What I Want My Kids to Know About Friendship

I’ve posted a lot on my social media about the importance of friendship. In the last few years, I’ve had to learn a lot about its true meaning. I think I am a lot better off but I hope that my kids never have to go through losing friends the way I did, or at all. It’s not a good experience.

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Tyson, Ashley and I at Tyson’s bday dinner, 2019

The Things That Really Matter

  • Who is there when things get really bad. Ashley and Stephanie were at my house as soon as they could be after my calls about Jake. My mom recently fell and broke her shoulder in three places. She’s fine, but Tyson told her to get better because he needed someone to punch people for him. (My mom has a wild sense of humor and he knows this.) Scott almost dragged me out of my house for months. Everyone supported me through therapy. Friends are there for you, even when you’re sobbing your way through a bottle of Fireball, can’t talk after thyroid surgery or when you get diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I want them to find friends that are there through the good and bad times.
  • You can make friends in the weirdest places. Sara wins this award. Neither of us imagined making a new best friend in a funeral home, of all places. I just wanted to make sure Jordan was in decent shape (he wasn’t) and say goodbye to Jake, and POOF! there’s Sara. I imagine Jake is somewhere laughing about this. His brothers were absolutely correct in thinking we would make great friends. Our daughters are best friends. Lily is two years older than Bella, but neither of them cares. I want my kids to be open to meeting people wherever they go, because you never know what might happen.
  • What’s special needs? Thanks to Julian, Cameron, and Lily probably have a great insight into how to treat someone with special needs. They have been taught to care for those that are different and not leave them out. Ironically, Julian’s bestie also has ADHD. Kids with special needs need friends too, and they can teach our kids a lot.
  • Find good friends and hang onto them. I have known Ashley since middle school, Stephanie since junior year of high school, but I have known Tyson the longest. We met as first graders. We got separated due to his moving around afterward but after we met back up in high school, it’s been laughs. Stephanie and I have five kids between us. We were pregnant at the same time- Cameron is two months older than her younger daughter, Angelina. (Bonus- her middle name is Wrae, after me.)
  • Know when to let go. Sometimes friendships can be toxic. Some people can start out great for you but when you grow and change, they can’t handle that. It can be hard to let go, especially if it’s been a long time friend, but it’s better than hanging onto a toxic one. If a friend is spreading rumors, not standing up for you or doing worse things, they aren’t a real friend.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have everything in common. There are some things that I love that my friends don’t. I love true crime podcasts and most of my friends think I’m a bit weird. This is okay. It’s what makes everyone different. The main thread is what you do have in common- for example, Ashley and I love “South Park”, really bad 80s music and Mexican food, just for starters.
  • Real friends want to see you happy. No further explanation needed.
  • A small circle is good. This doesn’t mean you’re not popular or that something is wrong with you. I have a small circle of friends and I am okay with that. It’s easier to trust a few people. Julian is not a fan of people and this is okay. As long as he has a couple of people that he likes to hang out with, things are good.

Friendships are important in every part of life. What lessons about friendship do you want your kids to learn?

A Lesson in Respect for Today’s Kids

Kids have to learn a lot while growing up. One of the biggest lessons is respect- for themselves, us as their parents, and others. This can get a bit difficult, as some feel entitled to everything they lay their eyes on.

I’m not really sure where this begins, but it happens quite often. Sometimes it begins with getting everything you want as a small child and it continues, sometimes it is out of guilt, maybe both. It’s a combination of factors that differ with each family and situation.

Disrespect is not cute, it’s also not funny. It can be a sign of worse things to come. I’m not talking outbursts during arguments with a preteen, because those things happen often (in fact, this happened last night with one of my boys) but if it isn’t handled, laughed off or otherwise ignored, it grows. Kids pick up things very quickly and easily, and when they realize they can get away with being rude and disrespectful to their parents, it can snowball.

While I am on the topic of what kids pick up…

Manners

They’re Watching Us

Kids watch us from day one, even when we don’t think they are. They pick up on how we feel about them and the rest of the world. They can develop their worldview from ours- they also learn how the world sees them.

One way to teach respect is to give it to your children. Listening to them, actively listening, is the best thing you can do. This makes them feel important, valued and loved. They might be telling you something that is huge to them, and not-so-huge to you, but still, want you to know. This means looking into their eyes and asking questions- they can read your interest by these actions. Try not to interrupt unless you need to.

Try not to brush off their feelings and emotions. This can make your child feel a lot worse than they already do- if they can’t find the words, help them figure it out. This encourages honesty and open communication.

This one is huge at my house- respect boundaries. If your child asks you to knock before coming into their bedroom, do so. If you have a kid who hates hugs or other forms of physical affection, find other ways to show affection. Julian doesn’t do hugs, but he will give a high-five or fist bump.

Of course, I’d rather have the hug, but it makes him terribly uncomfortable, so I’ll take the high-five. If you respect the smaller boundaries, chances are, your child will learn to respect you and the rules you set.

Let them be who they are. We may not always like what our kids choose to like- I can’t stand half the things my sons watch but they like them and they’re not harmful. One kid may be extremely artistic, but the other can barely draw a stick figure. This is okay. Each child is different, with their own personality and talents. Don’t try to mold your child into who you want them to be- this usually backfires.

Let them see you being respectful. This can be a small act, as thanking a waitress or someone in a store. It does matter, because, again, your child is watching. The more they see you doing things like that, the more they will want to do it. Some kids will need a bit of prompting, and this is okay.

Own your mistakes. Parents make mistakes- lots of them. If you mess up, apologize and move forward. Kids need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions and apologizing. This can be hard but is a necessary lesson.

Find the cause. If there is a pattern of disrespect, find the cause. Is your child angry about something? School? Something at home? Friends? Talk to your child and see what is going on. The need can be addressed minus disrespect.

Behavior quote

Teens can be a challenge when it comes to disrespect- what are your tips/ideas for this topic? Leave a comment!

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Information courtesy of Parenting For Brain

A Fine Parent

The Giving Season: Teaching Your Child Empathy

Our children learn a lot from us- how to treat others is one of those lessons. During this time of the year, we remind our children to give back and care about others.

Most kids are pretty good at showing empathy- the ability to understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Some kids need a little extra help in this department, and that’s okay.

Kids on the autism spectrum and those that have other special needs may need help with this. For example, Julian has had serious issues learning empathy and we work on it almost daily.

Empathy is important for a child’s well-being because it helps build happy and healthy relationships. It can also help prevent bullying and other destructive behaviors/relationships.

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Working Towards Empathetic Kids

How can we teach our kids to be more empathetic?

  • By being more empathetic ourselves. This means tuning in to what each of our kids needs, physically and emotionally. It also means cherishing their individual personalities and loving your kids as they are, not what you may want them to be. This also means being showing empathy to others, because our kids watch what we do. They watch how we interact with others in public, our friends and other family members.
  • Make caring for others a priority. This can vary among families, but many families value taking care of family whenever needed however possible. For example, my kids know that my mom has mobility issues because of her knee replacements, so they help her walk down our very steep driveway. They have watched Matthew help his mom’s family numerous time because he’s great with cars and home projects. I try to help my friends as much as possible and the kids have also seen this.
  • Provide opportunities for kids to show empathy. We have done role-playing games with Julian as part of therapy. Over time, those have sunk in a bit, and so has discussing real-life issues in sessions. If you have a kid on the spectrum, you can imagine how difficult this lesson can be to teach. It is starting to get slightly easier. We discuss school and news issues because we are a pretty diverse family and this has created some very interesting discussions. When we took in Miss Purr and Tiger, those were two great times to display empathy, because rescue pets require that. My kids fell in love with both animals instantly. When Tiger’s tumor ruptured, Julian may have been the saddest person in the house. He insisted on sleeping with him the last night before he was put to sleep. When I woke him up for school, he was holding Tiger’s paw. The kids were genuinely worried about Tiger and devastated when he was gone.
  • Teach your child to identify their feelings and how to cope with negative feelings. Kids need to know how to identify how they feel so that they can deal with it. They need to be able to express themselves- it can be confusing to not know how to describe how you feel. It can feel worse to not know how to cope with negative feelings. Let your child know what ways are and are not acceptable to deal with those feelings so that when they are angry, sad or feeling other ways, they don’t have to wonder how they can cope.
  • Ask “How would you feel?” This may sound simple, but it can be effective. I have done this often and it will make a child think a bit deeper than you may think. Let the child pause and reflect for a few minutes (if needed). They may not know how they would feel at first and need the extra time. Maybe they haven’t thought about it before.

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Teaching empathy may take some time, the earlier you start, the better. Have a great holiday season with your family!

How do you encourage your children to care about others? Do you have a favorite story about your child being empathetic to another child? Share if you do!

Information courtesy of Very Well Family

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Twin Mummy and Daddy

Why it’s Okay to be the Not So Fun Parent

Where’s the Fun?

Parenting is not fun 100% all the time. Any parent that says this is lying. I love my kids dearly, but there are days in which this parenting thing entirely sucks. Either two or all three kids are fighting (their longtime favorite is the front seat of my car), someone is sick or injured, or if I’m really lucky, both. I even nicknamed the fighting between Julian and Lily “The Petty Olympics” because they constantly go for who can bring up the pettiest thing and get on my nerves the most.

Other days, my house is a magical place in which dinner is done on time and nobody fights. This is great.

Most of the time, I’m home with the three ring circus, as the kids are jokingly called. Even when I worked, much of the after-school childcare has been my arena. I’m permanently on call while the kids are at school if anything goes down (and it has- I’ve picked up each kid at least once). This leads me to be the enforcer. The not-so-fun parent.

Someone’s gotta do it, right?

This is not to say Matthew is not a good dad, because he is. He simply works a schedule that brings him home around 7 PM and it’s been this way for many years. Many dinners have been burnt in the process of the kids not tearing the house apart, having a meltdown, or fighting. Fighting is a common theme at my house.

Mom is a Meanie

If I had a dollar for everytime that Lily told me I am “the meanest mommy ever” I would never have to work again.

She’s 10. She has no idea what’s coming for her in the future.

It used to hurt my feelings that my kids thought I was mean and they didn’t like me…but no longer. I had a chat with my mom, the queen of mean moms. She reminded me that it’s not really my job for these kids to like me but for me to raise them to be decent people.

Good point, Mom.

Now quit buying my kids recorders.

One of our biggest challenges as parents is to do what my mom said- raise our kids to be decent people. They need to learn manners, to fight fairly, talk appropriately, and many other lessons. This may mean not being the fun parent all the time.

Sigh.

I’ve had to let the kids learn to squash their sibling fights on their own (unless things get super bad) because it got draining on all of us. Being the not so fun parent means having to enforce the rules, all the discipline stuff (big bummer), making sure your kids don’t hurt others and teaching them how the world works, especially when they mess up.

I do worry that I’m a bit too hard on the kids. When we’re out in public, I do tend to crack down a lot on their behavior before it even looks bad. One of the last times Julian had to get a haircut, he was so angry he walked out as soon as he was done. He got my evil mom glare as he walked out. I took a deep breath, apologized to the hairdresser and gave her a really nice tip. He was mad that he had to get two inches off the top, not just one.

Matthew tends to be a bit more laid back in general so someone’s got to be be a bit heavier with things. If I wasn’t, I’m pretty sure this house would be a crap show in an hour. This also fits my semi Type A personality. It’s okay to be the enforcer. Kids need structure, rules and guidance. My kids gets that from both Matthew and I. They know that I have basically zero tolerance for certain things but being kids, they will still attempt to push buttons. It’s what kids do.

The biggest payoff, not that I was looking for one, is hearing how well-mannered my kids are when they are with other people. My friend Madonna has five kids. She kept my boys overnight recently and when she brought them back, she told me “Your boys are so good! You should be proud of them. They were so nice and have good manners.”

I thanked her. I guess the not fun mom thing does pay off. She told me her kids are loud and wild no matter where they go, but she and her hubby are working on this. I figured that while my sons are less than mannered sometimes with me, I have taught them something while they have been rolling their eyes and sighing at me.

The lesson here is: your kid might be annoyed at you while you’re teaching them manners and other things but it does pay off.

If you’re the “not so fun” parent, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to be a bit harder on your kids, especially in the age of super disrespectful kids. I’ve seen videos of kids that shocked me- my mom wouldn’t have tolerated any of that for a second. Kids aren’t robots, they do have thoughts and feelings- but it is good to instill things like respect and good behavior in your kids.

Parenting is a tough job- try to make the mental load a little lighter. Try to have a bit of fun in the midst of the seriousness. I certainly do.

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