The Formula for Raising Kids

Nobody knows what it’s like to parent my unique child.

Photo by Åsmund Gimre on Unsplash

When it comes to the wishful thinking of acquiring a pat formula for raising children — you will find that moms like to talk with some authority, grandparents feel the need to add their two cents and sisters-in-law compare notes. Then there are talk shows who invite guests who are experts in the field, and bloggers with pointers (me!) and all the various people you choose to follow on social media who have your ear. Who do you look to for advice? Would you just like for someone to give you THE formula? Good luck with that!

But, hold on, it’s a very good idea to consider all advice and then, take it — or leave it — according to what works for you and your family. There’s tons of experience and advice out there! Parents should look to multiple sources and keep in mind that there is no ONE formula for raising the kiddos.

Celebrate your child’s unique self! They are one-of-a-kind and incomparable! Each tiny personality demands its own customized parenting program. The idea of a formula suggests equal variables — and it’s safe to say that children are definitely not predictable little science experiments.

This being said, each individual, unique child can be guided and nurtured to reflect their family’s morals and values and social expectations. While honoring and acknowledging who a child essentially is, parents have the job of keeping them on track.

But, how do you keep your little boundary-pusher on track?

Picture your child in a space with you. You are holding the orange boundary cones. As the parent, you must choose the boundary and then defend the boundary you have chosen. Boundaries may look different for different children in the same family. The objective is to help develop behavior that aids the child in reaching their best potential.

Photo by Katie Gerrard on Unsplash

For Example: I have three children (who are now grown). Two of them were perfectly happy to choose their clothing for the day from two choices that I put on their beds. This worked! Along came my third child and I felt like “this was a no-brainer, I’ve got this!” After several rounds of fights and tears and general mayhem, I changed the boundary for her. After her insistence on wearing only her favorite clothes (which resulted in her showing up in clothes out of the dirty clothes hamper!) the boundary was re-drawn (to include anything clean).

And, a side-note on Fairness: It occurs to me that you may be wondering how it can be fair to draw different boundaries for each of your children? This is what my experience has been: kids are keenly tuned into each other’s level of need. In my Kindergarten classroom students never complained about a struggling peer having the privilege of an assigned spot right next to me (or some other modification) to help them be successful. Kids have radar for each other and abundant grace. I think that because their thoughts are so much more pure than adults — they need very little explanation when a friend is in need. Fairness is not an issue. And, I think this goes for brothers and sisters as well.

Let’s let go of the parent guilt. I think parenting is the best job in the world — but it’s certainly not always a walk in the park! You will likely get compliments as well as critiques on your style of parenting. Try to take it all in stride. Nobody knows what it’s like to parent your unique child. (Even if they think they know, they may be like me when I assumed my three children would all respond the same to choosing clothes for the day!)

However, even knowing there’s no formula, keep searching for advice that will benefit you and your family! Then, feel free to tweak it, pick and choose and get inspiration from it to take in your own direction. Don’t feel guilty for experimenting and searching and defending your right to create the exact formula that will work for each of your children.

Let’s try to keep our own selfishness at bay. Always ask yourself what is your motivation for “drawing the line” or choosing one method over another? For example, you might consider isolating your little rule breaker in their room, as a disciplinary measure, if they need a little time to collect themselves. But, ask yourself if it’s ok to do this if it’s just to benefit you? If you send the child to time-out you need to come up with a plan that ultimately benefits them.

To continue this scenario: Time-Out goes like this:

  1. Set a timer (one minute per-year-old… a 3-year-old goes to time-out for 3 minutes).
  2. When they have calmed down, ask them to state why they had to be separated.
  3. Ask them what they need to do differently next time (help them come up with the words to express how they will change their behavior). This is KEY!

If you always choose what’s best for the child, even if it’s an inconvenience for you, it will pay off for everyone!

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

And I must share my thoughts on children saying they’re sorry — Don’t Make Them Do This in the heat of the moment! I’m sick and tired of fake apologies! When kids are upset and not ready to be reflective yet, the sorry is not REAL. Doesn’t an insincere sorry grate on you?— apologies are important but a fake sorry seems worse than no sorry. Just wait… when all of the time-out steps have been accomplished and your little firecracker is fizzled out and REALLY sorry, the suggestion for an apology is appropriate. Sarcastic or trying-to-get-out-of-trouble-quick apologies need to get the boot!

And always think for yourself — after smiling and thanking all who wish to contribute. Remember that your child deserves to be viewed as an individual. When reading or listening to advice, think of it as inspiration for developing and implementing your own personalized strategy. (Please consider this post in the same way!) Using ideas as if they are the only answer or the only formula just doesn’t make sense! Please don’t discount things that sound reasonable — just keep in mind the child you will be using it for. And, finally, always think, “Is this best for my child?” Always think, “Do I need to make changes so that it will continue to be best for my own child?”

So, here’s to all of our precious little ones and committing ourselves to helping them navigate life!

All of our kids are worth it!

Let the good times grow!

I’m Donna — mom of three grown children and grandma to 4. I’m a former kindergarten teacher and I love kids!

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