Saturday, August 25, 2007

you didn't ask but here it is anyway

EPIPHENITA'S SUGGESTIONS FOR RAISING HEALTHY CHILDREN:
Communication

  • Don't use baby talk. They're children, not morons.
  • Get off the fucking cellphone and listen to them.
  • Teach them not to whine by not paying attention until they speak without puling. Jesuschrist, I could smack the shit out of several of my coworkers' parents for giving their kids attention for whining. It's just a bad, bad habit.
  • Accept that they will disagree with you. Insist that they learn to voice disagreements civilly. Which means they can tell you that you are being unfair but they can't tell you to go fuck yourself.
  • After they are given a chance to communicate their objections and after you really think about what they have said, make a motherfucking decision and get on with it. It's your job. Don't continue to piss around about your decision. You will come across like the limpdick that you are.
  • Don't curse around them as much I do here. But if you slip, explain that you can drive and they can't. Ditto for cursing until they learn the time-honored rules of when not to curse. (Btw, it's never "cussing." No self-respecting foulmouth calls it "cussing." For fucksake.)
Discipline
  • Physical punishment is never really justifiable. It is an indicator that you've run out of ideas, not that you're doing the work of God. Resist the urge to smack them. It's not effective and sends a terrible message.
  • That said, if you run out of patience and ideas and swat little Trixie's bottom, calm down and forgive yourself. She learned you have a breaking point, she will survive. If, however, you run out a patience, pick her up and consider throwing Trixie across the room: set her down and get some professional help. Immediately.
  • Not hitting is not the equivalent of not disciplining. You are the goddamn parent. Stop sniveling and asking your children if it's okay that you do your job.
  • When you take them out of the house, teach them to behave. They may be the center of your world but they need to learn that they are not the center of your fellow diners, shoppers or pedestrians' world. Curb your precious.
  • If you must be on the phone, or otherwise occupied, expect them to entertain themselves without interrupting you. (Use your common sense. A 3-yr old might only be able to play quietly for 5 minutes without needing you. A 6-yr old might be able to occupy himself for 15 minutes or more.)
  • Teach them that feeling bad for hitting their sibling with a lamp is the appropriate response. They can learn to be sorry for something without you turning guilt into some evil tool of manipulation. (My children feel I have work yet to do on this one. After all I've done for them.)
  • Say you're sorry when you fuck up. But don't grovel. They don't want that much power over you.
Learning
  • Turn off the TV, computer and video games REGULARLY.
  • Make them play outside. Really, not virtually.
  • Read to them. Make books the prize.
  • Sing to them. They don't give a shit if your voice is scratchy and flat.
  • Teach them. Science, politics, art. Expose them to ideas. Take them to experience shit firsthand: museums, zoos, government houses, industrial kitchens, etc.
  • If you're so disposed, get a pet or plant a garden with them.
  • Don't think you need religion to teach them about spirituality and ethics.
  • Teach them that they are a part of a larger community. They are self-centered because that's their survival skill. It is up to us to widen their view.
  • When they start school, impress upon them that being a student is their job. Treat their job with as much respect and high expectations that you should have for your own.
  • Give them opportunities for creative play. The hackneyed example holds true: an empty appliance box may be a much better gift than a new dvd.
  • Let them learn about problem solving. This means that you must back out of the picture often while they struggle.
Stereotyping
  • Stop gushing over how delicate, pretty and tiny your daughter is and focus on her intelligence, strength, talents and accomplishments.
  • Balance out what your son gets about "being manly" by praising his nurturing (sorry, it's a gaggy word but that's what I have) behavior. We may even get some healthy fathering out of this one.
Nutrition
  • Feed them sanely. Occasionally the fast food siren song is too strong to resist. Once in a great while (I would suggest once a month is too much) go ahead and put some extruded nugget food in front of them. But for the most part, balance out their diets with as little processed, over-sugared, fat-laden food as you can. You don't have to mill your own organic rice flour, just make sure they get the four food groups as simply as possible.
  • Don't allow them to become picky, whiny eaters. For the love of god, don't let them turn their noses up at vegetables while they slurp down kool-aid and eat french fries. This is your job. They will learn to enjoy healthy foods if you don't give them sugary-fat crap alternatives. And they will eat if they're hungry.
General
  • Assume they will not, and should not, lead the life you wished you'd lived.
  • Don't try to undo every mistake you feel your parents made. Fate will kick your ass.
  • Remember that your goal is to produce an independent, secure, whole adult. Which means your goal is to make your job obsolete. Knock your ego out of the way.
  • Laugh a lot. And if you're a hater like me, laugh hard at yourself in addition to laughing at others.
  • Stop trying to analyze and codify (read justify) every behavior. Human beings are not that linear. Junior may be a little shit today because he woke up that way, not because he ate a fucking cookie yesterday or because his dignity was bruised when he wasn't allowed to throw his classmate off the monkey bars.
  • Most of all, tell them that you think they hung the moon; that they are wonderful. Hug them. Even when they stink. Especially when they stink. Make sure they know, no matter what, that your love for them is not contingent upon anything they do or don't do (you may like them better if they do what you want, but obedience can not be the deciding factor in your love or they will become stunted little misfits).

    Seriously. This may be the only part that makes a difference. Children survive horrible situations intact because someone (parent, grandparent, aunt, etc.) loved them unconditionally.
Unloading all my sage advice would be cathartic, vindicating and self-righteous if I hadn't fucked up so much along the way. My children, however, seem to have weathered my failings without too many scars. In the land of realistic expectations, that screams success to me.

1 comment:

StevensVox said...

Oh, Miz Enita, how I wish you had your own PBS show, and could teach this every day. Or make this a prerequisite before any of the 'I don't need to work (even though I went to Brown) because my husband works at Halliburton' rich, privaliged, white Lexus driving while talking on her cell phone and drinking Starbucks, Chanel sunglass wearing and not paying attention to the road because I was raised like I was the only precious star in the universe thus I am the only one who matters on the road' mothers takes their 'sponge' out to any restaurant. So I don't have to wait and listen to her instruct her child to chose what ever they want (yes, let they can let them chose, but after one minute 'sorry you lost your chance, enjoy the noodles and butter, junior'), and hold up my ordering lunch (because I actually have to go back to a job, unlike Mrs. Brown), then listen to the 'angel' whine and writhe all during my meal.

Yes, I am well aware that I have issues about this all...
Kisses,
Steven