One Family – Ten State Championships, Eight All Academic Teams, One Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship, One Mountain West Conference Champion, One Geico High School Nationals Participant, Four Full Athletic Scholarships, and One WNIT Championship. People see my kids’ resumes and ask me “How?” or “What is the secret to raising successful children?” First, I am humbled that people even notice and second, flattered that anyone wants my advice. So I sat down one day and put thought to paper and came up with six lessons I have instilled in my children from the day they were born. I believe these six philosophies can help any child be successful whether their talent lies in athletics, music, academics, art, drama, photography, design, wood working, hair styling, plumbing, air conditioning repair. My children’s talent is in athletics hence there will be references pertaining to athletics but this applies to all.
- Healthy Life Style – this is the most important gift you can give to a child and the best way to do that is to lead by example. You cannot tell your kid not to smoke while you smoke a pack a day. It doesn’t work like that. Good health is the gift that keeps on giving as I found out when I recently had my yearly (my 49th yearly) checkup. I was in and out in 15 minutes with a lab requisition for some baseline bloodwork. Unlike the 350 pound fellow in front of me who was in with the doctor for 45 minutes then had to wait on referrals for two other doctors – a cardiologist because his blood pressure was high and an endocrinologist because he was borderline diabetic while at the same time checking with his insurance company to see if they cover the added procedures. Teach your child to exercise and eat right. There is nothing wrong telling your kid that you will play with them in 30 minutes after you get your run or walk in – better yet, invite them to do it with you. Show your kids healthy eating – cut fruits and vegetables up on Sunday so there is plenty of grab and go for the week, make a weekly menu so you are not stopping to get fast food every night after work. Pop should be for special occasions not for every day hydration.
- Discipline and Consequences and Manners – The Big Three! If your child is doing something wrong discipline them and follow through with consequences. Such a simple concept but many parents fold. This should start from the very first time they give you that look that says, “Yeah, I know I shouldn’t grab the dog’s tail but what are you going to do about it?” Put that child in time out or take away their dessert (whatever your form of discipline) and never look back. Once you start getting wishy washy on the consequences – not doing anything when they were supposed to be in time out for 5 minutes but ran out after 30 seconds you start to lose credibility and the child will know they can get away with anything. There were times in the grocery story that I had a full cart of groceries but just left because one of my kids was acting up and I had to take them home for some discipline. Was it a pain in the ass that I had all my grocery shopping done and I had to leave the store with nothing? Hell yes it was! But it usually only takes one time and they learned a far better lesson.
Manners – simple please and thank you, open the door for people – nowadays I am actually shocked when a young person holds a door open for me, offer your seat up to an elderly person, clean up after yourself, be kind, have a normal conversation without using a cuss word. Have you heard the songs your kids listen to today – every other word starts with an N, B, P, F – I will let you use your imagination. Why??
- Accountability – hold your kids accountable and the best way to teach this is by holding yourself accountable. Get them to their practices, lessons, games, activities on time.
Keep your promises – if you tell your kids you are going to do something then do it. If you tell them if they get all the yard work done you will take them to get a Slurpee then take them to get a Slurpee. If you start making false promises to your child then your child will learn it is acceptable to tell people you are going to do something and not follow through.
- Life is Uncomfortable -teach your kids that life is uncomfortable and you are not always going to get what you want. Don’t jump in and save them every time life doesn’t go their way. This is hard for parents because no parent likes to see their child struggle but I “never met a strong person with an easy past” (Unknown author). I know parents who will actually try to find a bad team to put their kid on so their kid can be the star instead of putting them on a good team where they have to earn playing time. We moved seven times and each time my kids had to earn that starting position. Of course it was hard as a parent to watch them have to start all over but it taught them perseverance and that things are not just going to be handed to them in life.
- Family Dinners – have family dinners (even if it is just cereal), support each other, go to each other’s events, listen to each other – this is all achieved by, again, setting the example. If you want your kids to listen to each other than listen to your kids. If you want your kids to support each other then go to their events even if it is the 5th event of the week and you are dog tired.
- Purge – I know this may sound crazy but purge every 6 months. Keep it simple stupid. A lot of clutter can bog you down mentally. Have your kids go through their clothes, old toys, unneeded school work because a cluttered life can lead to a cluttered mind.
As a parent you have to put in the work. It is not easy – just like losing weight – if it was easy everyone would be in skinny. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Many times I dreaded having to fight the rush hour traffic to get 4 kids to practice or wanting to cuddle up in my pajamas rather than scraping off my car in a snow storm to get my kids to practice or to have one weekend when I didn’t have to be in a gym or drive through McDonalds’ instead of making a healthy meal. But if your kids see you put the work in then they will put the work in because honestly they don’t know any better – watching what you do is all they know so they will think exercising and eating right is normal, getting to every practice, activity, game 10 minutes early is normal, supporting your siblings is normal, saying please and thank you is normal, working hard is normal, and not making excuses is normal – it all starts with parenting. Don’t put it on teachers or coaches to “turn your kid around”. You have to start these things as soon as they come out of the womb. Teachers and coaches can’t make up for years of kids not being held accountable, not being disciplined, and not being taught to respect authority.