3 things to cultivate Love, Respect, and Trust with your kids
Blake and I came into parenting young and green. Though our own parents had each loved us dearly, we didn’t want to do what had always been done, and we didn’t want to just figure it out as we went along. Instead we went after resources and advice like wild animals after prey. We were hungry and desperate for wisdom and knowledge and “how to” skills that would cultivate the family we dreamed of having. We quickly learned that in order to have our kids grow up connected, healthy and full of love and respect, it started with us. Here are 3 of the many pieces of advice shared with us in our early years.
Follow Through: Whatever you’ve said, promised or threatened… follow through. Your words matter and they hold weight, and by always doing what you say you’re going to do, your children will learn to trust, obey and respect you. As a new parent this came as advice from a friend, based on how her parents had raised her. If you threatened a consequence, be prepared to follow through… even if it meant leaving a grocery cart full of groceries in the middle of the store to escort a screaming toddler home. If you’ve promised an extra story at bedtime, even if you’re exhausted and want to cut story time short…. follow through. Keep your promises…. to everyone, but especially to your kids. I found that practicing this when my kids were little made me more cautious and wise about what I promised or threatened. Following through with a task or commitment often feels inconvenient. But working to always do what I said not only earned the respect of my kids but also refined my own character.
Be Humble: Admitting fault and saying sorry is hard, but it’s especially hard when you’re the adult and you’re apologizing to a child. Blake and I received this advice when our children were still toddlers. As an adult I was not in the habit of humbling myself and admitting my fault regularly. But I was assured that at home with my children was a good, and relatively safe place to start. And so I did. I apologized regularly: For yelling, for loosing my temper, for acting unfairly, for not keeping my promises, for being tired… for everything. In so many ways this was so much more for me than it was for my children. I was learning the practice of humility. I was learning the practice of owning my behavior and giving my children the respect that I wanted them to have. This in turn began developing a culture in our home of honesty, owning our mistakes, humility, forgiveness and reconciliation. It was and still is hard, humbling work. But the reward in relationship is priceless.
Establish Boundaries: What are the limits? What are the parameters? What is expected? Whether we cross the line, ride the line, or play it safe, we all want to know where the “line” is. For our kids, knowing what to expect helps them to feel safe. For outside our home, boundaries have provided a framework for what we can and can’t agree to, and how we will spend our time. Establishing boundaries requires advance planning, communication and then the guts to stick to them. And it can be hard. If you are a person to whom boundaries bring up feelings of fear, sadness and anxiety, get curious about why. Why is it more important to give in, rather than stick with what you’ve already determined as best? For Blake and I boundaries were hard intentional work. We read books and worked with a counselor to put our boundaries in place so that they were serving our family to establish peace, order and trust.
All three of these things started with an honest look at myself. Who was I naturally, without trying, and what was the kind of parent I wanted to be? In every situation there was a gap. But with the gap exposed, it allowed me to see where I wanted to grow and work with intention towards creating the home and family culture my husband and I desired. Building into my kids through keeping my word, practicing humility and setting boundaries have helped each of us learn to be people of our word. When we do what we say we will do, it becomes easy to trust and respect each other, with love being the cherry on top!