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In a few months, my son will turn 20. If you’re fairly new here, you might be surprised to learn that he was just 4 years old when I first became the editor. I still remember how good it felt to be doing work I truly enjoyed. But it definitely took awhile to strike a balance between my work and home life.
When I look at my son today, it’s hard to believe that smart, wily little boy I knew is now a man. There are so many phases our kids go through. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, all you can think is, “When will he ever outgrow this?” Sometimes, their behavior is endearing, other times frustrating, even maddening. We want the tantrums, the teasing, the making-a-mess phase to move along.
But one day, it suddenly dawns on you how fleeting childhood really is.
I heard an interview with Garth Brooks recently who talked about taking a break from his career so that he help raise his three girls. He returned to Oklahoma, hung up his guitar, and simply focused on being a stay-at-home dad. I know, money can buy you that freedom. But Brooks also realized what can easily be overlooked. You choose to become a parent. The responsibility you have to be with your children and raise them is a one-shot deal. Those stages are fleeting, and once gone, you can never get the time back.
Hindsight can give you great insight. If you hang in a few more months, what is currently driving you crazy will be morph into the next thing your child finds interesting. So consider these ideas as the new year unfolds.
Take a nap when your child does. • It can be tempting to consider the work or cleaning you can get done during that hallowed hour. But don’t forget to honor yourself with some down time as well. Getting a nap in during the day will leave you feeling refreshed and more energized.
Give your child chores and start when they’re young. • Chores help children realize they are part of a community, an entity bigger than themselves and their contribution matters. Start when they’re little and with consistency, making the bed or cleaning up their bedroom will become a habit. Family life allows kids to learn skills that will benefit them in the wider world. Learning to contribute makes one a better family member, employee, and partner.
Don’t worry about what is normal for your child. • Children develop at different rates and have different temperaments. Your best bet is to get to know what is normal for your child. Trust your intuition as a parent. Cue in to what makes your child happy or frustrated, and do what you can to help foster his interests.
Forget the electronics until they start school. • When children are very young, they need activities like coloring, cutting, working with Play-Doh, playing outdoors — activities that help them use motor and cognitive motor skills. Being able to create their own ideas helps them tap into their imagination the way more structured play with electronics cannot.
Be generous in spirit. • Don’t save your praise for the big stuff. Help your child identify what his best skills and characteristics are. Remember, constantly calling one kid the troublemaker or crybaby can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Give him meaningful praise when he accomplishes his goals and forgive when he falls short.
Get down on the floor and play. • It is so easy to let our to-do list get in the way of living in the moment. Turn off your iWhatever and make time every day to be present with your child. Reside in their world for awhile.
Say Yes more often. • How many times have you turned your kids ideas down, thinking their choices are too dangerous, too costly too, or too impractical? Often, our own lack of comfort is what dictates our decisions. I look back now and wish I would have been more yielding at times. It's not always about making our kids happy, but there can be balance.Really listen to your child. • We all want to be heard — and children are no exception. Sit down eye-level with your child and find out what’s on his heart. If you start this practice when they’re young, you’ll build a foundation for good communication that will help you weather the ups and downs of childhood.