As a Child and Family Specialist and also when she was a Early Childhood Teacher, my wife is in constant connection with children, parents and BOTH of their cognitive and emotional developmental stages. After my wife spends a few weeks with children of other parents, inevitably two things happen. First, they are shocked to learn that this woman (who looks like she's a year or two out of college) has two amazing, independent and well mannered teenagers of her own. Second, they ultimately start praising her and asking her for parenting advice and tips based on how their children have developed and progressed under her care. Little did you readers know that the secret ingredient in Legacy Dad is really my amazing Legacy Wife!
Most of the moms my wife works with are 30-40 year old professionals - Doctors, Psychologists, Attorneys - all who are parenting toddlers to elementary aged children - so my wife is always flattered and humbled that these women are asking her for parenting advice. I always tell my wife she underestimates her experience, as she does have over 20 years in this field and 15 years of personal parenting experience.
The questions she often gets from these moms, that are deemed very important, go something like this:
Did you feed your own children all organic and gluten free?
What brand of car seat and stroller did you choose? Were they ASTM certified?
When did you start potty training?
Did you always have your children in a "sun shirt" with their bodies covered in 90 SPF sunscreen and then bath them in hypo-allergenic cleaners afterwards? After all, there are a lot of germs.
"When my children were toddlers, we were broke and on WIC. I breast fed them and gave them whatever food we could afford, probably Cheerio's and Mac&Cheese."
"I think we bought the cheapest stroller/car seat set at Wal Mart? Or maybe it was an hand me down?"
"We started potty training when our kids said THEY were ready"
"Our kids both started swimming at 6 months old but we never had a "sun shirt" - we just put some sunscreen on them and reapplied every hour or so."
UPDATE: Our children are both healthy and nowhere near overweight. In fact they still love Mac&Cheese. We passed the stroller/car seat on to my wife's' sister and both of our kids were fully potty trained by age 2. Also, pediatricians told us that are daughter was allergic to everything, especially horses. Well, my daughter has been riding horses for years and is actually at a Christian Summer Camp riding horses as a write this post.
My wife goes on to explain that all these questions that parents obsess over, and parenting forums and mom blogs write endlessly on, had very little positive long-term impact on our children's overall physical and emotional well-being. All the latest baby gadgets new parents buy and the "expert" parenting fads on everything from nutrition to play-dates had virtually no significant impact on our parenting, because it was not even an option for us as young, broke parents. Today, our children are solid students and have had almost zero health, emotional or behavioral issues ever. They teach younger children in our church, serve the homeless in our community and are often the shoulder their friends lean on in times of need. You can call us old school, traditional parents or maybe we were just blessed with great kids?
On the other hand, my wife also often has to have conferences with some of these same moms and parents who have all the latest gadgets and adhere strictly to the latest parenting fads due to emotional and behavioral issues with their children. We see countless teenagers in our home and community who come from wealthy families but the kids are self centered, pretentious towards others and often involved in destructive habits. We were also shocked at how many of these children are on antidepressants or behavior modifying prescription drugs.
In these conferences and sessions, my wife has to humbly explain that all these gadgets and fads, although touted by experts and other moms, will probably have little long term benefits for their children. These parents are good, well meaning parents who try very hard but ultimately break down emotionally in these sessions while feeling overwhelmed and asking for advice. She then tries to share with them our personal parenting philosophy and ultimately what had the biggest impact on our children's long term positive developments.
The first three things, our foundation, that have had the biggest overall impact on the health, emotional and behavioral well-being of our children and of the children she educates are this:
1. Security - A Secure Love and Home
Every child needs to know that they are loved totally and unconditionally. They need to know that our love is fully given and that it can’t be earned or lost. When they know they are loved, they will feel secure. They also need to have a home that breathes of security. A home free of yelling, arguing, resentment and stress. Children can sense insecurity and a stressful environment in a home. When children get older, one of the easiest ways to tell if a teen comes from a secure home is by how much time they want to spend at home. Create an unconditional, loving sanctuary of security for your child. A place they long to run to, not away from.
2. Purpose and Independence
Everyone, even toddlers, want their lives to count for something. Our sense of significance comes from knowing that what we are doing on a daily basis has a lasting and positive impact on the world. As parents, we must show our kids that they serve an important purpose in our family, their school, their church and the community. This is done by modeling and then allowing our children the independence to make their own decisions and mistakes but ultimately they are allowed, from an early age, to start taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. Children who are overly coddled or come from high-control homes, where parents make all the decisions for the children, often illustrate the highest rates of emotional and behavioral issues.
3. Strong Hope and Resiliency
Hope is the magic ingredient that helps you persevere and gives you that extra dose of courage when you need it. How much more so with our eternal hope in Jesus? Teaching our children about this eternal hope, through our words and actions, arms our kids with one of the greatest weapons against despair. This hope can be cultivated by allowing children to play, dream and attempt to accomplish great things. Strict schedules, rules and formalized learning will come soon enough. Encourage them to try new things, even if they seem far fetched and silly. This is where resiliency steps in. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is allowing them to fail in small ways and not step in to fight their battles for them. Letting them experience small, insignificant setbacks in grades, sports, relationships, discipline or even building blocks while playing. This further develops and strengthens their temperament, character and ability to adapt and overcome adversity.
This often isn't what most parents want to hear because it isn't easy, quick and step by step logical. It's spontaneous, messy and fluid and it's the long term approach. However, one of the scariest realities about the choices we make as parents and one of the reasons I started Legacy Dad is because the actions we take with our children, both for the positive and the negative, are often not seen or apparent until years later in their development. The best intentions and ideas you take with your toddlers today can come back and have detrimental consequences when they hit the teen or college years.
Many parents disregard this philosophy as too emotional or traditional. They dismiss my wife's advice and instead go back to the latest fads and parenting wisdom by "Google Search." Ultimately, many of these children continue to have emotionally and behavioral issues and it isn't until years later when the parents finally hit a crisis point in parenting and they are desperate for help that they finally have the teachable attitude and determination to take the advice.
My question is always why wait? Why not lay the proper foundation from the beginning?
This post has highlighted the first level of our overall "parenting house" through Grace based Parenting. The most important element, that I left out, is Grace or your attitude while doing all these things as a parent. As I highlighted earlier, babies and children can sense whether someone is sincere, attentive, empathetic, compassionate and loving. If you are just going through the motions, your children sense this and it's apparent in their emotions and behavior. This topic is one that requires further explanation in my next post - Why Grace and Attitude Matter Most.
Esse Quam Videri