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Raising happy kids to be independent functioning adults

Tips to help parents with kids from Birth to 18 years old

 

I have just turned 50 and am now sitting back and enjoying the family I have nurtured for the last 28 years. I feel proud of the children I have raised as they have both completed their respective educations and have gone on to have very successful careers. They are both married and are looking forward to parenthood themselves as the journey of life evolves.

I believe that raising kids is all about love, good values, consistency and structure while being open to the modern world, change and most of all good communication.

I have been asked to share what I think I did right and what I would do differently. I guess I could write an essay but think it’s better to keep it  simple, so I thought I would just do some bullet points.

 I do not profess that I know everything or that I did everything right, but I guess the proof is in the pudding and believe I must have got a few things right. So please feel free to ignore, disagree or adapt which ever sounds right for you.

Where to start?

I will group this as much as I can in age appropriate paragraphs although some of it crosses over right through their childhoods.  Remember I am not an expert and I did not find parenthood easy, actually I found it to be the most difficult but it has proven to be the most important job I have ever done. I can only tell you what seemed to have worked for us.

Birth to 5 years old

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici  and Freedigitialphotos.netImage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and Freedigitialphotos.net

  • Enjoy them.

  • Show them Lots of love and affection.

  • Be consistent in boundaries year after year and understand that the boundaries change as they grow older.

  • Please note that you need to start raising your kids with structure and boundaries from the age of one. Don’t wait until they are 9/10, it’s a lot harder then because they have already developed their habits and mannerisms etc.

  • When they are little get a pet – don’t wait until they are teenagers – they will lose interest in the pet fast as they become preoccupied with their own identities growing. Pets give them so much and the relationship developed is valuable to the child. But do not expect the child to take all the responsibility of looking after it. You must lead by example on what it is to be a responsible pet owner.

  • Think about the age you think your child should start school. Don’t worry too much about how smart they are now. Think more about their actual maturity and advantages later in teenage years. I spoke to an older teacher when we were considering this, and we took on board her advice and we are so glad we did. For instance, one of our kids was early to start everything, walking, talking toileting etc. The preschool suggested we send her to school at the age of four (turning five in the April) as the preschool assessment had indicated her to be ready. However, We decided to wait another year and start her when she were turning 6. This decision served us well, as once  she was at school she really struggled and didn’t settle. In later years, when my children became teenagers we were relieved that the one year seniority over their pupils became an advantage.  They were not the underage kids going to parties and when their friends were wanting to do something they knew was wrong they just had that slightly more mature advantage to make better decisions – not all the time, but most. Even getting their driver’s licence before their friends was an advantage. I know that with the cost of day care it is tempting to send them earlier but if you can, consider waiting the extra year.

5 – 13 years old

 image courtesy of photoshock and freedigitalphotos.netimage courtesy of photoshock and freedigitalphotos.net

  • Enjoy the age - they grow so fast.
  • Again continue to show them lots of love and affection.

  • Involve your kids in extracurricular activities for their entire school years this keeps them active, organised and expands their interest.

  • Involve them in team sports – teaches them team work, discipline, sharing, leadership and keeps them fit.

  • Be involved in their school – canteen, working bees etc. --  even in high school if you can.  If you work try to occasionally take a day off and volunteer in something – your presence at school has more impact than you could realise. Your kids feel secure, their friends know you and you will be respected, the school knows you and will respect your involvement and you will be more aware of school activities.

  • Try to attend all or most school concerts especially if they are involved – this is for you as much as it is for them. I have since learned; I do not remember what I achieved at work 20 years ago on the day I went to work but I can tell you every concert I missed at my kid’s school due to working.

  • Go on regular family holidays - especially in the teenage years – families who play together stay together.

  • If they struggle with reading – think about what they love and are interested in. Buy magazines on these interests and give them to your child – make sure it has lots of pictures. Don’t try to force them to read. Just leave the magazine with them and don’t worry that they will only look at the pictures. When they see a picture that interests them, if they want to learn and understand that topic more they will eventually (in their own time and privacy of their own space) begin to read, without any harassment or judgement. This works trust me

  • Don’t buy them everything they want for the sake of it – keep special items for birthdays or Christmas etc.

  •  When you need to say 'no' to something ALWAYS explain why you need to say no. This helps them understand boundaries and why they are set. If you just say no without providing an explanation then they just hear dictatorship/orders and will more than likely rebel your decision.

  • Involve them in making family decisions - tell them pros and cons of any decisions and ask for their feelings/thoughts. Always let them know they are valued. Thank them for their input and explain why decisions are made.

  • Teach them to budget – I used to put their pocket money in a pay envelope and then we would sit and write out a weekly budget on the back of the pay envelope. This was simple and appropriate for the younger kids and as they grow older you can perhaps work out monthly or yearly budgets in spreadsheets if you are that way inclined.

  • Encourage them to be enterprising – my kids would make up their own businesses such as candle making. It wasn’t greatly successful but the experience and skills they developed were valuable, including accepting failure and then getting up and trying again.

  • Meet their friends’ parents and have all their friends’ contact numbers in your phone. You won't regret this.

  • Always speak to them in a calm tone and when necessary a firm tone. Keep the firm tone in times when discipline is required or you need to express your dismay.

  • Siblings fighting usually escalates at around the age of 8 – 16. This depends on the gender, age differences and other family situations. I can’t say I was able to stop this, but my first experience with this I tried being a referee – failed! Then I had a light bulb moment and tried something different.  I had just finished studying and part of my studies was effective communication, so when they would fight, I would stop them then sit them down to listen to me read paragraphs from the communication text books. As you can imagine they hated it but I like to believe it was a suitable punishment and hopefully some of it sunk in. If you like this idea you can google effective communications and make up your own points and put them on cards to pull out and read when needed.  

  • This is super important - Always eat dinner and breakfast at the kitchen table with the whole family every day when you can and use the time to talk about everyone’s day. Even if you are not eating make sure you sit there with them to be involved in the discussion. Always listen to all and allow them time to reflect.

  • Allow your house to be friend friendly – get to know their friends and ALWAYS maintain respect  - never try to be the cool parent  - be easy going, polite and involved but never encourage or allow activity that you know is wrong and against the values you believe in.

  • Remember your job of parent is to be a parent and raise well adjusted, independent citizens. You can be there friend when they are adults.  Kids want their parent/s to provide structure, they may not admit it but will respect you for it especially if you have kept the love and communication consistently good over the years.

  • Always speak to your children with respect – never swear at them, never name call them and never hit them. They live what and how they were raised and consequently will have the temperament that was instilled in them as they were growing. Not to mention, one day they will be adults who will remember how they were treated and as you get to old age they will be the ones who care and support you.

  • Ensure you speak to your partner with respect and be caring to your partner. This will do more than keep your relationship in check it will also keep your kids happy and teaches them how healthy relationships look.

  • If your child has learning difficulties and if you can afford it - engage a tutor. This takes pressure off you and provides your child with someone who is concerned with them and provides 1:1 help for them.

14 – 18 years old

image courtesy of Photostock and freedigitalphotos.netimage courtesy of Photostock and freedigitalphotos.net

  • If your kids are good at school and want to go on to year 12 - that’s great and should be supported.  However, if they are not, don’t put unnecessary pressure on them, yourself and the whole family by placing unnecessary emphasise on them excelling in the HSC. Not all kids are suited to the structure of school.  Some kids will be more successful in life if they leave at year 10 and go on to complete an apprenticeship of some kind.  If they are unsure about enrolling in university or they didn’t quite get the marks needed, suggest they take a year off study to think about what they would like to do and work for a year. Or look at other avenues for furthering their education if that’s what they want to do.

  • Always ensure you are the person who drives them to a party or activity and that you will be the person who picks them up. This lets them know you care, that they don’t need to worry about how they are getting home and you know they get home safely. This can be an inconvenience to you but let me assure you - you will sleep better at night knowing they are safe.  

  • If they want to stay overnight at a friend’s house, especially around the ages 12 – 16, always phone and speak to the friend’s parent and ensure you are comfortable they will be safe.

  • Educate pre-teens and teenagers on social media; the reasons how and why it is important that they keep their pages private and only interact with people they actually know.

  • I never believed in sheltering kids from life’s truths. By this I mean if someone we knew had crossed the line; broke the law or our family values I would always encourage them to watch or listen to the incident and or outcome. I would then explain how and or why that situation occurred, I then would use the opportunity to reiterate this is why I say no to this or how this is. Just for an example: if someone died from a drug overdose, I would then talk about the how, why and maybes - if someone crashed the car due to speeding or the consequences of drunks fighting etc.

  • Be the best role model yourself. Don’t act one way and expect them to be different; be open and honest

  • Don’t make excuses for their failings or mistakes. Allow them time to reflect and talk about how they could try again or do things differently next time. Ensure they grow up accountable.

  • As the reach the age of 18 let them know that they are now in the eyes of the law on their own. That they are now responsible for their own actions and that parents can no longer be held responsible for their behaviour.

I think that's about it; the main things I can share. Please know it is very easy for me now to sit here and say all of this but believe me when I was living it and trying my best, I struggled and made mistakes, as most parents do. So, go easy on yourself because as the song goes, ' we do the best job we know how to do and you will too'.

Article written by

Shannon Taylor