Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Universal Lessons Learned From Parenting

(This post was written last night, but Charter's consistently inconsistent service kept cutting out on me. I was too tired to keep trying to post last night. Some time references may be in relation to last night, not this morning.)

So, I am at the end of my week-long Thanksgiving vacation as I know it (and I feel fine, though I wouldn't complain if I still had an extra day or two left). I went up and grabbed my two boys in Ohio and had them down here in Georgia all week. So, yes, for the first time since school started back up, our house was filled with 4 boys (5 if you count me).

As with our summer periods together as a full family unit, this week was fun, and it wore me out. Plus, I gathered some universal lessons of parenting that can be applied to everything from dating to business (even writing and publishing). Here they are:

  1. Take care of yourself. Before you can help others, you need to be in tip-top shape. So, remember to eat and sleep and give yourself at least a little relaxation time.
  2. Don't make promises unless you really (really really) know you can keep them. A broken promise, whether to a child or an adult, is often on the same level (or just a notch below) an outright lie. Don't make promises or commitments unless you absolutely know you can keep them. And if for some reason you can't, admit to it immediately and apologize sincerely.
  3. Give warnings when things are about to change. For my boys, I always give warnings, whether it's in regards to leaving the playground or getting out of the bathtub. What this does for children (and adults) is give them time to prepare for and accept change. In fact, there are even times when my boys are ready to leave before I am.
  4. Don't play favorites. I have four boys. They all want my attention most of the time; they all want different things; they all want to watch different shows on TV; they all want to be my favorite; they all want to be first; and so on. My job is to make sure that they all feel special without feeling that one of them is more special than all the others. Favoritism leads to resentment and hurt feelings. Avoid it at all costs.
  5. Lead by example. If I just tell my boys to brush their teeth, they're bound to just argue with me, throw fits, etc. But if I grab my toothbrush and say, "It's time to brush our teeth; daddy is brushing his teeth, too," then I almost always get them all brushing without complaint.
  6. Don't overcommit. Many optimists (myself included) have a hard time with this one, which ultimately circles back to not making promises you can't keep. I might want to do eight things tomorrow, but in reality, I only have time to do two or three. If I overcommit, I could end up stressing myself out while disappointing others. It's always best to underpromise and overdeliver.
  7. Say "no" and stick to it. Most people want to please other people, but we also need to draw lines in the sand. If it's before lunchtime, I'm not going to let my boys have candy. No matter how they whine, argue, fight, etc. It's not going to happen. I want my boys to be happy, but they're not getting candy before lunch. (This rule applicable to all relationships, not just the father-son variety.)
  8. Show your appreciation. When my boys follow the rules, I reward them with compliments (not candy or toys). When my boys are polite and say "thank you," "please," and "bless you," I reward them with praise. Sometimes, for no particular reason at all, I say, "I love you." All people want to feel appreciated. Always remember this.
  9. Be consistent. Look at my candy rule in #7. Look at how I always give warnings in #3. People (both children and adults) respond well to consistency. If they know what to expect, they can adapt easier.
  10. Challenge them. Baby Will is walking already (at 11 months). As a result, he falls. A lot. I try not to rush to him whenever he does, because I want to give him the opportunity to pick himself up and start walking again (which he often does). When the older boys ask me a question, I challenge them to give me an answer first. Sometimes, they're right; sometimes, they're not. But people like to feel challenged; and even better are those times when they rise to the challenge.

*****

Holiday first: On Friday (day after Thanksgiving), Tammy, the boys, and I all went to one of those tree farms where you can cut down your own Christmas tree. It was a lot of fun and very easy. Tammy and I kept it a secret until we got to the place, and the boys thought it was super cool.

*****

Recent update: On Saturday morning, I took Ben and Jonah back up to Ohio. Before I dropped them off at their house, we met up with my mom, my new sister-in-law, and both of my brothers at this awesome Dayton pizza chain called Marion's Pizza. I got to sleep around 11-ish and then woke up at 2:45 a.m., flying down I-75 back home to Georgia so that I could make it to the Foster make-up-Thanksgiving jamboree, which was a lot of fun.

*****

Observation #1: Bumper stickers make people targets and are often ridiculous.

For instance, today (on the way back to Georgia), I read the following bumper sticker: KIDS THAT HUNT AND FISH DON'T STEAL AND DEAL. This is ludicrous and completely false. I know at least two people from Ohio who hunt and fish and still manage to find time to steal and deal drugs.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people who hunt and fish, but this bumper sticker makes it sound like people who carry fishing poles and guns on their shoulders are somehow nobler than the rest of us lost souls (who apparently are out stealing and dealing).

Why couldn't the bumper sticker read "I LOVE HUNTING AND FISHING" or "MY FAMILY LOVES TO HUNT AND FISH"? That would seem a lot less insulting to my intelligence and more supportive of the enterprise of hunting and fishing. Ignorant bumper stickers only divide.

*****

Observation #2: Week-long vacations pass way too fast.

*****

Other random stuff:

  • The November PAD Chapbook Challenge is nearly finished for 2009 at my Poetic Asides blog. It's been a fun, though technologically challenging, month.
  • I wrote up some tips on using Twitter at my WD Community blog. Click here to check those out.
  • Tennessee opened a few more rest areas this month along I-75. May only be of importance to me, but so be it.

5 comments:

briarcat said...

Ah, so you're that lone horseman on the I-75 corridor.

Brian A. Klems said...

You are a wise, wise man Mr. Robert Brewer. Great post.

diesel said...

Ditto what Brian said. Thumbs up.

Jessie Carty said...

This is a fantastic post! I like that you ask them to give you an answer to the question. I had a boss who said that once - never come in with a question that you don't have a potential solution to.

I don't know how you do that GA to OH drive so often. I drop from Charlotte, NC to Lancaster, OH on Wed and then drove back on Sat and it was LONG!

Enjoyed the PAD challenge. I am looking forward to working on my manuscript ;)

kat said...

Good one on My Name Is Not Bob - it helps a lot!

We clearly share similar parenting experiences and views.
I've been reading one that I'm hooked on - http://todayscliche.com/.
I have a feeling you'd get a lot out of it.

Incredible job on your blog; keep it up.

Thanks,
mark