It will surprise NO ONE when I admit that I wasn’t my sons’ “best friend” while they were growing up. In fact, if someone ever suggested that, my kids would probably roll on the floor howling with laughter. The fact is I never even TRIED to be their friend. Friends they could make for themselves. I was going to be their Mother with a capitol M.
Many parents make the mistake of trying to give their kids everything they didn’t have when they were growing up. Hogwash! Just by being born, my kids ALREADY had a better TV and car than I had coming up. AND they had a computer, which I never even dreamed of, plus video games, CDs, DVDs, water parks and laser tag!
I guess I was just a mean mom because I never felt even the remotest of urgings to provide my kids with everything they ever wanted. What they NEEDED, yes. They got clothes, shoes, food and a house. If they wanted designer clothes, $500 sneakers, gourmet food and a mansion, they’d best be finding a job. When will people learn that stuff doesn’t make you happy? You want to give your kids gifts? Try these.
The gift of a secure, peaceful home. Don’t rack up so much debt trying to have “everything you ever wanted” that each trip to the grocery store has you risking foreclosure. Don’t over-schedule them so that they’re literally running from the minute you haul them out of their beds in the morning to the moment they pass out at night. Don’t yell, fight, hit, slap. Don’t drink or drug yourself stupid. Have dinners together where everyone talks. Have holiday traditions where everyone joins in.
The gift of common sense. Teach them to take care of themselves and their environment. Cooking meals, doing yard work and home repairs, washing clothes, shopping for the best deal, managing money and (for God’s sake!) SAVING money. They should know how to do a budget and get straight on the principle that you pay the bills FIRST. They should learn that a craftsman is judged by his tools. If you don’t take care of your stuff, your stuff quickly becomes junk.
The gift of high expectations. Forget the “participation trophies”. Your kids should know that you love them and accept them, but that they are only as successful as their last effort. Few are the opportunities for slacking in this world and nothing worth having comes without lots of hard work. So expect a lot out of them. Encourage success, but don’t punish failure. Losing is as much as part of life as winning. The only real question is “Did you give it your best?”
The gift of emotional stability. That means the ability to love, to be angry, to be proud and to be humble. Emotions should not be swept under the rug, but accepted and expressed in appropriate ways. No bottling things up until you explode, no turning anger inward in the form of self abuse. Model for them how grown-ups act so that they’ll know how to do it when they’re grow-ups.
In short, don’t try to be a good friend, try to be a good parent. That’s what they really need!