20 Lessons a Kid Taught Me

What Our Children Teach Us

20161127_111708-copyAlex celebrated his 22nd birthday on November 27th. He’s preparing to graduate from college on December 10, 2016.  It’s been a reflective and joyous time for our family.

The lessons  I shared when the following article was first published in 2001 remain relevant today. I’m a lifelong learner. It is phenomenal to be taught by my kid. It’s even better to look back and recall memories while learning from him.

Enjoy this post, perhaps recalling lessons learned while raising your kids.


In my 40 years of life, my six-year old son Alex has been my greatest teacher about life and on how to break old patterns, behaviors and habits. He’s taught me to have fun. I’ve laughed more. Life with him is less serious. I try to live in the moment. I want to capture the sensation of experiences, big and small with my kid.

20 Lessons My Kid Taught Me

Alex taught me it is more than okay, it is awakening to:
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  1. Run wildly in the rain pretending to score a touchdown on the wet lawn.

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2.  Finger paint with polka music in the background.

3. Make up silly rhyming stories and giggle endlessly at one’s own creativity.

4. Build blanket forts and eat lunch underneath them.

5. Wrestle on the bed using self-titled moves, like the mashed potato masher and the rutabaga rumble.

6. Dance to The Beatles in the family room on a Friday night.

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7. Eat ice cream for breakfast and eggs for dinner.

8. Be completely open and honest and tell it like it’s felt.

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9. Read books on the front porch with a flashlight.

10. Lie on the golf course in the dark and star gaze.

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11. Build large cities, surrounded by volcanoes, instead of sand castles at the beach.

12. Ask why?

13. Say, “I’m really MAD at you!”

14. Thank God during nighttime prayers for the chocolate shake at bedtime.

15. Belly laugh at the priest’s jokes in church.

16. Wear clothes that don’t always match.

17. Lie on the floor, build corrals and play farm. Let the cows share a pen with the pigs and the chickens share with the horses.

18. Make up new rules for family board games.

19. Walk to the pond and feed the turtles and ducks hot dog buns.

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20. Tell your parents, “I love you!” once a day.

Make a list of lessons you’re learning from your kids. If they’re still young, put the list away. Pull it out at one of life’s significant milestones, like graduation or a wedding. Did the lessons stick? Do your kids still follow their own teachings? It’s a great reminder of the joy of parenting. It also captures language and events that might have been forgotten.

Share this with others learning from their kids.

Copyright. November 2016.  Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved

Version published Momscape.com 2001

 

Are You Raising A Brat? 10 Ways to Avoid It

A mom of two elementary school aged children reached out to me recently seeking guidance on raising good children. Her note ended by asking, “What is the secret to not raising a brat?” That’s a term I hadn’t heard in a while. I thought she must be doing a lot of things right already. She’s concerned about coaching her children to be good citizens. Few parents would have the courage to even consider asking this question.

parents-weekend-usd-2015-10-24-15-029She is right though. Our son, soon to graduate from the University of South Dakota’s (USD) Beacom School of Business, has never been a brat. He’s also an only child. Some would use that status alone to label him “a brat.” It doesn’t fit him. Never has.

I thought about this mom’s question for several days. I wondered if I was qualified to give parenting advice. I am a parent. I am also a child. I observe other parents and their interactions with their children. I listen to teachers and support staff describe child behavior in schools. I’ve read extensively about parenting. I decided I’m qualified to share how my husband, Ken, and I raised a son who has never been labelled a “brat.” Maybe our approach to parenting will guide her, and others, in raising their own good children.

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Raising a Brat

Parenting is not easy. We were hardly perfect. We understood our individual “being raised” experiences influenced our parenting Alex. We were in our 30s when he was born. Both our mothers stayed at home with their children. I was raised in a family of 11. Ken’s family had 4. Alex was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. All of this made us who we are as parents. Sorting through our 21 years, I consider these to be the  10 Ways Not to Raise a Brat:

  1. Choose the right partner. Parents who share similar parenting values and who support one another in terms of setting boundaries and household rules will more likely have better behaved children. The kids will know both parents will give the same answer and likely discipline in similar ways. There’s no pitting one parent against another.
  2. Thoughtfully consider when to become a parent. Life isn’t always planned. But, when one feels ready for the responsibility of parenthood alex-toddler-2-copyand welcomes the role, one will more likely cherish being a parent rather than resent it. You can’t take parenting back. It’s a lifetime commitment. Children need to be nurtured, not dropped into life to survive alone. Make the time for your children. Show them they matter and that you feel blessed to have them in your life. If you aren’t ready to do this, or simply can’t, consider whether you are ready to become a parent.
  3. Say “No” and mean it. It is always easier to give in than it is to say “no.” Parents need to stand by convictions. Kids are smart. They push limits. If you back down, your word is no longer good. You’ve shown you’re easily manipulated. Set limits and stick to them.
  4. Plan a Family Centered not Child Centered Life. It was, and is, our belief that a child should fit into one’s life not become the center of all’s life. As a simple example, I refused to remove breakable household objects when Alex was born. Instead, I taught him to respect these items and that there were consequences for not following through with that lesson. Of course, we latched cabinet doors with dangerous items. But removing breakables. Absolutely not.
  5. Place Higher Priority on Morals and Values Over Material Goods. My background taught me many lessons on being frugal and setting priorities. I role modeled these while raising Alex. For example, part of me wanted a designer nursery and designer clothing for him. The practical side of me, however, understood how little those items would be used in Alex’s lifetime. Instead, we started a 529 College Savings program and bought consignment furniture and clothing. We made trade-offs like this continually, placing greater emphasis on experiences than material goods and savings over spending. I helped him, when he was  a middle school student, create flyers to hand out to neighbors advertising his lawn mowing skills. He also paid us for the gas to support his early business. Of course, we could afford to pay for it. But where else do you learn that there are costs of doing business?
  6. Expect Good Behavior. Set the bar high. Despite what one sees in restaurants, church and other public places, it is not cute when a child acts out or is disrespectful. I wonder about a child’s future when I see parents allowing children to throw food in restaurants and then smile at adults who look at them wondering how they are allowing this to happen. It speaks volumes about the parents and their ability to guide their children to adulthood. How one’s children behave reflects parental values and maturity. We worked hard to make sure Alex behaved in public places so all there could enjoy the experience.
  7. Respect All, Always. Listen. Compromise. Ken and I continually stress the importance of ‘listening’ as a skill. We work hard to model that to Alex, even to this day. Following close behind that is compromise.
    Practicing listening skills
    Practicing listening skills

    Even as an only child, he was taught that he didn’t always get his way. Life doesn’t center around one person. It’s a give and take. Admittedly, this was sometimes challenging to teach because of his status. My thinking, as the only woman in our family of three, was that I was raising someone who may one day become a husband and father. These life lessons/skills are critical in those esteemed roles. Respect is another trait we value. Ken is especially good at role modeling equal respect for service workers and corporate executives. Referring to adults as Mr. and Miss, though some call this antiquated Southern etiquette, is applauded in our household. It’s an outward sign of respect. We value it.

  8. Work for What You Want. Ken and I differed on this concept often. Sticking to our parental core values on this topic was by far the hardest in raising Alex. I had to work for everything I’ve owned, even my education. We were in a position to offer Alex financial assistance with more than I received. He was very aware most of his peer group was given vehicles, allowances, vacations, spring break trips, etc. without working. At age 14 we required he get a part-time job. It taught time management, money management, work habits and how to get along with others in the workplace. I also knew it could teach him about how organizations were managed and places he’d like to work, or not work. I have no regrets about requiring he get a job. He’s had a job ever since. He’s also graduating debt free, which is to be celebrated.
  9. Appreciate What You Have and Receive. If you work for what you have, you appreciate it more. You have a better understanding of what it takes to get it and value it more too. Unfortunately, parts of South Carolina are quite poverty-stricken. Alex has seen those areas as well as been in third world countries. Our goal was to expose him to sites like this to develop an appreciation for what he has. Instilling the concept of appreciation and thanks has been drilled into him. He left home knowing a note of appreciation or thanks was expected when a gift or act of kindness was received. Not doing so would immediately stop future acts. It’s just that important in our house.
  10. Raise a Graceful Loser and a Humble Winner. I can still recall the feeling
    Graceful loser at state high school tournament
    Graceful loser at state high school tournament

    and sights of Alex’s first soccer match at age four. He scored every goal. The team won. No, he didn’t take his jersey off and wave it above his head as he circled the grassy field. Instead, after each goal, he mildly accepted congratulations from teammates and got back to the business of playing the game. I was breathless. That level of maturity and composure as a competitor escaped me. I played to win and to celebrate the win. That day I learned from him. I learned the value of how to become a humble winner and a graceful loser.

The Child Spoke

I suspect this young mother who asked me “What is the secret to not raising a brat?” would get different responses from anyone she asked the same question to. I was curious about how Alex would answer. I sent off a text. His reply, “Let consequences happen instead of intervening.” Enough said.

How would you answer the question? Comment below.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

 

©Copyright. October 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Letter to 1-Year-Old Son From Dad

The Delights of Being a 1st Time Dad

It’s amazing how you can love someone you’ve never met.

I realized on January 26, 2015 how much more fun it is when you do meet. That day my life changed forever when our son David was born. I’ve been smitten by him ever since and here is what I’d like to say to him as his Dad-a first time dad.

infantDavid,

You looked straight into my eyes when I first held you and I can’t imagine what was going through your mind. I was in pure bliss.

I was able to get a taste of your personality immediately when you were in the nursery lined up next to five baby girls who were perfectly swaddled and there you were, with the blankets kicked out and sprawled all over just like Daddy. I couldn’t have been more proud.

The delights of being your dad have all come in phases related to your development and interests.

The first was when we realized you were a very good baby. You were a great sleeper and rarely cried outside of being hungry. You did spit-up a lot, but over time even that became a source of laughter as you managed to stain nearly every piece of clothing I own. Shower time was always a favorite as you were mesmerized by the water, yet loved to get wet and watch the water go down the drain.

The rolling stage was next. You first rolled over at 4 weeks so we were always nervous but excited to watch you enjoy your new, yet limited freedom. You also started to smile a lot, which makes any new parent feel as if they’re doing something right, even though it was probably just you peeing.

You then transitioned to the almost-crawling stage. It looked more like an awkward army crawl, but it was the first time we needed to house proof. Only outlets and pictures on various furniture pieces could be reached, but it made you smile.

Then you crawled and our adventure had officially begun. Watching you follow us around like a little puppy was a hoot. We transitioned to a house that appeared like a prison with many gates. Our possessions crept ever higher. For the first time, I experienced the stage fright associated with someone staring at you while trying to do what had always been private.

You first learned to walk while pushing your bright red Ferrari F430.david red truck It allowed so much freedom between pieces of furniture that you spent most of your time on your feet. Not surprisingly we spent most of our time running after you saying ‘no’. I think the Ferrari developed your love for the color red as you became fans of Elmo and anything red with wheels. We just sat and smiled as you were so proud to push your car back and forth across the living room from one of us to the other. It was during one of the these sessions that I removed the car and you took your first actual step.

You knew that something big just happened! You held your first step and looked at your mom with the excitement that you figured it out. The next morning you took 3 steps and have never looked back. What we thought had previously looked like a prison, now looks much more restricted. Our possessions crept ever higher and the Christmas tree looked stunning from the halfway point up where your mom started the ornaments. Christmas was the first holiday where you were moving well enough to chase your cousins around and you loved every minute of it, as did we.

Recently you turned one. It was a party for you and a reflection for your mom and I on how happy you’ve made us. In writing this its become apparent that the delights in being a first time dad are the same delights that every first time parent has. The rolling, crawling, walking, and talking are nothing out of the ordinary except for the first time its my child and that makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for being in my world. You’ve changed it, in every good way.

I love you David!

Dad

David's familyNathan is a native North Dakotan, raised in Dickinson. He graduated from North Dakota State University (Fargo) and is a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Bismarck where he and wife Amanda raise their son. They are joyful followers of Christ who enjoy going for family walks when it’s nice and playing indoors in forts with David when it’s not. Nathan and Amanda look forward to traveling with David as he gets older so he has an appreciation for all that this world has to offer, especially the great structures, museums, and natural wonders.  His first trip, however, will be in March 2016 to meet a mouse named Mickey.

Do you write letters to your child(ren)? What a great tradition to start for each of their birthdays. My husband Ken writes one every month on the same day to our college aged son who looks forward to going to his mailbox  to collect it. What a great way for your child(ren) to hear your voice through the written word and recapture who you were long after you’re gone. It’s not too late-start a writing tradition-today.

Share this post with others to encourage fathers to write letters to their sons-of any age.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.