in society. Well-mannered children will grow into respectful and respectable adults who will make great first impressions in their personal and professional lives, which will put them on the path to true success.

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4. Have compassion

There are so many people in this world that are much less fortunate than anyone currently reading this. Teach your children to help those in need – especially those who cannot help themselves. Being compassionate stems from being grateful, as having compassion requires children to first think of the things they have that others might not. When children learn to help others, they are not just exhibiting a knowledge of gratitude; they also use this gratitude in an actionable manner.

5. Be truthful

When children mess up, they have a hard time telling the truth. This may be due to the idea that they’ll “get in trouble” for what they’ve done, so they’ll do their best to skirt the issue. As parents, it’s important to impart in our children the idea that it’s much more important to tell the truth and learn from the mistake made than to lie and continue making that same mistake over and over. If a child lies, it’s because he’s afraid of what will happen to them. They have to feel safe coming to you when they screw up. Of course, you will need to show your disappointment in their negative behavior, but always remember to reinforce how proud you are of them for admitting they were wrong.

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6. Advocate for yourself

Teach your children that they should stand up for what they believe in. This can be tough to do, because going against the grain has the potential to land them in trouble. But if they feel that they’re being treated unfairly, they should be confident enough to stand up for themselves. And they should always know you have their back, no matter what.

7. Money management

Teach children the value of a dollar when they’re young. Set an allowance, and give them chores which they will complete to earn this allowance. While there’s no problem with bringing home a special gift every once in a while, make sure your children learn the importance of saving up for something they really want. As they grow, help them diversify their “income” into short- and long-term savings, so they start to learn the basics of budgeting their money. When they get even older, start taxing them so you can slowly get back all the money you’ve ever given them (just kidding…).

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8. How to handle failure

This is a big one. Many children are so afraid of not doing well that they never take a risk and try something new. In classrooms, children feel uncomfortable experimenting with a new math problem if they haven’t been given explicit instruction on how to solve it, and will often need their teacher to “give them the OK” every single step of the way. It’s important to instill in your children the notion that failure is not a dead-end road. Pencils have erasers for a reason. Life is a series of successes and setbacks; it’s how they handle the setbacks that determine how great their successes are.

9. Keep promises

Children should know that a promise is a sacred contract that should never be broken, and should be taken seriously. In fact, once children make a promise, you should make it their utmost priority. If they promised to clean their room, but have to be told five times that day to do it, they haven’t kept their promise. A promise isn’t something to be completed on their own terms; it’s a vow that they will give something of themselves for another person, and will do so as humanly possible. Make sure they know not to make promises on a whim, because the other party will put a trust in that promise that will be hard to earn back if broken.

10. Keep learning

Walk into any high school class and you’ll certainly find a large portion of children who are bored to death. Knowing that those teenagers were once toddlers who were dying to know everything about the world around them is downright depressing. Parents should encourage their children to learn something new every day, and never give up that childlike sense of wonder. There’s so much to know about life, and so much that still hasn’t been figured out yet. Instill in your children the idea that they could make the next big discovery if they continue striving to learn all they can, every day of their life. Being a life-long learner is perhaps the most important step in becoming a successful adult.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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