Raising children is tough today. There’s social media, more demanding work hours, and everything seems to be way more expensive than just a few decades ago. How can someone even find the time or money to raise quality kids anymore? I know I know, it can seem nearly impossible (maybe that’s why fewer people are having kids…), but raising children to be great kids (and even better adults!) is still entirely possible. It takes time…and patience…and intentionality, but you can absolutely do it! And more importantly, you SHOULD do it!
Raising Children: 21 Things My Parents Did Right (and that you can do too!!)
My parents weren’t perfect. But, looking back at my childhood, my early adulthood, and my current state of being a parent to two young kiddos, I now realize that my parents did a ton of things right. I want to outline them here to express my love and appreciation for them, but I also want other people to learn and grow from the points below! Give this post a read and take note of the things you can improve on as a parent. It might just make all the difference to those kids of your own!
1) Worked Hard to Provide The Best Education For Us
My dad worked full-time at the furniture factory and worked nights as a car dealer. My mom watched us kids at home while also being the janitor for our church (sometimes she took us with, and other times she worked at night). Later, when we started school, she also picked up a part-time job as a hostess.
They flat out worked hard.
Because they wanted us to have the best education possible.
With all their efforts, they were able to put five kids through private schooling AND help them financially in college as well! And you know what? I think all their efforts paid off.
Here’s what we all became:
- Retail manager (retired at 47 years old)
- A very employable hi-lo driver
- Lead nurse
- Senior Financial Analyst
2) Taught Us That Hard Work Earns You Money
Not only did we all receive a great education as a result of our parents’ hard work, they also taught us (and obviously showed us) that hard work earns you money. My older brothers started working when they were just 10 years old (remember when earning money picking blueberries was a thing??). My sister and I started working when we were 14.
Why so early?
To earn money of course!
And why did we need money?
Because we weren’t just handed everything as children!
If we wanted something for ourselves (that wasn’t a necessity), we would need money to pay for it. Hence…the jobs.
3) Encouraged Us To Blaze Our Own Trail
Beyond just working standard jobs, we were encouraged to get creative and make money in other ways as well.
I can still remember my first money-making gig. I was looking through one of my mom’s Oriental Trading magazines (did I mention she also made and sold crafts for money as well? Sheesh they worked hard!!) and I spotted a picture of some smiley face key chains. There were 144 in a pack and you could buy them for $14. That means they cost $0.10 each. I figured I could sell them for at least a quarter and earn more than twice what I paid for them!
Most parents probably would have said,
“No…we’re not doing that. It’s a waste of time…and probably money…”
My parents said,
“You know what? That could be a good idea! Let’s try it!”
So we did!
Every month we had a flea market and I would typically earn between $2 and $4 each time. It was a cool learning experience for me, and even though the dollars weren’t huge, I always had such a feeling of pride that my venture was successful and earning me far more than I initially invested.
4) Taught Us Responsibility Early in Life
Do you want to know the real reason why all of us kids got jobs early in life? It’s because we were expected to buy our own cars.
- It was clearly communicated early in life
- We all knew there weren’t exceptions
- And, the earlier we got working, the better the chances that we could save up to buy something pretty cool (vs. an embarrassing piece of junk!)
My main source of income was from Walters’ Gardens, where I sat on a stool most days and trimmed plants. Not very exciting…but it enabled me to save up $4,000 to buy a pretty decent Chevy Silverado!
After I made the purchase, my buddies asked me when I was going to go mud-running with them (with the cars that their parents gifted them and they often trashed).
Not only do I not want to destroy this truck that I worked so hard for, I also didn’t want to have to pay for the inevitable repairs!
5) Talked to Us About the Tough Stuff
You know all those tough conversations that come with raising children? Some parents do their best to just avoid, avoid, avoid…and hope their kids just never ask the awkward questions.
My parents were always straight with us (about puberty, sex, drugs, money, faith, etc. etc.). They talked with us about this stuff and let us know where they stood on these topics, and what was expected of us.
As a kid just trying to figure out everything else around life, clarity on the tough topics is a wonderful thing.
6) Loved Us Through Everything
Inevitably, we messed up. When we did, we were punished but still loved, hugged, and kissed. Then, we were taught to try again and do better.
7) Helped Us Through College, But Made Sure We Had Skin in the Game
If my parents just worked regular jobs (and didn’t also have the side-hustles), I don’t think they could have done it. They wouldn’t have been able to financially afford private school for each of us, not to mention helping 4 out of 5 of us with college!
For me (and I believe all of my siblings as well), my Mom and Dad agreed to pay for half of my college tuition. And, they encouraged us to pay our way through school – not to lay back and rack up the college loans that everyone seems to be doing today.
Again, since I had skin in the game, I never even considered skipping classes, partying all night, or “just getting by” with C’s. I knew that this education was the spring-board to my future career. The better I did in school, the better chance I had at getting a good job with upward potential.
8) Pitched In to Give Us a Head Start in Life
Beyond helping out with college tuition (which already gave us a nice head-start in life), my folks have pitched in countless times to help us move, help us fix things in our houses, and even help us babysit free of charge when we need to get stuff done!
They never expect anything in return – they just love helping us out and watching us thrive.
Raising children today seems to be more about going out and entertaining your kids 24/7 than it is about teaching them how to be great kids and soon-to-be great adults. Facebook, Instagram, and Snap Chat moments are great and all…but do we really need 4-5 special outings every single week?!?
My parents said no… and they were right.
- For our birthdays, we simply got our favorite pizza delivered
- Once a year, we went on a vacation….to a nearby hotel with a pool, a game room, and cheap bowling
- And, we had one big trip as a family when I was 15 years old (our only big trip during my childhood). We went to Florida, did some cool Disney stuff, stayed in a place on Daytona Beach, and hit a few other cool places along the way as well.
We didn’t have mini-adventures and we didn’t die. In fact, I think we thrived a bit because of it!
10) Bribes Weren’t Given Every Hour on the Hour…
Kids are freakin smart. They know how to work you for stuff, especially if they’ve broken you before. And, with the busy lives of parents today, far too many of us are breaking far earlier and more often than ever before.
My friends have a 6 year old son. I popped in to their place the other day and we all decided to go for a walk. My buddy asked his son to put on his shoes…
“Do I get a special treat?”
For putting on your shoes? How many of these so-called “treats” do you get in a day? Are you a dog?
I probably didn’t mask my eye-roll very well, but this was absolutely shocking to me. Parents – please stop bribing your kids for everything. Make them do what’s best for them, and if they don’t want to do it, then punish them like our parents used to do with us.
11) Expected Help With Chores…For No Money
My typical chores when I was a kid:
- Set the table
- Clean toilets
- Mow the lawn (well…I only did this once since I accidentally mowed over that tree in the side-yard…but that’s another story!)
My parents signed me up for these chores and they never paid me a dime to do them (*gasp*!!). The theory was, even kids should help keep the house in order – after all, we lived there too (and probably made more of a mess than anyone else!).
Then, if we wanted to make some extra money, we could help Dad at the car lot. Or, we could come up with our own entrepreneurial method for making money around the neighborhood.
12) Praised Us For Succeeding, Not Just Participating
Raising children today is all about being fair and equal. Not so when I was growing up. We were given the head-nod for participating, but the high-fives and praise didn’t come out unless we won! And you know what? That’s how it should be!
- If we simply participate at work, you know what we get? A basic paycheck and maybe the opportunity to keep our job.
- But, if we thrive and continue to win time and time again at work, then we get promoted, get paid more money, and become successful in life.
Participation is great, but it’s best to teach your kids to win.
13) Taught Us To Give
My parents instilled giving into all of us kids at a young age. I remember being given a dollar to put into the collection plate every Sunday. It wasn’t my dollar, I did nothing to earn it, but it started programming my brain to not just bring money in, but to also release some of it to help someone else.
Later in my childhood, when I started earning money on my own, my parents encouraged me to give away 10%.
- It taught me that I have the power to change another life,
- that God has given me my earnings to impact somebody else,
- and that through my giving, my spirit is changing…is softening. My mind and my heart are opening to love others and not just myself.
14) Taught Us To Be Kind and Compassionate to EVERYONE
Since my parents worked so much and were able to send us to private school, we didn’t encounter a different demographic very often (ie. race, education, or low-income). BUT, they still taught us to welcome everyone regardless of their situation.
I honestly believe that’s more of a natural thing to do today, but it’s still important to teach your kids to mentally walk in someone else’s shoes before they start opening their mouths and say something hurtful, just because someone is different.
Again, raising children isn’t easy, but when done right, it can be so rewarding!!
15) Mom Stayed At Home While We Were Young
This one was HUGE.
- When we were little, Mom was there, teaching us everything we needed to know about life
- During the school years, Mom was there even when we had to stay home sick from school
- And, when we came off the bus after a long day of learning (and possibly being teased), Mom was there waiting for us, ready with a hug!
On the other hand, this was my friend’s experience:
- When he got off the bus, the house was empty for a couple of hours – his dad and his aunt were working
- He had the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do…which for young boys, typically isn’t good stuff!!
- He grew up in constant mischief and even went to jail a couple of times – I’m honestly not even sure he’s alive today
That’s an extreme case. And there was obviously more going on there then just not having an adult at home. BUT, it can be incredibly important AND rewarding to just be a presence in your own home!
16) They Practiced What They Preached
For raising children, you definitely have to tell them what’s good and bad – what they should and shouldn’t do. But, almost more importantly, you’ve got to show them that you follow all your own advice too!
If you’re not practicing what you preach, your kids are going to pick up on that. And, they’ll start doing what you do, not what you say…
17) Taught Us Gratitude
I don’t hear please and thank you nearly as often as I did when I was a kid. After raising a now-3-year-old, I somewhat understand why. It’s not easy!! I feel like it took me a solid year of correcting my daughter how to ask for a snack (not just…”I want a snack”, but rather, “May I please have a snack?”). But now that she’s finally got it, it’s so much nicer for us to hear. And you know what? It’s good for her too because we’re actually more likely to give her one!
18) They Gave You Attention, Not Just Their Presence
Having children is way different than raising children. Having children takes about 2 minutes. Raising them takes a lifetime… Thankfully, my parents were interested in raising children (well…they were interested in both, but we don’t need to talk about that other gross part.. ;)).
My wife and I took our kids to the park last weekend.
- We played on the swing with our kids,
- went down the slide with them,
- and even hung on the monkey-bars with them
They absolutely loved it. (And so did we!)
The other parents at the park…they were sitting together on their phones checking out Facebook…for the solid hour we were there. And then the mom yelled at her daughter for not paying attention to her surroundings… (eye roll).
Your kids might not be able to verbalize it, but they absolutely need your attention.
19) Let Us Make Mistakes So We Could Learn and Grow
When you’re raising children, you desperately want them to succeed and do well at everything. It’s only natural to interject and give your help. BUT, if you’re single-handedly building their science fair project and constantly bailing them out of trouble, you aren’t doing them any favors…
Instead, you’re teaching them to stay irresponsible and to depend on your everything.
It might seem like you’re helping them out in the moment…but you’re creating a pretty devastating adulthood for them out there in the real world.
20) They Were Consistent and Followed Through On What They Said They Would Do
My mom gave me and Liz some advice when we had our first kid:
“Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.”
That’s it. Just stay consistent with your kids.
- They’ll learn their boundaries, and
- Your life will eventually get easier (you’ll get fewer tantrums and far less pestering)
21) Taught Us to Believe in Something Bigger Than Ourselves
Perhaps most importantly, my parents taught us to believe in something bigger than ourselves. In other words, they explained that while we were important, the world didn’t revolve around us. God was our creator and without him, this world as we know it wouldn’t even exist.
While you may not believe this, it’s still important to teach your kids that they aren’t the most important thing on this planet (and let me tell you, this could take years of coaching! ;)). I don’t know what it is about kids, but sometimes they need to get taken down a couple notches when it comes to their entitlement.
Raising Children – Not Easy, But Worth It!
Are you thinking about having kids? Or do you have young kids that you want to raise into thriving adults someday? Raising children is definitely a challenge (my one-year old son just threw his Cheerios across the room while typing this…. ;)), but it’s totally possible, and can be quite rewarding.
Take note of all that’s above and implement as much as you possibly can. I can promise you, your future kids will thank you!!
Are you ready to start raising children and teaching them how to become successful adults?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.