Disclaimer: I am not a parent. I am a 19-year-old single college student and very much still in late adolescence. But I am also an oldest child with a significant age gap, a future educator, and a good observational learner. Also, I’m taking adolescent development, which makes me think about kids a lot more than I normally might. Honestly, the idea of bringing a child up in this world scares the crap out of me, as I’m sure it does many of you. As a planner (and procrastinator… exam in the morning), I want to make sure I have a strategy for that (hopefully far off) day when I decide to have kids. So, here is a list of goals for my future self, when I am a mother, based off of observation and my current excessive habit of devouring psychology texts.
1. I will not give my child a cell phone or an iPad. It is so easy to make that into a tool of appeasement, and children learn so quickly that throwing a tantrum gets them their way. No, fake tears and throwing things gets you a time out where I can see you and in a place that doesn’t mean play-with-old-toys-I-found-out-of-boredom-in-my-room.
2. My children will spent at least twice as much time outside as they do watching TV. I will sign them up for any sports they show interest in, we will play outside as a family, and if it is feasible they will walk or bike to school. I was “the chubby kid” and I am still fighting the body, stigma, and mentality that comes with it. Instilling exercise as a habit is something that I wish my parents had done with me, and childhood obesity is such a terrifying epidemic. They will also eat their fruits and vegetables, and we will not have dessert (or lucky charms) everyday. Sugar addiction is REAL, people!
3. I will not reason with my young children and try to explain why what they have done is wrong. They do not understand. Before the age of 7 of so, they live in the world of black and white and do not have the cognitive processes to understand why little Tommy’s feelings were hurt when he was punched. They need to know that punching is wrong, and it has immediate consequences.
4. It is important that my children respect their father and me, and once a healthy respect is established then they can grow to like us. Love is unconditional, but respect is not.
5. I will never say “no, no, no, no, no, no, …. no, yes” when my child begs for something. This undermines all authority I have as an enforcer. Similarly, when I dole out a consequence, I will follow through. Telling a kid no computer time and then letting him use the computer guarantees he will commit his behavior infraction again.
6. I will not lecture in the car. They won’t listen anyway. I will not yell about everything. My mom is a yeller. It sucks.
7. I will talk to my children about sex, drugs, and alcohol. Studies show that kids who are well prepared for puberty when it arrives have higher self-esteem and come out on top emotionally, and kids who are well educated about sex, drugs, and alcohol, while they may still partake, are less likely to make really dumb decisions.
8. I will teach my kids about money from an early age. When they are teenagers, I will help them become financially independent and ready for real life. They will know how to write a check, bargain for a used car at a dealership, and establish good credit.
9. My children will do chores. They will learn how to cook, clean, launder, sew, garden and mow the lawn, set the table, fix appliances, change light bulbs, set up computers, put furniture together out of a box, take care of pets, change a tire, fix a bike chain, be polite, write thank you notes, and sell themselves to future employers. Those last ones may not be chores but they’re still important and a lot of people (me included) move into their first apartment and can’t do half of these things. I’m all about life skills.
10. I’m not sure if it’s possible to help save my children from the perils of our educational system, but I will help them understand why integrity, creativity, and hard work is important, and help them find the things they are really good at and passionate about. I will not force them into an identity foreclosure. They will probably be procrastinators, and I know from my mother’s efforts that there is nothing I can do about that.
When I have kids, this list will go on my refrigerator. Hopefully I remember it exists. Hopefully I can get a few of these things right, and still have fun with my kids.
This has been midnight-cramming-induced thoughts by Natalie.