Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why Did You Even Have Kids?

There will be three types of people that read this article. The first will be like my sister, a parent who has figured out(more or less) how to deal with kids up to the teenage years. The second will be people without children who have ideas about how they won't deal with their children the way their parents did, and are therefore steeped in modern parenting ideas. The third group are parents who should not have children, as their lack of ability to raise their children will create a generation of idiots unable to make it in the real world.

I have been a parent for three years, and I have had to learn everything on the fly. And since there are people out there who may not have someone who they can turn to when they have questions, I have a list of tips that will cover most situations:

1. Hitting kids is OK: Far from abuse, corporal punishment is a quick and effective method of adjusting the attitude of a misbehaving child. Where the problem lies is in how it is used. If the only punishment you have is a hand, you'll fail. I've found that the ideal is that the threat of punishment is better than having to punish. The important point here is that the children know that any time you give them the look and say something along the lines of 'knock it off,' the result of them continuing their behavior will not be pleasant. And if one method doesn't seem to work, try something else.

2. Expect good behavior: If you are sitting in a restaurant (other than McDonalds) eating a meal and your children are being unholy terrors, you should probably be removing them and either leave or adjust their attitude. My nephew, in earlier years, feared a trip to the restroom with his mother, as that was here she took him for adjustment when he was getting out of control. You should expect decent behavior out of any child when you are in a public place. And always have an exit strategy.

3. Play involves more than their toys: Kids learn by doing and helping. My three-year-old likes to help me cook. I've had a couple of incidents where I had to move fast due to the presence of knives, and he's received one burn that required me to treat it. But he is learning about cooking and cleaning and doing things around the house. So they play with kitchen utensils (except the knives, of course) and tools and dirt and gravel and sticks. The point is that they will learn to interact with things other than the latest thing on TV as they get older, which is good both for them and for my bank accounts. (Ok, that last sentence isn't true, but I'm lying to myself, ok?)

4. Bandages and peroxide: In learning about everything, children learn what not to do by hurting themselves. When that happens, if it's just a bump or a pinch, it gets a kiss and a rub. If they're bleeding, I pour on the peroxide, slap on a Band-Aid, and send them on their way. My son has had four stitches above his eye. Other than that, the kids have escaped treatment at the hospital. Plus, they can take a hit like nothing else. So unless there's a bone sticking out, or blood squirting, or holes that you know are too big to tape together, then there's no reason to panic. The simple fact is that they will get hurt. Your only job is to make sure they don't get hurt so badly that they end up in the hospital. And even that's not a guarantee.

5. Let them be kids: No matter what, don't give in to the temptation to push them into something if you're more enthusiastic about it than they are. But if they really want to do it, don't let them quit just because they're discouraged. There's a time to give up, but not at the first setback. Conversely, challenge them with more difficult things at every opportunity. That way they can learn something new. Perhaps they'll do something with it.

6. The teenage years: Good luck. I'm not at this point yet, so this is more philosophy than experience. Hopefully, you've got them on the right track, because I have no advice here other than two points. First, stay the course. Expect the same things as before, even if they don't want you to. Second, let them be who they want to be, but be one step ahead of them at all costs. They will try their damnedest to make mistakes, and you must let them make as many as possible without letting them make the Big mistakes. You know what I'm talking about, because each one of you has made at least one when you were a teenager.

There are things I know I skimmed over, but every child is different, and you have to tailor your strategy to each child. And if you can't do that, then get yourself spayed or neutered. If it's good enough for your dog, it's good enough for you.

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