I have a rather funny approach to raising children. I like to be hands-on but I also want to raise children that are confident and independent. So I do my best to avoid smothering them. Is this approach working? Well, my children are still very young so I can’t really say, or maybe I can.
This month as we are discussing how to be a better wife and mum, I have had to sit back and critically examine my motherhood. What am I doing right (or wrong)? In doing that, I realized to my surprise that I am actually replicating most of my mother’s approach to child raising.
It is going to take much more than one blog post to put down what I have learned from watching my mother raise 3 children (she’s still actively parenting), but I will do my best to highlight the ones that really stood out to me.
Be there for them
When I think back to my childhood, my mother was always there. Now, here’s the funny thing…she held down a job and sometimes she had to travel for days at a time, but those memories did not really stand out to me. I remembered that when it counted, she was there. She was there to take me to school and she was there when I got back. When I went to boarding school, she could not always make it on visiting days, BUT she always found a way to visit later in the term.
The lesson from here is that we try so hard to be 100 percent present for our kids (or maybe we don’t), but we cannot always be present. Often times, children do not remember when you were not there, but how they felt when you were there. Whenever you are with your children, give them your full attention. Be present in that moment with them. Those are the moments they will remember.
Love them and let them know you do
My mum was reserved even with us children, but somehow she was able to communicate her love to us. She hugged and said the words and would give up her food for us even though we had already had a meal. She always let us know that she loved us and it went beyond her just saying it, we knew.
I am doing my best to let my children have that knowledge too. There is an infinite sense of security which comes from the knowledge that you are loved, particularly by the one who should love you. So I tell my children, and I hug them and play with them and just generally let them feel my love. As a result, they give it back to me. Nothing warms my heart like hearing my 2 year old go “Nonny, I yove you” translated – Mummy I love you. 🙂
Don’t Shy Away from discipline but let them know why
My mum was not really one for spanking, although there were times she did spank us. I like to say that I can count on my hands the times she spanked me and that I remember each time (at least, I think I do). But she had other ways of disciplining us. What I find really remarkable was that she and my dad would sit us down and let us know what we had done wrong and why we had to be disciplined. Actually, we already knew the consequences even before we committed the crime, but they would still take the time to explain it to us.
I am not always good at this. Too many times I find myself yelling at my children or sending them to the Naughty Corner out of my own frustration. But even as I do that, I know I should not be doing that. I make an effort to let my children know what they have done wrong and why I need to discipline them. It does not always work because I have a 5 year old with a sharp wit and she is not shy about speaking her mind.
Allow them to be themselves
We were all different children, my 2 brothers and I and my mum understood that. My younger brother was a tinker…he tinkered with everything he could lay his hands on, but he was also a deeply sensitive child. My youngest brother was a talker and truly believed he could talk his way out of any situation, and he often did. And as for me, well…I was who I was. 🙂
Even now, I watch my little ones and their personalities are gradually being formed. I can see that they are 3 different people and I learnt from my mother to allow them be themselves. This means that one is really good at expressing herself, but her brother is not that expressive. I do not get frustrated with him just because he isn’t a chatterbox like his sister.
Allowing them to be themselves also means that sometimes, I need to let them make their own mistakes. When I see that the consequence is not fatal or far reaching, I sit back and watch and guide them through the lessons they learn from the mistake. I never say I told you so! This was something I also learnt from my mum.
There is so much more I could probably say about growing up with the kind of mother I had and the things I learned from her, and maybe I will talk about them in another post. For now though, I would love to learn from you as well…What lessons did you learn from your mother?