When we first started our family I was dabbling in Family Science as a major because I wanted to be a better parent. As the years went on I adding to our parenting library, and collected advice from those when “knew” what they were doing. 28 years later our kids are adults and the grandchildren are coming, and we have somehow become a resource for advice. The world has changed in the last three decades, but a few things have remained the same. We all want all have tips to share and ways to be better than the previous generation, but some advice remains timeless and applicable to any generation.
For 56 years, Ann Landers was a syndicated advice column published in newspapers across the country. In the days before google searches and Pinterest idea boards, Ann Landers offered support for parents and families who wanted answers to the tough questions about raising our family and strengthening our marriage. One of her most popular columns was 12 Rules for Raising Children. It was published and republished at her reader’s request. I recently stumbled across the clipping on Pinterest and felt it was worth sharing again.
1 | Remember that a child is a gift from God, the richest of all blessings. Do not attempt to mold him in the image of yourself, your father, your brother or your neighbor. Each child is an individual and should be permitted to be himself.
This was one of the hardest things for me to do as a parent. I wanted to believe I knew what was best, but there is a lot to learn as we watch the individuality of each child emerge. They are unique and when we help them embrace what makes them special we are helping them find their place in the world.
2 | Don’t crush a child’s spirit when he fails. And never compare him with others who have outshined him.
Failure is hard enough, why make it worse by rubbing it in. Don’t cry over spilled milk, rather help them learn from their failure and get back up to try again.
3 | Remember that anger and hostility are natural emotions. Help your child to find socially acceptable outlets for these normal feelings or they may be turned inward and erupt in the form of physical or mental illness.
They also learn about how to react to difficult situations by watching you. If you resort to anger they see that as an acceptable outlet. A child who is emotionally intelligent understands their feelings and knows how to express them.
4 | Discipline your child with firmness and reason. Don’t let your anger throw you off balance. If he knows you are fair, you will not lose his respect or his love. And make sure the punishment fits the crime. Even the youngest child has a keen sense of justice.
There are natural consequences to everything in life. Good and bad. If we teach our children otherwise their perception of justice and fairness become out of whack. Discipline not only teaches consequences but respect and civility.
5 | Remember that each child needs two parents. Present a united front. Never join with your child against your mate. This can create in your child (as well as in yourself) emotional conflicts. It can also create feelings of guilt and insecurity.
One of the 7 things every child is entitled to.
6 | Do not hand your child everything his little heart desires. Permit him to know the thrill of earning and the joy of receiving.
One of my greatest memories was earning money for my first 10 speed bike. I was thrilled with each dollar I earned and when we finally went to buy the bike I took better care of it than anything else I owned. Pride of ownership teaches some great life lessons. When we spoil our kids with everything they ask for we are setting them up for greater failures in the future.
7 | Do not set yourself up as the epitome of perfection. This is a difficult role to play 24 hours a day. You will find it easier to communicate with your child if you let him know that mom and dad can err too.
Embrace imperfection. Teach them about the power of making mistakes and the beauty of forgiveness. Admitting when you are wrong allows them to see humility first hand and learn how to model it in their own life.
8 | Don’t make threats in anger or impossible promises when you are in a generous mood. Threaten or promise only that which you can live up to. To a child, a parent’s word means everything. The child who has lost faith in his parents has difficulty believing in anything.
Mean what you say and say what you plan on doing. Let them know they can always depend on your word.
9 | Do not smother your child with superficial manifestations of “love.” The healthiest love expresses itself in day-in, day-out training, which breeds self-confidence and independence.
Do you know your child’s love language? Learn what makes them feel loved and reassured in this crazy world, and the reinforce it in the language they relate to the most.
10 | Teach your child there is dignity in hard work, whether it is performed with callused hands that shovel coal or skilled fingers that manipulate surgical instruments. Let him know a useful life is a blessed one and a life of ease and pleasure-seeking is empty.
Hard work is one of the greatest values we can teach our children. Learning how to get things done and doing them well is invaluable.
11 | Do not try to protect your child against every small blow and disappointment. Adversity strengthens character and makes us compassionate. Trouble is the great equalizer.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is watching your child go through challenges and not being able to fix it for them. I think of our loving Heavenly Father and how he allows us to grow from our own disappointment and adversity. Character is never easy to develop.
12 | Teach your child to love God and to love his fellow humans. Don’t SEND your child to a place of worship, TAKE him there. Children learn from example. Telling him something is not teaching him. If you give your child a deep and abiding faith in God, it can be his strength and his light when all else fails.
Children are great imitators – give them something great to imitate! There is nothing more powerful than teaching our children about faith through our example.