Dear Parents who don’t want to be hated by Teachers, Coaches, Fellow Grocery Shoppers, or Future Employers,
You have a tough job. You have to raise a child or children in a terrible economy with news of shootings and drug dealing every day. So no, no one expects you to be superhuman or anti-TV or video games and churning your own butter.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: we know if you’re a good parent or not.
That said, we would appreciate if you could follow through on a few simple things. I dare say that you might even have a pretty fantastic child someday if you do.
1 – Read to your kids when they’re little. Every night. At the exact same time. We’re talking Seuss not Shakespeare. I know you can read it. I also know that children who are read to have higher academic stats later in life, and think of all those social lessons the Berenstain Bears and David put out. And when they’re old enough to read on their own, send them to bed and make sure they have a bookshelf or the Judy Jetson-esque Kindle (but no internet allowed). Once a habit, it will keep happening.
2 – Bedrooms are for sleeping, not watching TV, playing video games, sneaking onto the internet, or texting the new bf/gf at any age and don’t let them fool you about “just listening to music” on their iPods. Make your kids turn in all their electronics to you at a set time. Keep them in your room. If you don’t want to deal with bitchy teenagers now or in a few years, it’s a good place to start.
3 – Get them in a few activities, preferably ones that involve some community service along the way. No, I did not say 300 activities. I said introduce them to a few things – cards, band, dance (only if you want to torture your family members with recitals), t-ball, swim lessons, 4-H, Sunday School, or karate if you want to, but not all of them and not 24/7. A well-rounded child becomes a successful adult.
4 – Please help them learn the value of family, money, and education. I understand that you want to give your kids everything you didn’t have, but you can’t. You shouldn’t! They need to learn to earn things. For every one thing you say yes to, there should be at least four other things you said no to, or make them do chores to earn it. And please don’t let your sucky attitude rub off on them. Yes, maybe you did hate math, but guess what? You use it every day, and so will your kid. You can be empathetic, but you can’t make excuses.
5 – For the love of humanity and all of us normal people still in the world, don’t make excuses for your child! There have to be consequences. If a teacher calls to tell you that your child did something wrong, it clearly happened. Why? Because calling parents is like going to the dentist, you only do it if you have to. No teacher sets out to make some kid miserable. And even if you think the coach or teacher does have something against your child, don’t ever say it! It’s called encouragement. Say, “You know what, Jimmy? It looks like we maybe need to spend some more time practicing that at home.” And then actually have your child practice.
6 – And while you’re practicing, here are a few other basic skills your kid needs to know so they don’t look like a complete ignorant in later life:
Manners – saying please and thank you go a long way in this world
How to tie their shoes. It is not socially acceptable to wear Velcro forever.
Addition, subtraction, and times tables – all of them by rote memorization (quiz them in the car on the way to football practice if you have to, but don’t let it go by the wayside)
How to count money. Have them count out the dollar bills and change for their own Happy Meal. Seriously.
7 – Speaking of which, eat with your kids. Even if you’re all in the minivan shoveling in PB&J on the way to a soccer game, it still counts if you talk and eat together.
8 – Talk to your kid! Every single day. Do not just ask yes/no questions. Force conversation. Dance embarrassingly around them if you have to. Teach them how to make supper step-by-step while you make it. Sing old songs with them on the deck. Ask who’s running for prom queen. If you’ve talked enough, your child whether five, 15, or 25 years old, should be haunted by your voice in their heads. I mean it. Even if you aren’t there, they should hear your voice saying, “You know you’ll lose your scholarship if you’re caught.” “We have to share our toys.” “Nice guys say they’re sorry not shit happens.”
9 – Look at your child or children. It sounds stupid, but it’s not. Look at the expressions on their face. Look to make sure they’re not wearing whore make-up. Look at their clothes to make sure they aren’t wearing a “turd bucket” t-shirt to school. Look at their hair and the amount of piercings as they get older. If the hair is pink or there’s more than two piercings, they are screaming for attention or they are about to rebel over whatever you did to screw up their lives. Take note and fix it. FAST! And if you don’t know how, ask a teacher, ask a family friend, ask a coach, but don’t give up. Then we’ll know why they are the way they are.
10 – Above all else, be your child’s parent, not their friend. Guess what? There will be days they hate you. There will be days they curse your name. There will be days they want to live with anybody else. But guess what? If that happens, you’re doing it right! Because even if they hate you on any given day, they will respect you for caring about their well-being. Tell them it’s a game of Would You Rather? And you would rather have them hate you than them die in a car crash on the way to a concert with a friend’s brother who is notorious for getting high. End of story. I promise you they won’t forget you said that or that you loved them enough to parent them. And someday they will be proud to be your child and you will be proud to call them your son or daughter. Guaranteed.
And if you are failing miserably on all these fronts and think there’s no possible way to do all these things, I highly suggest you start bribing your child’s teachers with Starbucks gift cards. ASAP!
Seriously though, thank you for caring enough to read this in an attempt to be that parent… The good one. Best of luck to you.
Bolton Carley wrote this guest blog for Liv, Laugh, Love. She maintains her own blog, boltoncarley’s blog, full of snarky hilarity for adults.