Raising a family is not easy. It’s much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be, but the rewards and the lessons I’ve learned are also far greater than I could have imagined. There is no better feeling than listening to my girls laugh together or show kindness toward one another.
Now knowing how quickly each stage of childhood passes, I’ve learned to embrace and enjoy each stage while it is here and face each new challenge as it comes up. We’ve met some pretty difficult challenges along the way, but one thing I have learned is that they all pass. When I’m faced with a new challenge, I simply remind myself that we will get through this just as we did in the past.
My daughters are currently ages 15, 13, and 10. I know some of the most difficult years are probably just ahead of us and I’ve got so much more to learn, but here are the top 8 things they have taught me about life and parenting so far.
- Accept each of your children EXACTLY AS THEY ARE. Acceptance is something we all seek as humans. The greatest thing you can do for your children is to love them and accept them for who they are. Each of us has been sent here for a unique purpose, and we were given the unique character traits needed to help us serve that purpose. If you have more than one child, you know how different they can all be. The best thing you can do for them is to let go of any expectations you have of them and encourage them to be themselves. Your children were sent here to teach you things you need to learn about life just as much as you are here to teach them. Recognize that life is not a competition. Every child cannot be the smartest, best-looking, most talented, most athletic, and most kindhearted child out there, but what they can be is themselves. Embrace that and encourage that in each of them.
- Encourage them to shine. We are all sent here to shine in our own way. Each of us was born with a unique combination of gifts and talents that the world needs. I have learned that my job is to help each of my girls discover her own unique gifts, help her to embrace those gifts, and encourage her to use them to make the world a better place. I’ve learned that it’s important to expose my girls to different things to help them discover their own interests, but I have also learned not to force them to participate in activities they are not interested in, especially any unfulfilled dreams that I may have had. My mission is to teach my girls how to be authentic and encourage them to follow their own dreams, not the expectations others may have of them.
- Never compare them. Every child is different. What works for one is not guaranteed or even likely to work for all of them. I’ve learned to recognize that they are all individuals, and there is nothing they hate more than being compared to their sisters or to their peers.
- Don’t do things for your children that they can do for themselves. I’ve realized that my job is to teach them how to survive so they are able to care for themselves in this world. I am their teacher, not their slave. I need to remind myself of this often because my girls are very good at seeing how much mommy will do for them.
- Make each one feel special. I believe the best gift you can ever give to anyone is your undivided attention. In our family, my husband and I make an effort to go on individual dates with each of our girls as often as possible. My girls treasure this one-on-one time, and so do we. They are always on their best behavior during these dates because they are not competing for our attention.
- Be Present. Take time to stop and observe your children once in a while and give thanks for them. Time goes by way too fast! It is so important to make an effort to stop and take it all in every once in a while. Make an effort to really listen to your child when she is talking to you, look at her and recognize the gift she has been in your life. Don’t worry, the dishes will still be waiting when you’re done. Recognize that each moment is a gift. You are never guaranteed to have tomorrow with anyone.
- Teach them Self-Respect. I believe there is nothing more important than teaching girls to love themselves as is and to respect their body and treat it as the beautiful gift that it is. Teach them to become aware of the things they put in and on their bodies, to never tolerate disrespect from anyone, and to make good choices. I believe the best way to do those things is through example. Take care of yourself, and make your self-care a priority. Let them see you participating in hobbies you enjoy. They are always watching and listening, especially when we think they are not.
- Start New Traditions. I LOVE traditions (and my girls do, too!) Some of my favorite memories from my childhood involve traditions we had. Some of them I chose to carry on to my family, and some I did not. Do not be afraid to let go of old traditions and beliefs that do not work for you. As a family, we have started some of our own (see Valentine’s Day Wall of Love and Thanksgiving Turkey). These are some of the things I think my girls will remember most from their childhood.
These are just a few of the main lessons I have learned from raising my girls so far. I learn new things every day and with each challenge that arises. Raising children is a big responsibility, and not an easy one. It does take a village, so embrace those surrounding you at this stage in your life and work together to help one another.
What advice do you have about raising children? Feel free to leave a comment below.
If you need help with acceptance (of your children or yourself), defining your beliefs, or learning to be more present, my book The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge is a guided journal that was designed to help with that.