As the saying goes, “behind every great kid is a mom who is pretty sure she is messing it all up.”
No doubt, this parenting gig is the craziest job you’ll ever have, and it’s really hard to know if you’re even doing it right most of the time.
Are you feeding them right? Are you teaching them well? Is your environment clean enough? Should you let them play in the dirt more? Do you hover too much? Do they need more of your attention? Do they have enough? Do they have too much? Are you making the right decisions? Do you have any idea what you’re doing at all?!
Such a self-doubting internal monologue tends to lead parents to get advice from the “experts.” Dive into the plethora of parenting advice out there and you’ll find an astonishing array of ideas that totally contradict one another.
There’s advice on everything, from sleeping habits to nutrition, from exercise to screen time, from education to play, and on and on. For every expert that tells you to co-sleep, there is another that says co-sleeping may lead to death. For every expert that tells you to set strict limits, there is another who says children should roam free. For every expert that advises on disinfecting everything, there is another who says kids need exposure to bacteria to survive.
It can be maddening.
The things to remember are that every kid is different, every parent is different, and every family is different. What works for one family might not for another. What one of your children needs, your other(s) might not.
The real expert on how to parent your children is you.
If you take stock so far of how it’s all going, I’d bet you could come up with at least a handful of things you are doing totally right for your particular kids; things you do or values you hold that are truly beneficial to your family.
Parents tend to avoid bragging about the ways they’re knocking it out of the park, but perhaps we’d all benefit from hearing just that from others. I don’t think anyone’s perfected this gig, but we’ve all got those things we are glad our family does—things that are working for us, and may work for others too.
While I most definitely am not doing it all right, there are some things I am so glad my husband and I figured out that have benefited our children immensely. Here they are, in case they can be of benefit to you:
Follow Their Interests
Kids are naturally curious and curiosity leads to learning. When our children show an interest in something, we do all we can to encourage the exploration of that topic for as long as it holds their interest. This tends to lead us to do fun activities together as a family and can send us down paths of ancillary learning as well. For example, when my son began showing an interest in birds, we found ourselves learning a lot about geography as an ancillary result—studying where certain birds lived and the climates and habitats of different regions of the world.
Our children have learned about many topics that haven’t been covered in school as a result of our simply following their interests.
Books, Books, Books
Books play a huge role in our family life. Reading is a part of our every day and our home is filled with books. Our children have been read to since birth. They were both very early readers and continue to love reading, both for enjoyment and for learning. They also both love to write as a result and excel in doing so.
Very Limited Television and Virtually No Video Games
We do not have any of the popular video game systems in our home and don’t have any game apps on our digital devices. Our children each have a computer, but we encourage them to use is as a tool to create rather than consume and we limit the time they are allowed to spend using it.
As a result of never having them in the first place, our children do not care for video games and do not wish for them. Sometimes they are asked to play an educational online game for school, which they do, but with little interest.
Both of our children have used their computers to write stories, make videos, learn how to do things like crochet, craft, sew, play instruments, and so on. Our kids have a healthy relationship to technology and are proficient at using it, but do not use it as a pacifier.
Watching television shows or movies in our home is considered a special treat and we are very careful about the content we allow our children to consume.
Seeing School as a Supplement
Rather than viewing school as the primary source of our children’s education, we see it as a supplementary means by which they learn. The primary source of their education is the learning that happens at home.
While exploring their interests, and reading and making and doing, our children have learned so much at home.
School has rounded things out for them so far, especially when it comes to the most emphasized subjects of grammar and math. We may consider fully homeschooling in the future.
Experiences Over Things
While we admittedly have more things in our home than we certainly need, and we are always improving in this regard, we aim to place more value on experiences in life over stuff.
We allocate more time and energy to family outings and travel than accumulating toys or gadgets or even furniture for our home. We strive to reduce the clutter and focus more on making and doing and encouraging our children to live that way as well.
Weekly Visits to Nana and Papa’s House
We visit our children’s grandparents every weekend for a family dinner and time “off the grid.” This weekly “sabbath,” if you will, is firmly etched in our calendar and provides an anchor to our week and a ritual we all look forward to. We share stories, laugh, enjoy Nana’s amazing cooking, and remain centered on the important things in life. It is a joy for all.
Making Kindness the Priority
Our children know that we value kindness and compassion to others, and that above all else, they should be kind. This is a regular topic of conversation in our home, and we are all constantly striving to do better in this regard.