Don’t sweat the small stuff and teach them not to either. I’ve been telling them on different occasions, “Is this really a big deal? Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I tell them “In a few minutes you won’t even remember or care who had it first.” My very uncharacteristically logical 4 year old just recently seems to be getting it. He will think about it and say, “No, it really doesn’t matter” and move on. These little tid bits of break through are making my heart skip a beat. Finally, something is clicking!
Not everything they do is great. When it is, give a sincere and specific praise. I’m a firm believer that kids can pick up on phony praise. When it’s not their best effort, kindly encourage them to go back to the drawing board. Give them the gift of being able to differentiate between hard work and mediocrity. They learn so much in their failings, don’t deprive them of these important lessons. No one succeeds in everything they set out to do without failing at something somewhere along the way. They will fail. The choice is whether it’s in your home, under your care or out in the real world. At home, you can guide them on how to cope and watch them develop important characteristics, such as patience, hard work, perseverance and a humble perspective. You'll be there to encourage them to pick themselves up to try again. The other option is they will think their failures are really successes (everyone gets a trophy mentality) and when they leave the safety net of the home they will be confronted with a harsh world. There, they will not have developed any coping strategies and fall to pieces at the first onset of failure. Do you want them wondering, “Why doesn’t everyone think I’m the best?” I’d go with the first scenario.
Attitude and perspective is truly everything. Tone and demeanor speak volumes. Teach them early that lip service will get them nowhere. The way they say their words speaks volumes over their actual words. This attitude also shows the condition of their hearts and helps them see their need for a savior. Anyone can be legalistic. It takes courage to own a mistake and takes steps to fix it.
Teach them gratitude by having gratitude. One of the best things to teach your kids is they are not entitled to all the sacrifices us parents make for them every minute of every day. ‘Thank yous’ are not optional. If anyone gives them anything, they say thank you… whether it’s a meal or to the teacher after a day of school. I am already starting to see glimmers of gratitude in my little toddlers without prompting- best feeling ever. Of course, like most things, this is more caught than taught. In the beginning though, it’s not giving up on the constant reminders that leads to them having unprompted gratitude when they are older.
Help them understand that their brother or sister is to be respected. All the parenting books make big points in explaining how to get the kids to listen and obey the parent, but not nearly enough talk about the importance of showing respect and speaking kindly to their sibling. In our house, it is unacceptable to ignore, to have a dismissive attitude or to not speak respectfully to the other sibling. Thank you’s and your welcomes are expected to be exchanged by one another throughout the day. Teach them to resolve their own conflicts. The constant tattling ceases when they are required to respectfully voice their concern to the other sibling before coming to me. I am amazed at how many conflicts they are solving all by themselves! They aren’t perfect at it, but I can’t believe the difference it has made. They are learning respect for their sibling as well as communication skills. Sharing is another area that they are expected to show respect. If they wish to play with a toy that the other has, it is unacceptable to snatch. They know that in 5 minutes they get a turn. They sometimes come to me to start the timer but they are getting better at figuring out what 5 minutes looks like and having less fights about it. The fruits of my labor are starting to ripen!
Take time out and do nothing or something with them. Watch a movie, read a book, play a game, dance to a song, fold the clothes, organize the toys, color, create a project. I can get caught up in my own thing, trying to get things done around the house, that sometimes I forget how important this is! Reading every night is great. Really, it’s great. I was a teacher, I know about these things… BUT, don’t stress if it can’t get done occasionally. I wouldn’t even feel guilty about it. Give yourself grace, and often. If you’re anything like me.. I need it every day and typically moment to moment.
Expect to be constantly correcting, teaching, encouraging, loving, and admonishing. This is your job. Sometimes it will seem overwhelming… take a break and get at it again.
Play music all the time… and not just little kid cartoon music. Play country, play pop and rock ‘n roll, classical and all different genres. Get them cultured and let them develop their own preference.
Dance along with the music. Act stupid and crazy and make them (and yourself) laugh just because it’s a Tuesday.
Brag on your kids in front of others. I can tell this makes their spirit soar.