I share what I learned by raising my son Mateo and my inner child. I see how all this love and conscience have shaped and continue to transform our lives.
1. Don’t scare your kids into doing whatever you want. Don’t try to dominate them to make your life easier. They were not born to please you, to fill a void, or to fulfill YOUR dreams. They were born to be themselves. Raising strong children with personality is not easy but it is the right path if we want fulfilled kids and not fearful and insecure ones.
2. Don’t criticize them. You will create an internal critic in them that will make them have a paralyzing fear of being wrong and will make them doubt themselves and their abilities.
3. Don’t demand perfection. Teach them that making mistakes is part of life. That you also commit them and learn from them.
4. Apologize if you failed them or were wrong. In this way, they will also learn to recognize their faults and apologize.
5. Don’t embarrass them. Explain the consequences of their actions and never in a violent way.
6. Support them in their passions. Do not cut off their wings or tell them that you know better what is good for them and their future. That confuses them and makes them mistrust themselves. Let them dream big! Behind every happy and successful person, there is someone who believed in them and supported them.
7. Avoid generalizations. Children have a high sense of truth and justice. If you label them unfairly, you demoralize them. If you tag them, you will fix them into those roles.
8. Don’t decide for them. Motivate them to make their own decisions. Trust their intuition and teach them that they can trust it.
9. Don’t humiliate them. They will lose the self-esteem with which they were born.
10. Let them be children; Get dirty, run, sing loudly, fly with their imagination, dress up, dance, choose how to dress, the music they listen to and their friends. Let them express themselves and discover who they are! You will be amazed at how creative and original they are!
11. Don’t compare them. They are original human beings. Admire that which makes them THEMSELVES; celebrate it. Don’t want them to be like others!
12. Respect them that they ARE people already! Treat them like you would treat someone you care about.
13. Praise them! Rejoice in their achievements, however small they may be. Become his/her FAN. Focus on what they do well and what you like of them. Tell them you are proud of them often.
14. Make them feel that they matter and that they are precious, unique and indispensable beings in the world. Because that is exactly what they are. It fuels their self-esteem from the first years.
15. Don’t punish them. You will create rebellion and resentment and cut off the dialogue. We all have the right to make mistakes and get a new opportunity. When you don’t like something they do, express it without judgment how it makes you feel. Set limits with love by explaining why you prefer that they do things differently or not do them at all. Don’t force them.
16. Love them exactly the way they are. Tell them you love them every day, hug them, kiss them. Make them feel your love. May you be the one who treats them best, the one who does not judge them, accepts them and loves them unconditionally. This way they will know that they deserve to be loved because they exist.
17. Use the words “please” and “thank you”. You will teach them how to be kind and grateful people.
18. Let them express their emotions and talk about how they feel. Hear them without interrupting, correcting or giving your opinion or advice. Validate their emotions with compassion. Honor the fact that they trust you.
19. Listen to them. If you do, they will know that they matter to you. NEVER use what they say against them. They will feel betrayed and that they cannot trust you.
20. Do not use violence for any reason. You will make them violent or individuals that seek to be victims in their relationships. Educate yourself on how to use a nonviolent way of communication to express your emotions and needs.*
21. Don’t ignore them regardless how young they are. Attend them and answer ALL of their questions as you would with any other person, even if you don’t feel like it, you’re tired, etc. You give time and attention to what you love and value.
22. Don’t yell at them. Yelling is a form of abuse. Remember that you don’t like to be yelled at. Neither do they. And if you lose patience with them, apologize as soon as possible.
23. Respect their needs for having fun as much as their other needs. Give them space and time for those to be met.
24. Tell them often that you are proud of them. Look at their positive traits and not the negative ones. That which you put your attention on grows.
25. Have infinite patience with them. Remember how it did not help you when you were a child that adults rushed you or became mad at you if you couldn’t do something well.
26. Don’t overprotect them. Trust their discernment. It is scary to give them freedom and in fact, they will make mistakes. Don’t deprive them of learning from them. Trusting your child makes them self secure and reliable.
27. Profess what you preach. Do you want fair, respectful and honest children, who defend the equality of rights for all people? Do you want them to be responsible, planet and animal lovers, and lead healthy lives? Model those values. You are his example of life.
28. Remember that you are the ADULT and the RESPONSIBLE to satisfy their physical and emotional needs and not the other way around. They are not your confidant, your protector or surrogate spouse. Seek support from other adults or therapists when you need it.
29. Do not manipulate them for any reason, or blackmail them with prizes or punishments. You will destroy their dignity and their motivation to improve themselves.
30. Inspire them to try new things and get out of their comfort zone by doing that yourself.
31. Be generous with pocket money. Give it with joy according to their age and your possibilities. They will learn to save and manage their own money and feel they deserve to live in abundance.
32. Work on yourself. Do you have themes from the past that torment you? Trauma? Hates, resentments, negative patterns? Do you have a poor self-image? Toxic shame? Addictions? Seek help. What you have not resolved you will inevitably pass on to them and / or to the following generations. Ideally, you should do it for yourself, but if that motivation is not enough, do it for them. It is never too late, what you do for yourself affects them directly no matter how old they are.
33. And finally, have compassion for yourself. We don’t need to be perfect parents to be good parents, (I was in depression for long years while raising my son). What is needed is to be aware of our limitations and never stop working on ourselves. As sons and daughters, what we most want is to see our parents happy. Why not do everything to be happy? For ourselves and for them? It’s possible!
*Two books that I recommend:
– P.E.T. Parents Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon. A clear book full of practical examples of how to learn a non-violent parenting model.
– Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg. A practical manual to improve the way of communicating.