It’s a new year and I always try to think of things I want to do better for the following year. I naturally think about the most important things in my life and if I could make some improvements. One of the things I have been thinking about is what kind of parent I am. I have come up with a list of 10 things that I want to make sure I am doing with my children and that I think is important for every parent to do with their children.
1. Pray everyday.
One of my favorite things I heard in the last general conference was a quote by Tad R. Callister. He said, “Which parent in Book of Mormon times would have let their sons march out to the front of battle without a breastplate and shield and sword to protect them against the potentially mortal blows of the enemy? But how many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer?”
That hit me so hard. I would never want to send my precious children into a harmful situation without all the protection in the world. I know that as we teach them to pray before they start their day, they will have the spirit of protection with them wherever their day takes them and whatever situation they find themselves in.
We also pray before dinner and before bed. I want my children to know that everything begins and ends with God. We show our gratitude for him throughout our day and end it by thanking him for all our blessings.
2. Give your child choices.
Children need to learn how to make their own decisions and that there are always consequences for the choices they make. Heavenly Father gave us free agency and I don’t think parents have the right to take that away from their children by always telling them what they have to do and making their choices for them. I really try hard to let my children choose for themselves what they would like to do. But they also know that whatever they choose there will be consequences. Everything they do becomes their choice.
For example I know we cannot just let our young children choose to play in the street but we can make it their choice by saying, “We can play outside, but if you choose to run into the street, you will have to come inside.” Now they learn that it is their choice and they have control. If this is something that you do all the time, you will be amazed at how often your child makes the right choice and your battles with them start becoming fewer and farther apart.
3. Talk about emotions
Children have a hard time understanding emotions. When they are young they really can’t put their emotions into words and they can react by throwing tantrums, hitting, or just running wild! It is always okay for your child to have emotions. In fact is it great! And we need to talk to them about their emotions. Give their emotion a name. “I can see you are very angry or sad or excited” Tell them that is is okay to have that emotion. Then explain to them what they can do when they are having that emotion.
When my little boy was two he would hit everybody that was in range when he got angry. (Including adults if they were to close, it was super embarrassing!) I had to teach him that when he wanted to hit someone he was feeling angry and feeling angry was okay but hitting was not okay. Then we talked about things he could do when he felt angry. We decided together that he could squeeze his hands and stomp his feet. I had to remind him several times. In fact it took a couple of months! But after awhile it was so cute because I would see him get angry and instead of hitting he would start stopping his feet, squeezing his hands and saying “I’m so angry!” Much better then the hitting! This can work with any emotion your child is struggling with.
4. Play with them.
I was driving through my neighborhood and I saw one of my neighbors racing her boys on her own scooter! Her boys had the biggest smiles on their faces! Fast forward a few months and I decided to take my kids out to play in the snow. (I know, this was really brave of me!) I stayed bundled up be the door, snapping pictures of them playing. After a few minutes I decided that my kids have the lamest mom ever. So I decided to actually go out and try playing with them. Oh man did we have fun! They chased me, threw snowballs at me, and we built a snowman! They are still talking about it three weeks later. I know we love to take pictures but don’t forget to put the camera down and join in the fun. Your kids will love the memories of playing with you more then the pictures of them playing by themselves.
5. Be a good example.
Practice what you preach. Every parent is different in what they believe is important to teach their children. But whatever it is that you are trying to teach them, make sure you are an example of that. If it is important to you that your child shares their toys, be willing to share your things. If it is important for you to teach your child to say sorry, make sure you say sorry when you make a mistake. Children will learn best by watching you. How many of you have seen your daughter put her hands on her hips and lecture her daddy! I know mine has! People will tell me all the time, “Oh she learned that from you” and it’s something I didn’t even realize I do. They are always watching you. Just remember the term mini me! Be the person you want your children to be.
6.Read to your children.
We all know how important it is to read to your children. It is never to early or to late to start. Reading to your children will help develop language skills and help them have a love of reading. School will always be easier if they have a foundation of reading. Plus it is just that extra time you take during your day to focus on your child and that means the world to them.
7. Have a date night.
Watch this video and it will give pretty much all the explanation of why this is so important!
8. Teach your children how to serve.
You are the biggest example of teaching your children how to serve others. As you give service to other people make sure your children can be involved somehow. Even if you just say hi to people at the store, hold doors open for people, or make them dinner. Let your children see you doing this and ask them questions about it. You can have your children start doing service by letting them choose toys that they want to donate, or going to help a family member or neighbor. The more they serve and the more they see you serving others, the more it will become a part of who they are.
9. Give hugs, cuddles and kisses.
Touch is such an important sense and we need to make time to hug and cuddle with our children. They need hugs. My kids love to come jump in our bed with us on Saturday mornings and there are many times that we end up spending another hour in bed just cuddling and playing with the kids! Just like you want your spouse to give you hugs and kisses, your children want the same for you.
10. Say I love you.
Tell your children that you love them. When they are leaving, when you are putting them to bed, whenever they come to you with a problem or they fight with you, or pretty much whenever you talk to them. As children grow up, they will stop coming to their parents with their problems if they feel like they will be judged or punished. Make sure to end every conversation with I love you even if you are mad. You may know that you love your child but they will only know if you tell them.