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Patty Kleban: Parenting Advice from Facebook

by on December 03, 2012 6:00 AM

A friend and I were recently talking about the trials and tribulations of child rearing. A mutual friend is having a tough time with her teenager and is at her wit’s end. We shook our heads in empathy for our friend and what she is going through. Parenting is hard work. It’s 24/7. Decisions you make and how you parent your children as toddlers will lay the foundation for your relationships when they are teenagers and young adults. It requires consistency, repetition and patience.

As I reflected on our conversation, I decided to do a poll. In a non-scientific query of a not-at-all random sample, I asked my friends on Facebook to respond to the question, “What parenting advice would you give to someone who is about to have children?”

The answers were interesting. Some people posted right on my Facebook page so others could see. Some sent messages because they didn’t want to share their answers publicly. A few came from current or former students or the friends of my children; they aren’t parents yet, but they wanted to weigh in. I had parents of infants and toddlers respond as well as parents whose children are now parents themselves.

First, there were the answers that had to do with saying no. A consistent theme was that parenting involves being able to say no, even in the face of begging, bargaining and tantrums. One wrote, “No is not a bad word and you should not be afraid to use it.” Another one insisted, “Make your yes mean yes and your no mean no.”

Quite a few responses fell into the parent versus friend category. You are their parents, not their friends. One response said, “Kids want you to be their parents, even if they say they want you to be their friend.” Another “Kids need parents. You can be their friends when they are grown.”

Teaching and demanding respect in how children speak to others – even at an early age – was important to many respondents as was teaching and expecting good and “proper” manners.

Keeping an open line of communication, particularly as kids are faced with choices outside of the home was a repeated theme. “Always work to leave open lines of communication with your children. Build trust with your child so they will come to you with the good, the bad and the ugly.”

One of my friends wrote, “I also told them from the time they were very, very young that I wanted them to be able to talk to me about absolutely anything, no matter how horrible or embarrassing they thought it was. I promised not to judge, laugh, etc. Kids need to know that they have someone who will listen to them without passing judgment. To this day, all three of them are still extremely open with me about all areas of their lives.”

Another? “I told my kids the only gift I ever wanted from them was the truth.”

Stop and listen – not just hear - what they are saying. They understand more than you think they do, even at an early age.

Pick your battles – is it more important that their room is clean or that they are polite? Know who their friends are. Use the network of parents, teachers and coaches to stay on top of what they are doing. Check their text messages and other social media, especially if you are paying for it.

Make them apologize out loud and hug each other after a disagreement with their siblings. Don’t favor one child over the other or say hurtful things about one child in front of another.

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give to your kids is to let them fail.

Set a good example. Be an example of the adult that you want them to be.

“The things that will stick with your kids the most will be the things you do when you don't think you're parenting. Things like letting someone get in line in front of you, or stopping for someone with car trouble, or conversely the times you cut someone off in traffic or interrupt someone in the middle of a story.”

Love your spouse. “The best tip and parenting advice that I got from my parents was that they loved each other.”

Eat dinner together. Pray together, too. “The worst parenting advice I got was when my parents gave up on each other.”

Divorce hurts kids more than anyone knows.

Sometimes a $1 bribe to take out the garbage is a good investment. Teach them the Six Ps (prior planning prevents poopy poor performance). Tell them, “Your real father is being released from prison in two weeks. Would you rather deal with him or do what I tell you?”

Relax. No one ever goes to kindergarten in a diaper or to college without knowing how to tie their shoes.

Hydrate or die.

“Let them think you are a little crazy and would do anything for them even if you embarrass them (and yourself in the process).”

Let them make their own choices on activities like music or sports or hobbies but insist that they follow through for the season or the year or whatever when they have made the commitment.

“I’m not a parent, but I’m a nanny. Don’t scream back.”

Make sure they know that you love them. Never miss an opportunity to tell them how proud you are of them. Don’t let a day go by without hugging them. Get your hugs in while you can because at some point affection will be an anathema.

It’s not good for kids to have too much money or free time.

“A fantastic educator that I know once said in a seminar that something you say to a child can impact the way they treat their grandchildren, meaning something harmful or hurtful said to a child can change the entire course of their future.”

Play with them. Spend time with them. Be involved in their lives no matter how much time or effort it takes. They are only kids for a short time, so enjoy every minute of it while you can.

And last, but not least, was, “My suggestion for your next article is child-rearing advice from single people. You’ll never know what you will get!"

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Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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