The Secret to Raising Great Kids

A little background – this is a reprint from a few years back, but interestingly enough, my son is now in full teenage mode at 15 and he’s still pretty awesome.  Sure, he drives me crazy like any other teen and we argue a bit more than we did when he was ten (okay, a LOT more) but I still get props for how well he behaves when we are out in public and how willing he is to still do volunteer service and good deeds.  I don’t think I’d very change much about the way he’s turned out and the same with my adult sons.  

Boy from that title, don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about? But you know, I think I do have a couple of ideas on raising good kids and I do get a lot of positive comments from people on my kids, so hopefully I’m doing something right.  

I took my ten-year-old Blake to a fundraising meeting with me this weekend and I was so proud of him. Several people commented on how personable and polite he was and that is praise any mother loves to hear, especially when they are talking about your hyperactive, ADD-loaded son! 


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We were there for a couple of hours and he sat very nicely in a corner playing quietly with his Legos and his video games. I did have to speak gently to him when he was following the hostess’s cat around the house, but that was pretty minor and she didn’t seem to mind. She was one of the ones complimenting him and she’s a former special ed teacher, so I figure she knows what she’s talking about.


Anyway, here is my big secret. THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE LIVING IN YOUR HOUSE FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT 18 YEARS! If you are going to be dealing with them every day of your life for all these years, you want to make damn sure that they are pleasant to live with. 


If they are sullen or whiny, or bad-tempered, they are not going to be very fun to live with. A good rule of thumb is that if you enjoy spending time with your children, so will other people. And on the other hand, if you DON’T enjoy spending time with them, neither will anyone else! 


Most of the time, my guys are a blast to be with and I never know what funny thing they are going to come up with next, so I enjoy being with them – most of the time.  And that’s about the best you can expect.  If they are terrific 80% of the time, somewhat annoying 10% of the time, and a real pain in the butt only 10% of the time, that’s not a bad ratio.  

Now, during that 10% of the time that they are being a pain, I make sure to let them know that behavior is not acceptable.  Sometimes it just takes a certain look, sometimes it takes a little talking to, and sometimes it requires a consequence, such as losing a privilege, or having to leave the room.  It depends on the severity of the behavior and the circumstances, but what I don’t do is IGNORE bad behavior.  Pretty much every time they are acting up, they are going to receive some type of feedback about it.  It doesn’t mean they will always straighten up and turn it around, but they will always know where they stand with me in terms of their behavior.  And I think that makes a big difference.  Kids are much more sensitive to feedback than we give them credit for.  And that goes for toddlers, teens, and everything in between.  

Here’s my other secret – just love the heck out of them. I read something once that has stuck with me ever since – Children are like a bucket filled with sand. As they go through life, the world is going to poke little holes in their bucket all the time and let the sand leak out. Your job as a parent is to fill their bucket up with so much sand that nothing in this world can drain away all of it. That’s my mission in life right there.

That’s what my mother did for me. My Dad wasn’t a big presence in my life and we didn’t have a lot of friends or other relatives around to provide support for us, but that was OK. I know that she loved me completely and unconditionally every moment of her life, and that was enough to fill up my bucket. And now that she’s gone, it’s my turn to pass that same love on to my children too.


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