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Grandpa’s Wisdom

My first child and his wife were raising my first grandchild with the “modern way” … which has run by hundreds of names throughout history. This is a slightly modified version of a letter I sent them with child-rearing advice.

Anticipate problems and try to head them off before the baby cries
Change diapers and feed babies BEFORE they cry for it. If you are paying attention there is a pattern they follow. Little tummies need regular refills. Stuff comes out the other end regularly as well. If they have to cry to get changed and fed, you are teaching them to cry.

I used to dash over to the crashed kid and sympathize with the object they hit as a distraction (not always, sometimes they were really hurt). However, checking things out right away while discouraging crying keeps them out of the cycle of having to cry for attention. Do you want to develop a person who can take a hit and keep on going or one who is disabled by slight setbacks and sits whining about his lot in life? You get to choose their lot in life very early.

Do NOT reward undesirable behavior
If the baby gets their way by pushing, shoving, crying, screaming or hitting, they are smart enough to push, shove, cry, scream or hit to get their way in the future.

Intermittent success reinforces at least as much as consistent success
Some psychologists think intermittent success reinforces bad behavior MORE strongly than never getting rewards for undesirable behavior. Regardless, if the child sometimes wins by persistent pestering, they will persistently pester the parent. This makes life miserable for all – the parent is constantly being pestered, while the child doesn’t get a solid NO and move on to other things. Thus they remain unhappy too.

Time-outs need to last until the child has gotten over it
Many doctors recommend 1-minute time-outs as the strictest punishment. If your is one of those, your doctor is wrong! Children are smarter than he thinks they are and he is not as smart as he thinks he is. Look at the evidence. One: his method doesn’t work. Two: a week of time-outs long enough for a baby to STOP the cycle of whining and move on to something else, STOPS THE WHINING.

Be consistent
A firm, steady hand whether using spankings, time-outs or anything else, provides the stability a child can count on, making them comfortable with themselves and the rules. Even very strict upbringing is comfortable as long as the kid knows where the line is.

Mean what you say and say what you mean
When you say you are going to do something, DO IT. Do NOT threaten what you won’t follow through with… the worst is “I’ll kill you if you do ____”. Nobody believes you. When you promise something, make sure you deliver. Children are just as sensitive to this as adults are, perhaps even more.

Of course in both cases, you can build a good credit rating with your consistent reliability which will carry you and your credibility on those occasions you miss your target.

Don’t threaten
Promises of rewards and punishments may be okay, but I don’t like them myself. “No” always meant no; “Yes” meant yes and “Maybe” was consistent as well. It really is a lot easier for parent AND child if they simply understand that you mean what you say. Adding threats limits your options without strengthening your position at all.

Choose your battles
There is a whole lot of stuff that is just kids being kids. I can’t possible write it all down. However, question everything that may well be harmless experience… let experience teach them as much as possible…she’s much better at it than any parent.

Nobody is perfect
The perfect parent has not been invented. All of us make mistakes. You do your best and that is all you can do. Even if you could be a perfect parent, your child has some will and destiny that will lead them in directions you may not like. Some things just ARE.

Get it over with
You cannot keep up the ultimate level of ‘responsiveness’ to your child’s demands. At some point in life, she cannot get everything she wants when she wants it. The sooner she learns that lesson, the easier it will be for her (and you). If you wait until you have another baby to contended with, your first child will make the obvious deduction that the new baby REDUCED the amount of attention you have for her. She will feel she is getting less love from you and resent her sibling. This could take over 20 years to correct and nobody will be happy in the meantime.

A special place in the heart for each child
Inevitably, children are concerned that their siblings may be reducing the amount of your love available for themselves. I always explained that there was a special place in my heart for each one and nothing or nobody could take that away… more children simply meant I had a bigger heart.

Give love and attention freely
The most important thing you have to give your child is you. Toys and stuff don’t mean a thing. They can make their own toys. They can amuse themselves. In fact, they are better off if they do just that.

Don’t make your child work for your attention. Far too often they come up with unpleasant ways to accomplish that goal.

The best thing you can give your child is your time. By amazing coincidence, your favorite moments in the future will be the attention they gave you at those moments.