Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rules for Raising Our Girls

After Emerald was born, Ben and I started talking about how we wanted our girls to be raised...what kind of values we wanted them to have, what messages we wanted to give them on a regular basis, what attitudes we wanted them to have about themselves. I started jotting things down and here's the list I came up with. A list of "rules" for me and Ben to follow while raising our girls.

Whatever we do, we do it with them. As much as I would love to sit and play with my kids all day, sometimes there are other responsibilities that Ben and I have to take care of. As much as possible, we include our kids in whatever we are, cleaning, working on the car, grocery shopping, trips to the spend all the time we possibly can with them and also to teach them about responsibility and about life.

Don't tell them "no" when we could say "yes". This is not about spoiling them or never letting them hear the word "no". This is in the context of when they ask us to read them a story. Or let them finger paint. Or play outside. As busy adults, it's easy to tell them "not now" or "later" or simply "no" for no other reason other than that we'd rather get the dishes done or maybe we're just too tired and don't feel like it. I want to always be willing to tell my kids "yes" when they want to spend time with me. If I am constantly telling them "no" or "later" they will eventually stop asking me.

Give them plenty of hugs, kisses and cuddles. I don't ever want my kids to wonder if I love them or not. There are a million ways to remind my girls that I love them, but one thing I want to make sure of is that they are getting plenty of positive physical contact. Tons of hugs, kisses, cuddles and snuggles every single day.

Never yell. Anything we have to say to them, we can say in a regular tone of voice. I don't like being yelled at, so I am not going to yell at my girls.

Respect them. We think of our girls as tiny people with their own thoughts, personality, and opinions. While we are teaching them, training them, disciplining them, we will keep in mind (and let them know) that what they are thinking and feeling matters to us and their thoughts and opinions are important.

Don't let them cry alone. When our kids are babies, we never let them cry alone. No matter how tired we are or how frustrating it is or how many things we've tried to get them to calm down that have failed, we hold our babies when they cry. Since Mercedes became a toddler, we have always given her the option of having us sit by her when she is having a fit or a meltdown and we hold her when she is sad. Sometimes Mercedes doesn't want us around because she's mad at us, but we always let her know that we are right around the corner and as soon as she is ready for a hug and to talk about it we are right there for her. I do not believe in letting babies cry in their cribs in a room all alone and I do not believe in ignoring a toddler's temper tantrum or meltdown when they need help to work through those emotions.

Give them plenty of encouragement and praise. Whenever we see them doing something kind, smart, or brave.

Encourage creativity. Always, even if it means cleaning up a mess afterwards.

Pray with them. Every night. It is a wonderful time to review the day, let our kids voice their concerns, let our kids hear us pray for them and encourage them to pray to God too.

Tell them they are beautiful at least once a day.  I want them to grow up knowing what a wonderful job God did when He created them and never feeling self-conscious about the way they look.

Talk to them about God throughout every day. My number one goal as a mom is to give my girls every opportunity to have a personal relationship with God. I want them to see that God is actively involved in our lives and that He loves us and takes care of us.

Always ask ourselves "what is best for them?" when making decisions. We research, pray, and ask ourselves "what is the best thing for our girls?" when making a decision. We never compromise our girls' safety or happiness to make our lives more convenient.

Put their needs before our own. Too many parents these days refuse to be inconvenienced by their children. I refuse to let my needs get in the way of what my precious babies need. They come first. Always.

Make learning fun. I am homeschooling my kids. My goal is to make learning exciting for them so they want to learn, and let them learn about what they are interested in. I don't want to teach my kids using boring bookwork and dry curriculum. I want them to thrive on hands-on learning based on what they love and are passionate about.

Take time to enjoy them. It is so easy to get caught up in the diaper changes, the laundry, the dishes, the doctor visits, the wiping noses and making sure their tummies are full. Sometimes I feel like all I do all day is simply keep them alive...feed them, dress them, bathe them, put them to sleep, clean up their messes...I want to make a point every day to do more than that. To pause. Relax. Enjoy their sweet smiles and giggles. To remember why I love being a mom. Throughout every day.

Listen to them.  When Mercedes is having an extra testy day, I get so frustrated because she won't listen to me. Our day takes an incredible turn when I take a few minutes to sit down with her and ask her how she is feeling, why she is feeling that way and what is making her act the way she is. We do our best to see life through our kids' eyes and let them know that what they think and how they feel is important to us.

I'm sure these rules will change and adapt as our girls grow, but this is what we have so far. What are some rules you have made for yourself as a parent?

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