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8. Let them see you struggle. If you are feeling beat up on at work, or like your friends are messing you around, it’s okay to share these general things with your child (according to age and maturity of the child). It’s okay for parents to cry around their children, and for spouses to argue, but childhood is just one never-ending education. How you behave when you are upset and when you argue is critical.
9. Always discipline, never punish. The world “discipline” comes from the Greek word that means “to learn.” Punishment is always connected with anger and revenge. Adults have no business taking out anger on children. Our job is to teach them and we will always teach better from calm than from anger. Discipline is meant to teach a child how to act or what to do, often using natural or logical consequences, and stands a higher chance of being far more effective and not leaving the child with permanent emotional wounds – perhaps some of the same wounds you still carry because you were punished instead of disciplined.
10. Push your religious views on your child. You read that right. Do not subscribe to the notion that you’ll allow your child to make up his own mind about God. There is nothing better you can do than to faithfully pass on your faith/values to your child. Of course she could choose to reject it when she gets older. She could also decide to ignore your advice about not playing in the street, but doesn’t mean you don’t make sure she knows your opinion on the matter. And if you think whether your child plays in the street is more important or urgent than whether or not they learn about God, then you do not understand religion. Whether you do or don’t, pass down what you believe to your child. They desperately need guidance in this area.
11. Apologize. No one is perfect, and the people willing to accept responsibility when they are wrong are those most worthy of admiration. If you want your child to respect you, admit it when you’ve screwed up. Say it gently and sincerely. Express regret for hurting them, and reaffirm your love for them. If they see you do this consistently, they’ll probably grow up to do this too, and the world needs more people who admit when they are wrong.
12. Have a vision for your child’s soul. Here I do not mean religion, I mean the kind of person you want your child to be. Then when you are disciplining them, you can do it with a clear sense of the direction in which you are guiding them. When my girls were small I would often say to them, “Daddy loves you too much to let you be the kind of person who does things like that.” I was working from a vision of the kind of people I wanted them to be.
13. Talk openly about God and sex. Your child cannot afford 1) for you to be ignorant in these matters; or 2) for you to be knowledgeable but allow them to think you are ignorant! Your child will likely not make it successfully through high school if you are silent, unclear, or ashamed about sex, and they likely will spend a lot of life confused if you are silent about God. Again, if you are uncomfortable with either of these, figure out how to get over it. These are essential for the development of your child. Your hang-ups are not your child’s responsibility. In fact, you are responsible for making sure that your child doesn’t end up with your hang-ups.
14. Love your spouse and treat them with respect. There is nothing greater you can do, if you are married, than to love and respect your spouse. Your daughters will learn how to treat a man from how mom treats dad, and your sons how to treat a woman from how dad treats mom. We spend so much time worrying about whether we can influence our kids to join this team, or drop that friend, or do this assignment. We’d do far better to pay more attention to how we’re treating our partners.
15. Realize you are already choosing your child’s mate. Your daughter will probably choose someone who treats her the way her father did. Your son will probably choose someone who treats him the way his mother did. Based on how you relate to your children now, does this comfort you, or scare you?
Any biggies I missed? Any I included that don’t seem important to you?