Being a parent and raising children is a life-changing event. It’s tough, responsible and quite a complex task which doesn’t stop even after the kids grow up.
Although we can’t be sure if the children will follow and use all those things we have taught them, it’s our duty to do as much as we can to help them become good, honest and hard-working people.
All my life I have been surrounded by boys. I grew up with two brothers. Today I am a mother of three sons: the eldest is 14, while the little ones are 3.5 and 1 year old. My husband and I used all that we have learned to create the following rules we teach our children:
1. First comes love. In our family, expressing emotions is the basis for everything. Even though our boys are getting older we can’t stop cuddling, hugging and kissing them. We think that showing affection is something quite normal and natural. We teach them that feelings are something wonderful, and not something to hide or be ashamed of. Moreover, we encourage them to talk about their emotions. Thus I am very proud that my teenager still talks with me and asks for my advice regarding certain emotional issues.
2. Setting the rules. There are certain rules in our family that children must stick to. We try to explain them that rules are there with a reason, presenting some of the benefits of good behaviour, and telling what are the consequences for breaking them. These defined rules teach them to be responsible and to have good habits. We have a set time for drawing, playing, learning, sleeping, socializing and for leisure. Grandparents, uncles and aunts follow these rules so that, in the situation when my husband and I are not present, there are no changes that can make kids confused.
3. Teaching them to be patient. I’m not so sure about the girls, but as a mother of three sons, I can tell that boys are really impatient. It doesn’t matter if they are playing with building blocks or putting a puzzle together, solving math problems or doing homework, studying music, drawing, waiting to go to the cinema/soft play centre or to visit some friends or relatives…; everything they can’t get instantly or do something right on their first try, can put them off and make them angry. That’ why we talk a lot, play together. Sometimes we intentionally make mistakes or repeat something several times. This way we help them realize there is nothing wrong in starting all over again, since persistence leads to success and perfection requires practising (this may sound like cliche, but that’s the way it is).
4. Teaching them to be honest. This time is so much different to the time we grew up. For that reason, we insist that our children do not tell lies or cheat us or anyone else. When it comes to my eldest son, I always want to know where he’s going and who are the friends he spends time with. My husband and I encourage children to have honest approach and to talk with us if they have problems at school or kindergarten, if they disagree with our beliefs or rules, if they do not feel comfortable in somebody’s presence, or if they are afraid of anything. I remember how Nikola (my second son) once came from the kindergarten telling me that he pushed one of his buddies and stole his toy. The teacher punished him. We talked about what he did and explained him that such behaviour was wrong, unacceptable and potentially dangerous: he may hurt others, and eventually lose his friends. He realized all this, so the next day he apologized to the entire group. At the end of that day the teacher praised him for being polite and well mannered. Similarly, when Luka had problems with his peers at school, he was encouraged to talk to us about it, asking for help. Together with teachers we succeeded to resolve the conflict.
5. We teach them the motto: to each according to his deeds. Although this may seem confusing and contrary to what they see and hear every day, we teach our children that nothing in life will just fall into their lap. Instead, they must try, work hard and earn the things they want. In that way we teach them to appreciate the value of things they get, and to respect the time people spend in order to obtain those things for them. When Luka told us he wanted a guitar, we agreed on that, but we told him he had to start saving money to buy it. We told him:
In case you are still short of money, we will provide the rest.
We implemented the same strategy when he needed a new computer. Our wish is that all the three of them learn to appreciate what they have and to take nothing for granted. In Nikola’s case, we do the same things, but in a different way, appropriate to his age. For example, he knows that he will not go outside to play, or go to the soft play centre unless he previously collects all the toys in the room, puts them in a box and clears up the mess. Mihajlo, my youngest son, is still too small. However, the same “troubles of growing up” are waiting for him. ïŠ
6. We teach them equality and respect. Apart from all the aforementioned, it’s very important to teach the boys to respect all the people and especially to be polite and nice to the girls. We try to be their role models, helping them learn how to treat the opposite gender, showing them we are all equal and that have the same rights and responsibilities. In our home there is no traditional gender division of labour within the household. Instead, we try to agree on all matters, every member of the family does what he can, and we help each other. Even when we are tired, not in the mood, or maybe angry at each other, we teach the kids that this can’t be an excuse to show disrespect to the rest of the family, and that conversation can solve any problem. I find this rule mostly needed with children becoming teenagers, when hormones go crazy and make “enraged guys” from our cute little boys, over night.
In her blog post on raising girls Dragana čermanović nicely said that the element of every process of raising a child, regardless of social context and whether a child is a boy or girl, is patience. I would just add: persistence as well. We now lead a very busy life, full of everyday duties, when our free time is simply running out. Therefore, it’s extremely important for parents to spend some time with their children (even it’s only 5 minutes), playing or reading to them, or doing something creative. This will help us raise our precious little ones in the best way, and make them become wonderful people.