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Random parenting tips Random parenting tips
by Joseph Gatt
2020-06-22 09:02:51
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I like to turn lemon into lemonade. Growing up with several foster families, I got to see first-hand how some parents ace this parenting thing, and how others, well, could do better.

So here, rather than “patronizing” parents with clear scientific advice, I'll just chip in a few ideas on what you could do, and what you should avoid when parenting.

What to do: Center family life around a community

One mistake I've seen a lot of parents make is the family is cut off from the rest of the world. It's the mother, the father, the children, and no one else ever shows up to the house, nor do they visit anyone else.

paret001_400So if you are religious, take your family to Church, to the Mosque, to the Synagogue, to the Buddhist or Hindu temple. Don't just sit there and give your offerings and listen to the sermon and leave. Hang out with the crowd, meet a few like-minded parents who have children, interact with the community. If possible play a role in the community, where you could either fundraise, preside some kind of charity, preside some kind of social work that is part of the religious service.

If you are not religious, there are plenty of non-religious organizations that are built like “religions.” That is you have associations that meet every weekend, you have sports clubs that meet every weekend where children play sports and parents watch their children while they interact. There are volunteering activities, and some of my friends who are parents like to spend their weekends at the animal shelter.

In sum, cutting yourself from the rest of the world tends to be bad parenting. Interact with your families (not just through phone and texts, but in person) and interact with your communities.

Warning: if you cut yourself out of any community, your children could end up being “socially awkward” and could end up having “identity issues.”

Warning: some parents cut themselves out of communities because their children have some kind of “defect” (like they show signs of being “gay” or “hyperactive” or whatever). Rule number one: make it clear to the community that you have no problem with your child. Rule number two: your child will be comforted by the presence of a community, and in case of being “hyperactive” or “mildly autistic” those traits will tend to correct as time goes by. Either way, if you accept your child, the community will have no problem accepting your child. 

What to do: presence at home

Children are smart. Children are strong. Children understand when their parents are absent on a business trip or are stuck at work, and usually have no problem with that. In most cases, they are proud of their parents for working hard.

But, what children tend to dislike, is when parents come home and ignore them. Father heads straight to the online newspapers or video games, mother heads straight to the phone and chats on the phone all night. Children are served dinner in silence, eat alone. Children are intimidated. Parents are home, but they are not talking to us.

Even when at home, parents tend to be busy indeed. Both fathers and mothers (or both fathers or both mothers) have to do some thinking about work, some planning, some cooking, cleaning, and have to catch up with the news and so on.

Tip: structure loosely weekdays and weekends to form good habits among children.

Example: kids come home from school. They get cookies and milk (or cookies and juice, or cookies and some drink). Then they could perhaps be allowed half an hour or an hour of video games or games.*

Important note on games: what a lot of parents don't know is that most video games are structured, have levels that you should finish, and you can finish the game. The great thing about a lot of video games is that if kids play them properly, they can learn a lot about finishing projects. Games can also teach kids about geography, a little bit of history, a little bit of science and so on. Games are not necessarily bad, but as a parent you should encourage the kids to “finish all the levels and finish the game.”

Then, after playing games for a bit (all this while you cook or clean or ruminate on stuff related to work) you guide the kids to homework. Check the assignment notebook, make the kids do their homework, and check that they're done. A lot of the homework is easy enough for you to understand, if not, you can always check online resources. There's a YouTube video for almost every math formula, science formula or grammar rule.

While kids do their homework, as usual, you do your thing.

Then there's dinner. I would encourage parents to make dinner a collective affair whenever possible. Eat together, ask the kids what they had for lunch, discuss what goes on at school, let the kids do the talking. You will keep informed, and this also helps kids become comfortable with conversation.

After dinner. If they're done with homework, and you have no urgent tasks or ruminating, you can play any board game (backgammon's good, chess is good, Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit are good, basically any game that does not involve a screen is good).

Note on board games (I like it how the French call them “society games”) is you want to change some of the rules to make the games last less time, finish on time (children really need to learn how to finish what they start). Examples of this: when we played Trivial pursuit, we invented a rule where the first person to collect 10 “cheeses” or “pieces” wins. Or could be 15. For Monopoly, we changed the rules to one where you pay a fixed price if you land on my “house” and where we can “negotiate freely” when we want to sell a house.

You then put the kids to bed. Now you can read the papers, catch up with all the activities you need peace and quiet for.

Note: all this socializing, if repeated daily, usually forms the following habits among kids:

-They learn how to focus

-They learn how to finish what they start

-They learn how to “control their impulses” and avoid eating compulsively and so on.

Every now and then, members of the “community” should visit (or you visit them) with the kids.

Big mistake: leaving the kids out of the community. If you are constantly invited to places and that the kids are never invited, the kids could have this sense and feeling that “my parents are ashamed of me.” So an occasional evening out without the kids is OK. But every single evening, or every other evening, going to parties, and the kids are not invited. Or you invite people over and lock the kids in their rooms. Not good.

The best gifts you could give kids and teenagers. A smartphone? No.

-Subscriptions to kids and teenager magazines.

-Kids and teenager books.

-A puzzle

-Anything they can collect (collectable items are fun, and will teach them discipline)

-Anything they can assemble

-Board games make for great gifts

-Any technology other than a smartphone (Digital camera, good. Digital camcorder, good. Printer, good. EBook reader, good, but make sure you get them one that doesn't break easily!).

Teenagers, their friends and the community. I'll finish with this. Being the members of a community will tend to help teenagers self-regulate. Teenagers tend to be curious, and wouldn't mind trying out that marijuana, e-cigarette, or worse. Teenagers come up with strange ideas when it comes to games.

A lot of parents tend to “set their teenagers free” that is no longer check homework, no longer eat dinner together, no longer play games after dinner. In my personal experience, and from what I observed, this is not good.

Forming good habits among teenagers, including “supervised homework” and eating dinner together, and they'll keep those lifelong habits. Plus, keep in mind that if your kids get a job, their boss will be supervising them. When teenagers are “completely free” they tend to be uncomfortable being bossed around in adult life, thus adults quitting jobs frequently, cutting corners, gambling and playing the lottery as their only hope to strike it rich and so on.

If teenagers misbehave: ask the why. Don't ground them or yell at them. Ask them why they did that. Once they give you a clear enough reason, they tend to automatically figure out that what they did was wrong, and rarely do the same mistake twice. You hit your brother? Why? You left the house without notice? Why? You stole money from you parents' wallet? Why?  

Bonus: teaching kids about how to spend money wisely. If your kid can get a job in middle school or high school, even if it's just on Sundays, or during the summer for a month, or anything, they will learn a great deal about the efforts it takes to make money. So I would encourage teenagers to “work for their pocket money” not because I'm “cheap” or “mean” but because it will teach them the following:

-It's difficult to make money!

-It usually teaches them how to spend their pocket money responsibly. A lot of times they will need a few months before being able to budget properly.

-Finally: in many cases, teenagers who work tend to get almost as much respect as the high school football team captain.

-And of course, it teaches them responsibility, grit, helps them think about the economy, about society, helps them become more self-conscious and so on. In sum, it teaches them a lot of lessons no book could teach them. Helps write better essays, get better grades and so on, provided they also do their homework.


Check out Yossi Gatt's blog https://yossigatt.blogspot.com/"

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