A – Ask don’t Assume. You will never, in your wildest dreams, imagine what your child is thinking, doing, or feeling. If you think you can read his or her mind, you are actually reading your own mind. If you wait, and listen, you will meet your child as she is in the flesh, not in your imagination.
B – Believe in your child. He is not going to grow up to be a terrible person. Or he will. Being more worried, and more strict, and more of a jerkweed will not change his course if he is going to become an adult jerkweed. These actions may, however, encourage the juvenile jerkweed to thrive and become invasive.
C – Care about the feelings. Every moment of tearful whininess or obsessive sock seam adjusting is a feeling. Just get over your adult feelings about the bother, and care. Sit down. Smile. Quietly wait. Offer help. It will pass more quickly that way.
D – Dirt is ok. Dirt is ok. Dirt is ok. Toxoplasmosis and Tetanus, be damned! Stinky things, Sticky, and Slimy, I am not Sold on. But those are S’s and T’s. I digress.
E – Eggs. Make them eggs for breakfast. Breakfast is SUPER important. Unless they are allergic. Then make something Else.
F – Fear. Don’t parent from your Fear-al place. That is not good for anyone. And let your child pick up Feathers. Unless they look Funky.
G – Grace. Give them grace. They are learning – through their own odd, unexplainable, and sometimes tyrannical ways. Give them grace and give them space to learn in their own way.
H – Hugs. Lots and lots and lots and lots of hugs. Start every day with a hug. Hug them and just breathe. Hug. If they don’t want a hug – don’t pout. Offer a hug again, later. If your child hates hugs? Offer something like a hug, but specially suited just for them. Maybe it’s reading books together about trains. So do lots and lots and lots of that. Oh, you hate hugs? Well, then let them sit by you on the couch. And read them books about trains.
I – Inevitable. It is inevitable. You will lose your temper, your cool, your mind. We are not immune. We are not immortal. When it happens, Apologize. Ooh, another A.
J – Jokes. Don’t joke like a jerkweed. Joke in a way that is kind and fun. Knock knock jokes are fun (pretend they are, for everyone’s sake). Jokes about someone’s hair or body or character are usually not fun.
K – Kinetic. Kids are Kinetic. (Definition: Pertaining to, or imparting motion. Active.) If they are not getting TWO HOURS of movement in a day, they will get it in through little wiggles and fidgets and twirls and hanging upside down from their desks – while you are trying to teach them or feed them or otherwise want them to do something that requires holding somewhat still. Let them wiggle, already.
L – Loosen. Know when to hold your children tightly, and when to loosen your grip. It is terrifying that they may push you and all your wisdomful warnings away and go out into the world and do it wrong, fail, make a mess, embarrass themselves or you. This is a part of life. It is the best and hardest way to learn. And if you struggle here, you might need to loosen up a little yourself, and this is about you and not them. Own that.
M – Mouth. Shut it. “Should you be eating that? Your voice is sort of nasally when you sing, you need to use the proper technique. Oh my God, your legs look really fat when you sit like that, how funny! You’re going to wear that today? You have such a cute tiny/chubby butt! Anything at all about their butts! You’re so chubby and sweet! You’re such a string bean, don’t you ever eat? We really need to get your teeth fixed, but orthodontia is so expensive and I really hate my job. You’ll shoot your eye out – aka Be Careful. That kid’s a bad influence/tramp/crazy druggie’s kid/not like *us*.” (Yes, these are real things I’ve heard parents say to kids. **Repetitive and annoying “Be careful” is mine.) THESE things are your “inside voice” weasling out through your mouth. Let your inside voice stay inside, where it belongs.
N – Never mind. Practice saying it. It is your escape route. If you start to say something dumb, like “If you do that again, I’m going to take away your *insert favorite toy here*.” Instead, say, “Never mind, I’m obviously at the end of my rope and I was going to be a jerkweed and say something that will back both of us into a corner and teach you nothing other than Your Parent is a Jerkweed Right Now.” (OK, don’t say that, but I think you get the point.)
O – Outside. Send them outside, where there are sticks and things to play with. Observe. So they don’t hit each other with the sticks. Oppress – do not oppress when you remove the sticks they are hitting each other with.
P – Painful. Parenting is painful. On so many levels. Your child will hit/kick/bite/insult you; and this means they adore you. You must accept this truth. Your child will break your heart. You child will bring you so much joy that your heart literally feels as if it will burst. You will see them through good, bad, illness, strength, and unimaginable situations, until they are fully grown, and then they will still squeeze your heart all the time. Get used to it, and get enough sleep.
Q – Quarrel. You and your child WILL quarrel, but don’t fall into the Quicksand. I mean, you can get out of a quarrel quickly, as long as you remember you are the adult. Sometimes, it helps to remember these words, “I don’t want to fight with you about this. Let’s calm down and discuss it later?” or “I won’t discuss this with you right now,” then, when the fiery beast has unruffled her feathers, take her a cookie, and ask if it’s a good time to talk yet. Start this when she is 3. You’ll need it to work when she’s 17.
R – Whew. R is big. Sorry, but it’s normal for children to be so Rude, and even self-Righteous and downright Reckless (especially as teens). What you put on your Radar, will be what you Rue. Keep the Right things on the Radar, and you will be a less fear-al parent. Build healthy Rapport with your child. Rapport = harmonious Relation. Listen. Trust. (Even when they are being Ridiculous.) In the words of my dear friend, “Don’t be a know it all.” If you can learn to quell (another Q!) your Reactions, you will get to see what is possible, instead of what is on your fear-al Radar. IF you try to Retrain them with Rational talk, they will think you are Really dumb, because they are not able to Rationalize. Yet.
S – Slow down. This is a great Solution for most problems.
T – Tenacious. Be tenacious. This means holding fast or firmly, for the long haul. If you are not tenacious, your children will Take you down. This does not mean be a Tyrant. If your young child leaves the door open, and flies follow him into the house, ALL the TIME, you may have to tell him, A Thousand Times, to go back and close the door. This is NORMAL, and not a criteria for ADHD. Remind him, calmly, a Thousand Times. One day, he will close the door. Ta Da!
U – Understanding. If you do not try to quiet your own ideas, and seek to Understand your child, you will be Unsuccessful and Unhappy in your parenting. (I like Ineffective more than Unsuccessful, but it starts with an I, and uneffective is not a word, so…)
V – Vice. If you have a vice or two, and you are a parent, it is in your best interest to really explore how these serve you, and identify where they are a disservice to your family. Vices are often the very root of family demise.
W – Wardrobe. Let your child dress him or herself. What a child Wears is one very important aspect of self-expression and identity exploration. What? Your child is different from you? Great. Embrace it. She really Wants to show her body off? Well OK. Instead of shaming her, celebrate her confidence and vivacity, and show her Where little adjustments make all the difference. Worried about her Womanly attributes? Teach her, early, that she is valuable for merely the bones that carry her, no matter What is Wrapped around those, because then she Will Wear her attributes Well.
X – Xylophone. When they are banging, loudly, on the xylophone, don’t throw it in the garbage. Teach them about taking loud toys outside. Or get noise canceling headphones and smile while you make them X shaped pancakes at 5:45 am.
Y – Yelling. We all yell. We all try not to. When you do, just calm yourself, apologize when you are back in Your hub, and stay away from your vices until your shame melts off of you.
Z – Zoologist. If your child comes home from 10th grade, and tells you she wants to be a Zoologist, or a marine biologist, or an artist, Zip it. **I mean, feel free to place limits all over your child, and stunt her development, so that you feel more comfortable about the successful place you have parented her successfully into. But really, it’s probably best to just support her as she listens to her soul and finds her proper calling. She’ll likely be way more successful (**Happy) than the modeling clay version of her you’d suggest she become. And if you find yourself to be a Zealot about something, don’t cram that into her mouth and heart. She will come ask you about it if she’s interested, and wouldn’t that feel nicer than a bunch of eye rolling, jaw clenching, and Zooming as far from you as she is able to?