By Rajdeep Paulus @rajdeepaulus
Being a Contagious Parent
The other night, my six-year-old daughter said to me, “Mommy, the fashion show starts in fifteen minutes.”
I giggled and told her, “Okay, I’ll be there.”
This is the same kid who plans family tea parties, family game nights, and special themed dinners. Of course she’s too young to cook, but she is a natural planner and her daddy is usually the first to make sure it happens.
About twenty minutes later, the five of us sat on the couch and waited for Sarah’s show to start. And the thoughts I had going into it were, “How will I be able to tame this youngest child of mine who is a diva in the making? Will she turn out to be a self-absorbed, materialistic, fashionista if we encourage these shows? And when will she outgrow her it’s all about me tendencies?”
Turns out, Sarah surprised us all that night. She had picked out five outfits. The first was titled, ‘The Writer.’ When she came out with a pink matching skirt and shirt, scarf around her neck and holding a feather pen and pad of paper, she asked, “Can the writer in the house please stand?” I laughed and got up. Then she said, “Now everyone clap for the writer in our family.” And they did.
Next came her ‘Basketball Star,’ outfit, purple shorts and t-shirt with a pink basketball in tow. She asked her big sister Lydia to stand, and we all clapped because “Lydia, you’re soooo good at basketball!” Sarah gushed.
Next, ‘The Doctor’ getup with her Elmo stethoscope around her neck, and hubby stood up and more applause followed. And the last two were, ‘The Artist’ for my daughter who loves to draw and ‘Piano Player’ for our oldest who plays. The show was over and Sarah offered “autographs” to anyone who wanted one from her. What a hoot!
I was so moved by the whole event. She had come up with the idea herself. Planned her outfits. But more than that, she found a way to celebrate each of her family members, and being that she’s the “baby” in the house, and we all adore her, I was honestly shocked at how unselfish her performance was. It made me start to think that perhaps Hubby and I were getting something right, after all. We had done something in the way of raising our kids that Sarah caught on. Our love for celebrating our kids was contagious, and we witnessed the product of that joy in Sarah’s simple but brilliantly executed one-princess fashion show. Oh what a night!
I’ve been thinking about the special show ever since and came up with a list of ten things we strive to demonstrate and hope will be contagious in our children’s lives. I’m sure there are more. These ten came to mind.
1. Be Generous. Share cheerfully. And you’ll see your children sharing with their peers, siblings and neighbors. Create a world perspective in them that reminds them of how blessed they are. And they’ll grow up to share their blessings.
When we were kids, we’d convince my little sister to ask my parents to buy candy in the store, and she would always ask for three, one for each sibling. I know she got that from my mother, the most generous and thoughtful person I know.
2. Hug. Spontaneously. All the time. Touch is critical and life changing. Fill their tanks with healthy and loving touch so that they might not go looking for it elsewhere.
I love pulling my kids on to my lap when they’re walking by for a squeezy hug. And if they forget to hug me goodnight, I try and make it up the next day with some extra long hugs. And if I come home after they’re asleep in bed, sometimes I sneak into bed with them to hug them while their sleeping. I’m sure they have the best dreams on those nights!
3. Forgive quickly. And let it go. I’m not saying to teach your children to be doormats, but there are plenty of minor, daily offenses that will eat them up if they let them linger on their minds and hearts. Pick your battles and teach them to pick theirs. Along with forgiveness comes faith. And the Golden Rule. Treating others as you would want them to treat you. Help them to forgive themselves by forgiving yourself when you mess up as a parent.
Our kids watch us constantly, even when we think they’re distracted, and they need to learn how to navigate the waters of healthy relationships. We are their best examples of that as we give grace to each other and not get caught up in the little things.
4. Lower your voice. Gentleness speaks volumes compared to yelling. And I know I shut down and tune out when I hear a raised voice. Take time to calm down and delay a needed conversation if that short time out means you can think clearly and speak kindly as you explain life lessons to your children. They will, in turn, speak respectfully to others when conflict arises. Because that’s inevitable. Conflict will arise.
I must admit, this one is challenging for me. I’m a bit of a screamer. But hubby reminds me that no one ever listens to me more effectively after I scream. He often says, “I want our house to be a house of peace.” He’s right. Working on it.
5. Affirm. Affirm. And then affirm some more! There are and will continue to be plenty of voices in their lives telling them they can’t. They won’t. OR they don’t have what it takes. Believe in them, and they will learn to believe in themselves. Discouragement leads to despair. Hope helps their dreams to take flight.
I love how different each of our kids is. It has been such a treat to watch them bloom into their own personalities, formulate their tastes, and decide which interests to explore and work on. But nothing comes without a lot of hard work, and our kids need cheerleaders on the sidelines to help them keep at their goals.
6. Challenge them. Set expectations. And then join them in the fight. Hubby wants our kids to be strong girls so he asks them to do push-ups and pull-ups every day. And he does them too.
7. Dance. Fill your house with music. Let them find their song and step in the freedom of your family room. Kids need a place they can let their hair down and the confidence they build will help them get on the dance floor of real life when the time comes.
We do everything to music. Clean. Cook. Work. And play. And sometimes, in the middle of it all, we just stop and have a dance party. It starts with one person getting up and pumping her arms. Then the next joins in and then before you know it, we are all dancing. Laughing. And dancing some more. These are and will always be some of my best memories with my kids as they grow up.
8. Play games. Teach them how to play fair. How to be a gracious winner. And how to lose with dignity. And the art of waiting their turn. Help them to process the pain of defeat and simmer down the desire to gloat. Let them make their mistakes with you.
Sorry is a good one. Treacherous at times. And as they get older, Settler of Catan is a really fun one, with lots of strategy and alliances and real life dynamics played out on a game board. And there’s always the classic games of Pictionary or Charades that doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age or acting ability.
9. Laugh. With each other. At yourself. Teach them to lighten up. After all, I often tell my kids, “Nothing is the death of me. Except…well, the death of me. And since I’m still breathing… this is DEFINITELY not the death of me. Even if it’s a bit of a mess.”
10. Celebrate. Often. Not waiting for some huge accomplishment, but the little things. And sometimes for no reason at all. Make them feel like champions when they hit a shot even if they lose the game. When they cross the finish line, even if they didn’t get a medal. When they reach a personal best, even if there were others who did better. Because each child is different, gifted uniquely, and those moments of celebration, even if all you do is take them out for Dollar Menu sundaes, builds their confidence. Teaching them not to give up. And helps them to expect more of themselves. And in the end, they need to know that they are loved, accepted, and treasured, apart from their accomplishments. Simply because they are yours.
How do you parent?
Rajdeep Paulus Rajdeep Paulus is the author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram .
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