I read a lot and listen a lot. I’m interested in being the best parent I can, so I’m always open to advice from others.
Now, after more than a decade of parenting my son, I’ve formulated my own top 10 parenting tips.
I borrowed some of these from others, and some are borne from my own trial and error. Unlike David Letterman’s Top 10, I’ll start from the top and go down.
- Hug your kid every day. Nothing conveys love like a hug. Words can be empty; a hug rarely is. A hug is a literal representation of the bond a parent and child share.
- Tell your children you love them. Words do matter, particularly the three simple words, “I love you.” Look your child in the eye when you say it. Stop what you’re doing. Don’t make it a drive-by quickie. Make sure your child hears you – and knows you mean it.
- Don’t escalate a bad situation. No matter how much you love your child, you’re going to get angry at him. Or even furious. When this happens, avoid the temptation to yell and threaten the kid with punishment. Instead, step away from the scene. Discipline your child when you aren’t angry. You’ll have better results and won’t create a divide between you and your child.
- Teach them respect for others. Your child should appreciate and respect all people. They don’t have to like everyone they meet. But they should treat everyone as their equal and not look down on anyone.
- Teach them responsibility. Start with having your kid take out the trash or feed the dog. Then build from there. If he learns responsibility in small matters, he’ll act responsibly in large matters.
- Don’t give your child everything he wants – even if you can afford it. Make him wait until you think he’s ready. Or don’t give it to him at all. If he doesn’t learn to delay gratification – and sometimes do without – he’ll be in for a life of misery.
- Teach him the essentials for good health. I’m talking about eating right, exercising and seeking medical help when necessary. Health problems can easily derail a meaningful life.
- Teach him how to handle money. No, I’m not saying the kid has to be a financial whiz or learn how to get rich. But he should learn it’s stupid to accumulate debt. He should know budgeting basics – that is, you shouldn’t spend more than you make. Financial ignorance can produce misery.
- Give him a spiritual base. He doesn’t have to adopt your beliefs verbatim. In fact, it’s probably better that he doesn’t. You should point the way spiritually and encourage him to make the journey his own. Without a spiritual foundation, the trials of life can topple a person.
- Teach him to laugh at himself. That’s right. Your life should have a serious purpose, but you shouldn’t take yourself seriously. If you do, you’ll become a bore and lack empathy for others. If you can laugh at yourself and admit mistakes, you’ll grow into a better person.