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6 Things You Want to Know BEFORE Becoming a Parent

6 Things You Want to Know BEFORE Becoming a Parent

Being a new parent is the most joyful, frustrating, heart opening, messy, happy thing a person can ever experience. Yet unlike being a fireman or a doctor there is very little real guidance offered by society on what to expect, what pitfalls to avoid, etc. Usually family and friends will tell new or expecting parents some imagined to be important things to help them along their way, like what to expect during labor (as if anyone can predict that), what kind of classes might help with the birthing process (as if all birthing processes are the same), what the best deals you can find for baby food are, information about baby clothes and who the best pediatrician in your neck of the woods is.

Truth is though, that information is already all over the internet, including opinions about whether to vaccinate, when to vaccinate and of course the ultimate question of all: whether or not to circumcise if the child happens to be male. This white noise about what parents should do or not do, as well as the mass of information today’s parents are expected to know actually deflects from some very basic practical advice that can be helpful.

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Since being a new parent already leads to amnesia due to lack of sleep, and being an expecting parent holds levels of anxiety reminiscent of being in a dentist chair while getting a root canal, it’s important to keep this kind of advice simple and easy, so here are 6 things you want to know BEFORE becoming a parent:

Be prepared to get no sleep!

How long that will be depends on the kindness of that stranger who is now your baby, their emotional whims and feeding habits, none of which anyone can predict. Plan your life accordingly for the indefinite future in line with the fact that you will not be getting any sleep. And if you do get sleep, cherish it because there is no guarantee that the lovely baby who sleeps all night at 9 weeks will not become like a shark in a feeding frenzy every 90 minutes from 8pm to 7am when they are 12 weeks or older. Growth spurts, room lighting, smells, even the astrological transits of the baby’s birth chart can be studied until the end of time and still there is no formula to accurately predict when a new born will sleep or not. So, get used to being sleep deprived, or at least accept the possibility that it may happen to you.

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Get a glider chair for Mom!

Comfort for the mother is of utmost importance in the days and weeks after childbirth. A mother of a newborn child needs time for her body to recover from the rigors of giving birth, and also being sleep deprived means that it is much easier to breastfeed or bottle feed while sitting in a cozy glider chair that rocks back and forth. This small investment is worth it! If you risk not getting one be prepared for the mental anguish which will ensue, as well as the massage bills, chiropractic bills and other activities that will need to happen to offset the lack of comfort that is now part of this new mother’s world. Be kind! Make getting a glider chair a top priority, right up there with buying diapers and baby clothes.

It is natural for every adult you ever meet from the moment your child is born to want to give you advice.

That’s what adults do, we pretend to know stuff even if we don’t. In past generations it was the case that most adults had children, often many children, and so any advice given was usually from the place of real life experience. But in today’s world that is not the case, so learning how to deflect advice from those who have no idea what being a parent is like is a real and important skill.

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Also, it is often the case that these non-parents make huge assumptions based on their non-existent parenting experience and say things which can be offensive to anyone who is actually raising a newborn child. One simple technique is to ignore unrequested and potentially offensive advice entirely, which often works because you are so obviously sleep deprived people think you simply didn’t hear what they just said. Another technique is to turn the advice back on the person who asked it. If they recommend you breastfeed, or which side of the vaccine coin flip you should be on, ask them what they did when raising their own children. Oh yeah, they don’t have kids. Let the awkward silence pass as you both digest this moment similar to someone who has never driven a car trying to telling you how to drive.

Be prepared for your friendships to change!

As with any major life change, being a parent can have many unexpected results. Some people love children and others have no idea how to relate to children, especially a newborn child. You might expect a congratulations from someone who you have thought a dear friend only to rarely hear from them again once you have announced the birth of your child. The opposite is also true, someone who you knew only casually might shower you and your baby with gifts, offering to be helpful such as cooking food for you and helping you do chores that were once easy but now a challenge, such as clean your house while watching a newborn.

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The bright love that comes through with these new friendships usually outweighs that sense of hurt that happens when someone decides to no longer be your friend because you now have a child. When you do lose friends because of your baby know it is simply an initiation, a hazing from the universe for you to join this age old society of parents, and not something to take personally or go into therapy about. Embrace the new friendships, and simply let the old ones go.

Babies make people do crazy things.

You may have taken classes before the birth in Baby CPR, Breastfeeding, and watched numerous videos to help you cope with the challenges of being a parent. What to do when complete strangers ask to hold your beautiful child is the one issue no book or video ever dares to mention. As a society, we like to pretend this will never happen but it actually happens quite often. The request is rarely even verbal. The assailant simply stands in front of your newborn child, and reaches their arms out towards the child, perhaps pouting too as if regressing into their own babyhood form of consciousness. This form of non-verbal communication is almost an act of violence to some parents. What to do? Simply smile at them, hold your baby tight, and walk away.

Why is it worth it in spite of all this madness?

Don’t let this article scare you into deciding against having a baby. Having a child stare into your eyes, drool on you, and pee all over you when you try to change their diaper is an experience not to be missed. Seeing the odd behaviors, the nuances of a baby’s personality emerge, is probably the closest thing you’ll ever know to wondering what the Divine Creator must have felt when the universe was first created, a feeling kind of like Wow, I did this? Lots of problems yet somehow still perfect! The lost friends, the idiotic advice, the lack of sleep, the bills for baby’s needs and of course the glider chair, and even the weirdos who try to grope at you like linebackers in a Superbowl game where you are the quarterback and your baby is the football itself– none of this can compare to the magical sense of love that happens, as if the universe lit a match in the darkest areas of your heart and declared let there be light.

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Published on August 22, 2019

How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids

How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids

My family is a work in progress. My husband and I am trying our best to be good parents so that we can have successful kids and more importantly, successful adults. We have five-year-old twin boys and a seven-year-old girl. Success to us does not mean great wealth or fame. Our ideals don’t point us toward parenting our kids to become rich and famous. We define success according to our family’s ideals, which include loving others, having good moral character (this is based on our faith), finding passion and purpose for life, and contributing to society in a meaningful way. These are our personal ideals.

Your ideals and definition of success may be different. Every family is different, as are their values. It is important to recognize your own family ideals in order to have direction and purpose for your family. I wrote about this topic on my blog,[1] and you can read it if you are interested in creating purpose and a mission for your family, based on your ideals.

With my own kids being so young, I can’t speak from personal experience on how to raise kids to be successful. We are still in the process of raising our kids and are doing what we think is best to raise our kids to become successful adults. I am hoping and praying that someday, I can speak from experience, when they are grown and leading successful lives as adults. We aren’t there yet.

However, I can look at parents who have raised their children to be successful. There are families that I know personally, along with research articles I have read about raising successful children, from which I have learned valuable tips. I will share what I have learned below on how to be a good parent and raise children to become successful adults.

1. Inattentiveness

There is an incredible study that recently released its results following 30 years of research. This study was reported in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry.[2] They followed over 2,500 six-year-old children for 30 years to assess the ability to succeed in life. Their findings reported that the adults who were less successful had inattention at a young age.

Inattention was defined in this study by a variety of variables including poor sharing skills, lack of focus, blaming others, aggressiveness, and high levels of anxiousness. This means that we, as parents need to look at how we can effectively parent to reduce inattentive behaviors. Teaching our children to share, how to focus, and handling issues of aggression and anxiousness are imperative to helping our children become successful adults.

For example, if you attend a parent teacher conference and you are told that your child exhibits high levels of anxiousness, you don’t just brush if off as one opinion or hope that your child will grow out of it. Instead, you look for a counselor or therapist to get your child some help. Perhaps the anxiousness isn’t severe and stems from the difficulties your daughter is having in making friends at school. The therapist helps your daughter work through her feelings and teaches her some valuable skills on how to make friends.

Dealing with the anxiousness and aggression are important aspects of helping children become successful. If your child exhibits these behaviors, then get them the help that they need, for the sake of their success in the future.

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2. Be There for Your Kids

One tip for raising successful kids is to be there for your children. Children want their parents. They would rather have time and attention from their parents than toys and things.

We need to ensure that our personal life and work life are balanced, so that our children get the time that they need from us. If we are working 90 hours a week at the office, it is going to be difficult to be there for our kids. They want us to be there for their activities and for their everyday too, including helping with homework and eating meals together on a regular basis.

A study by Raby et al (2014) found that children who had sensitive maternal caregiving early in childhood were more likely to be successful mentally (having higher educational levels) and were more socially competent as adults.[3] This shows that it is crucial for children to have loving and sensitive interactions with their parents when they are young. It affects the child’s development and how they turn out as adults. Young children who are provided with sensitive care, love, and attentions are more likely to be successful as adults.

I have been a stay-at home mom and writer for the past eight years. As a Doctor of Psychology, I know how important parental involvement is during early childhood. I recognize that having one parent stay at home is not an option, or best option, for all families. However, it was for our family. My kids are used to having me at their activities. Recently, I missed a camp performance for my daughter. I was packing our family for our annual National Parks Road Trip that we were leaving on in two days. My daughter had dance camp leading up to our vacation. At the conclusion of that camp, the participants put on a performance. I missed the performance. It was an oversight on my part, due to busyness in packing for our trip and taking care of the twins that day.

I can’t recall ever missing an important event like this for my daughter, ever. When I arrived to pick her up, she was in tears. She was upset that I missed her performance. I apologized and we talked about it. It was eye opening to me. She often acts like she doesn’t care whether I am there to volunteer in her classroom, go on her field trips, or attend her school function. Missing this one event showed me how much she cares. She was extremely broken-up that I was not there for her. It was a good lesson for her as well. Perhaps she will show her appreciation for me being there at her events in the future. We discussed this as well, since it was a good opportunity during that moment of revelation of her true feelings.

All kids want their parents at their special events and moments in their lives. They want their parents to be there for them, to be their ultimate cheerleader. Life is difficult. We all need people and a support system. Parents should be the natural first line of support in the lives of their children. It is not always possible because of life circumstances such as death, illness, or other sad situations. However, if you are alive and able to be there to raise your children and be there for them on a day to day basis, then you should make every effort to make that possible.

Your children need you. They are only little once. Your ability to influence how they develop emotionally, socially, and mentally has a window of opportunity. It is while they are young. Be there for your children, so you can make a positive impact on their development, especially in the first years of their lives, as research by Raby et al. (2014) showed us that the first few years of life a parent’s presence and type of care affects their success in adulthood.

3. Praise Effort Over Achievement

Having grit is a better predictor of success than IQ, according to Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth, who wrote the best-seller Grit. One of the best ways to help children develop grit is to praise their efforts and not their achievements. If you praise their efforts, then when they fail, they can still identify the good in the situation and not feel like a complete failure.

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Children need to be praised. They develop their self-worth and confidence when they can achieve success, even in small things in life such as learning to tie their shoes or learning to ride a bike. They can pick themselves back up from failure as they are learning these activities when they have someone encouraging them along the way and praising their efforts.

If a parent is putting them down and telling them they are such a failure and loser every time they fall off their bike, then they are going to feel defeated and feel like the loser you are telling them that they are.

Your words to your children are powerful. A child’s value in life will initially develop based on what their parents have told them about their value. I have worked with individuals who have had to overcome emotional and physical abuse in childhood. They were repeatedly told that they were of no value. They grew up believing this lie, because it was told to them by one or both of their parents. It took therapy, time, and effort for these individuals to overcome the defeating messages that their parents imprinted on them as children.

If you tell your child that he or she is dumb repeatedly, eventually they will believe you and take it to heart. Some kids take it to heart and believe it the first time it is said to them. Words can damage just as much, if not more, than physical abuse.

Be careful in the words you speak to your children. Children do need correction and guidance, but it doesn’t have to inflict damage to who they are as a person. They should never be told they are dumb, worthless, meaningless, or lazy. They will take these messages to heart. Correction should never involve name calling.

Children need positive words so that they can believe in themselves enough to try. Children who have been encouraged correctly, with praise being provided for their efforts, are more likely to develop grit. Grit is a great predictor of success. You can help your child develop grit by praising their efforts and avoiding negative messages such as name calling and belittling.

4. Teach Them to Work Hard at Home

Successful people are typically hard-working people. People know how to keep going even when they want to give up, and when they have a good work-ethic. Teaching kids to work hard begins at home. This means assigning chores.

Children need to develop a good work ethic and learn to be a part of the team (team family) in order to be successful as adults. Doing chores is not only about lifting the workload for parents and caregivers. It is also about teaching children responsibility and that they have a role in the family chores and workload.

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Research discussed in the Wall Street Journal[4] showed that children are more successful as adults when they have grown up being assigned chores on a regular basis. However, their research also showed that fewer and fewer parents are assigning regular chores to their children. Children need to be assigned chores. There are many benefits to chores being assigned such as:

  • Children learn that things don’t come free. They must earn an allowance from doing work or chores to earn things that they want.
  • Children learn that they are part of a team and that parents aren’t solely responsible for maintaining a household and doing all the work. Children play a role in being a part of the running of a household and this means doing chores daily.
  • Children learn that they are held accountable for the job that they do. If they don’t complete their chores, then there are consequences. If they complete their chores, there is a reward (maybe it is having a roof over their head, food to eat, and a home that is maintained); for other families, it may be an allowance provided for completed chores.
  • Children learn to work hard by doing chores. Not doing their chores has consequences. Those consequences should be big enough (such as removing technology or favorite toys) that they are strong motivators for completing chores, as required. They learn to work hard and complete the chores, even when they would rather be playing or doing something else more fun.
  • Children learn to respect their home. When children have to take care of the home, they become more conscious of the condition of the home. For example, a child that is required to clean the bathroom and then has a sibling come in and use the shower only to leave towels and bath products all over the floor is going to become upset that their sibling ruined their hard work. They will become better at taking care of the home and their belongings, if they have an active role and involvement in maintaining a home.

Extracurricular activities and homework are important. However, teaching children to work hard through chores is just as important, as shown in this Wall Street Journal article. Don’t allow your children to get so busy that they can’t participate in household chores. Chores will help them in their development and ability to be successful as adults.

5. Teach Them to Have Good Character

For many families the teaching of character development is rooted in their faith and religious practices. This is true for our family but, going to church is not enough. We must consciously work to teach our children to be loving individuals. Teaching them qualities of good character is an ongoing daily process. The first step is identifying which character traits are most important.

An article in TIME, written by EstherWojcicki, who has raised two CEO’s and a doctor, outlines specific traits to develop in children to make them successful adults.[5] She identifies these traits that lead to success as trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. These are all character traits that as parents, we have the ability to instill in our children.

It doesn’t mean it is an easy task, but it is about parenting in a way that the development of these specific traits is emphasized. For example, trust should be taught at home and instilled at a young age. When your child lies about stealing cookies from the cookie jar, there are consequences. They may lose their tablet for the next three days. They get this consequence, not only because they took the cookies without asking, but more so because they lied, and this is a trust issue (and you emphasize this when dealing with the infraction).

Teaching these traits is a daily practice. It involves consciously making an effort to work on the development of these traits among your entire household. It starts with you, the parent, first and foremost, as you are the example.

6. Be an Example

Being an example of success is one of the best ways to model to your children how they can become successful. The primary role model for children is usually their parents, as it should be, if possible. Parents are role models for their children whether they want to be or not. Therefore, if we want our children to become successful, then we need to model the behaviors above that are linked to success.

Trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness are behaviors we should model to children in our actions. Our children copy what we do. If they see that we cheat at a board game, then they learn that cheating is okay. If they watch us treat strangers with rudeness and hostility, they will that it is okay for them to treat others this way too. We are an example to our children in all that we do. Being a positive model of good character, working hard, and exhibiting grittiness, all help our children learn from our example and they will be more likely to succeed as adults.

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The Center for Parenting Education examines the topic of parents as role model and states the following:[6]

“Social scientists have shown that much of learning that occurs during childhood is acquired through observation and imitation. For most children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers, who have a regular presence in their lives. As a parent, it is impossible to not model. Your children will see your example – positive or negative – as a pattern for the way life is to be lived.”

If we want our children to be successful, we need to model success to them. Not only in the outcome, but the process. This means exhibiting personal qualities and character traits that align with success so that they can learn these behaviors from watching you, their parent, their most important role model.

Final Thoughts

Successful adults don’t just happen. They are developed. Children who are molded and shaped during their childhood for success are more likely to achieve success.

Parents have the opportunity to influence their child’s ability to succeed in adulthood. It is helping their children develop the qualities and traits associated with success that will essentially lead to children becoming successful as adults. These qualities to instill in our children to develop them into successful adults include hard-work, grit, trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness.

Being in our children’s lives to teach them these traits is imperative. If we aren’t around enough to teach them, they cannot learn from us. They will learn, not only by what we teach to them, but they will also learn by our example. It is important that we model these qualities associated with success consistently in our own lives. Our children are watching our example.

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Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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