Thursday, September 10, 2009

THE RULES (Not for Dating, for Parenting)

Back around the turn of the century (well, actually it was 2001 to 2003 or so), I wrote for Deseret Book's online magazine (then called Mormon-Life, now called LDS Living.) One of the things I did for them was a parenting column, responding on a weekly basis to questions from readers who were dealing with particular issues or problems. Oddly enough, when a parent asked me to list a few basic rules for parenting, I found myself feeling somewhat qualified to give them to her. My youngest child was 20 at the time, and I was very much aware of several things I would have done differently, given the knowledge and opportunity, of course. Was it possible others could learn from my mistakes?

I did end up making the list, but I began with a disclaimer. It took the form of my signature parenting poem, sort of a fractured Rudyard Kipling:

IF (for Parents of Teenagers)
If you can keep your head and not lose favor,
When adolescence makes its grand debut;
If you can trust yourself to never waver,
And always keep an optimistic view;
If you can hold your judgment when teens stumble,
Then watch with loving patience as they rise;
And strive to be forgiving—firm, yet humble,
And loyal, even in the face of lies;
If you can always understand the reason,
Yet never give up looking for the rhyme;
And hold your tongue when silence is in season,
Remembering that all things pass, with time;
If you can seek and find the strength within you,
And neither shrink, nor shun, the grueling fight;
If you can move the mountain, or begin to,
And never, in the darkness, lose the light;
If you can lead when children will not follow,
Yet follow, when you must, where they will lead;
And neither lose yourself, nor wind up hollow,
An empty vessel, sacrificed to need;
If you can do all these and never falter,
Nor doubt, nor pause, nor ever give up hope;
Then you are made of stone, just like Gibraltar,
And every other parent is a dope!
©1997 Susan Noyes Anderson, At the End of Your Rope, There's Hope; Deseret Book
In other words, no one is going to do the parenting job perfectly. Ain't gonna happen. Like every mom or dad, I managed to get more than a few things wrong (still do!), but I also learned more than a few things from my mistakes (still am!). So why not have a look? Maybe you can learn something from my mistakes, too. (And share with me what you have learned or are still learning from yours!)
I call the list:

"Parenting from the Empty Nest: Ten Things I Really Wish I'd Done Better"

(Also known as "Confessions of a Well-Meaning Mistake-Maker") Here goes:

  1. Hold family prayer and scripture study every single day, morning and night, no matter how crazily people's schedules are changing or evolving at any given time.
  2. Conduct Family Home Evening every single week, no matter how much fighting, biting, and grumbling ensue.
  3. Spend more time together as a family working, ignoring as best you can whatever murmuring this entails. (Hopefully, you can avoid full-scale revolt.) Never underestimate what even a small or special needs child can do. Allow each family member the honor and personal importance of contributing to the group effort and being needed in his role. (Work should include family projects in the home and regularly scheduled service projects outside the home.)
  4. Spend more time together as a family playing (being dull and/or decrepit, a workaholic, or Relief Society president does not constitute an excuse); don't let "more important things" edge out family fun, traditions, and bonding. Balance is key!
  5. Let your child pick up the tab. Allow your child the personal satisfaction and esteem that comes from earning his own way. Rather than paying for something he wants, offer to pay half, matching his funds. (If you like, you can put your portion into a secret account for your child and give it to him upon graduation from high school, return from a mission, or college.) Don't overindulge children. Less IS more.
  6. Remember, parenting is not about you. In life, coach and support your child from the sidelines; never step onto center stage and take over. Every child needs to realize he is the key player in his life.
  7. No bail outs. Don't rescue your child from negative consequences. Allow him the dignity to learn valuable lessons he needs and deserves.
  8. Know when to back off. Wherever possible, give your child opportunities to make appropriate decisions and develop competence. Resist the temptation to enforce your will where it is not necessary, allowing your child to gain a sense of himself. Don't overshadow your child.
  9. Get rid of those blinders and look beneath the surface. Take time to find out who your child really is; don't just make assumptions. Honor his feelings. Love him for himself, remembering that he is a spirit in his own right with his own path to trod (and his own way to trod it). We are all different.
  10. Remember which plan was Heavenly Father's. Do everything you can to teach your child right from wrong; be sure to set fair, firm limits and consistently enforce reasonable (preferably natural) consequences; then RESPECT HIS AGENCY.

One more disclaimer: If you're over the hill like me, don't get discouraged--You can work out the bugs on your grandchildren! heehee (Hope you like the picture of my oldest one at the top, working his little heart out!)


PS. Don't forget to leave a comment on my giveaway post and put your name in the running for your choice of five prizes! Last day to enter is today, before 11:59 PM!


Momza said...


KC Mom said...

You are a ROCK STAR!!! Everything you said is correct and I might have to do ALL these things, which may seem daunting but it will be worth it.
Your poem is so perfect for me. I hope I can do all those "ifs". May I copy it?

Jill said...

To me, especially #s 1-4 and I would have added one more: Teach them to eat well, and why. I always fed my sons very nutritious foods. But I never explained why or how.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting your "rules." What a great reminder what parenting is supposed to be about! I might have to read them over and over to get them all down! LOL

Karen Sue said...

Not LDS, just blended and watching the whole family melt before my eyes. The ex is much more fun than I am and I guess it's OK to fail a college class or 2 every semester. I put my foot down and now, haven't seen much of child#1. Sometimes tough love really stinks. People always told me to stick to my guns and the kids would see the truth. Just pat my hand and tell me it's OK... :o)

Rebecca Talley said...

#10 is VERY hard.

Great list! Thank you!

Sue said...

For Momza - You are such a good cheerleader!

For KC Mom - Of course you may copy the poem, just be sure to include all the copyright info. =)

For Jill - Oh, that's a good one. And one I did NOT do very well, I'm afraid. *sigh*

For Sundae - Thanks for visiting! I love a new face...

For Karen Sue...*pat, pat* =)


For Rebecca... Boy, you've got that right! #10 ain't for sissies!!

Katie Blacker said...

I may have to come back this post and print it off when I start to have kids. For what its worth I think you did an awesome job with your family! You will always be some of my favorite people and hold some of my favorite memories!

Katie Blacker said...

oh and thank you for including Cheeky Cards in your giveaway post again! I didn't enter becuase I feel like I've already won the best prize with all this exposure! thank you so much. And I LOVE LOVE the new look!

jen said...

Well-said, as always. Such wisdom. Thanks.

karen said...

Hindsight is everything, Sue, isn't it? So many things I'd have done differently. But no use crying about it now. I'm just trying to improve myself for the grandchildren!

Karen said...

Love it! Thanks for the poem.

em said...

good advice:-)

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Sue, I came to your blog from a post you made on facebook. I think Kipling would not be troubled at your adaptation, and I liked your parenting rules. I will try some of these on my great grandchildren (most of the grandchildren are either too far away or too old to take me seriously.

Fiauna said...

You, my friend, amaze me. I'm glad I found your blog!

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