I never give parenting advice. Well, almost never. Sure, I share stories of my own foibles and rare triumphs in hopes that someone may be comforted by my lunacy, but I never outright tell people how to parent because, quite frankly, I have no idea if I’m doing it right most of the time.
I will make an exception today. I was asked recently for some words of wisdom by a fellow parent who is a few years behind me on this journey. Even if I didn’t really offer much more than, “it’ll all be fine” the request did make me think about what I would or should say to people trying to figure this parenting gig out.
The only thing I could think of that I was 100% comfortable telling people to do was this: tell your kids what you feel. I don’t mean explain every little thing or make them your therapist. I mean say out loud, to them, all those things you share on facebook or with friends over wine or with your mother on the phone about how cute or funny or smart or whatever great thing you think your kids are. Those things? Tell your kids.
Because for better or worse, whether we earn it or not, these people love us and want nothing more than for us to approve of who they are. And there is nothing worse than spending your life trying to please people who never give you the satisfaction of telling you they’re pleased.
So, tell them you think they’re funny. Tell them you are proud of how hard they work or how well they manage their time. Let them know you notice how kindly they treat their friends or you appreciate how polite they are to yours. Tell them you sit in awe of the way they problem solve or socialize in a new group, or practice so they can hit a baseball. Be specific and please, tell them.
Don’t worry that you’re coddling them. Don’t worry that you’re pumping them up full of hot air. Just tell them.
I know I for one worry about raising one of those kids. You know, the ones that think they can do no wrong, because from day one they’ve been praised for everything from sneezing to wiping their butt? Yeah, those.
I’m not talking about that kind of adulation. I’m talking about honestly sharing with your kids when you feel genuine parental pride and joy.
There is no such thing as too effusive with praise like that.
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