On this Father's Day, we'd of course like to honor our dear wabisabi father. He's at a point in his life where he has some time to reflect and recently shared some sage advice about raising a child. While I don't always love unsolicited advice, I think his four kids turned out pretty darn good, so perhaps he's qualified to dole out some tips now and again. Here they are, in his very words:
Raising a child. Nobody asked, but here are my suggestions for raising a child.
Limit entertainment. The trick here is to understand what entertainment is. Entertainment may include watching TV, playing video games, playing with toys, surfing the web, shopping, hanging out, attending or watching sporting events, going to the movies, texting, excessive use of cell phone, and probably a myriad of other future technological advances not even conceived yet. You may have your own additions to this list. Although we all need a break, 20 hours of MTV a week is probably over the top.
Expose the child to a wide range of occupations. A main goal in life is to not outlive one’s assets. Assets are usually acquired by work. Exposing a child to a wide range of occupations (not just areas of interest) focuses a child’s interest on what she would like to do (and not do!). This is just as important for girls as it is for boys. Take-your-child-to-work day is a good idea. Take-your-child-to-someone-else’s-work day is even better.
Instill a sense of awe for the outdoors. Take her fishing. Go hiking. Paddle a canoe down a river. Climb a mountain. Take a 3-day camping trip with only what you can carry on your back. Bike in the canyons. Kayak on a lake. Watch a whale breech. Take a picnic in the park. Sleep in a tent in the back yard. Plant a seed and watch it sprout. You get the idea. Start out small and work your way up to grander outings. Not only will this be fun, but also she will gain confidence in being able to take care of herself when not in the womb of civilization.
Read, read, read. Learning is the (ongoing) destination, and reading is the road. Read to her every day. Teach her to read as early as possible. Don’t wait for school to do it. Have her see you read. Show interest in what she’s reading. Choose reading material from and about other countries, ethnic groups, and civilizations. Read a book, watch the movie. Take her to the library frequently. Build your own in-house library.
Involve yourself with the child’s homework/education. Know her teacher(s) and express thanks. Correlate your teachings with what she’s learning in school. Show interest in her homework. Do not undermine homework time with competing TV. If she doesn’t have homework, consider your own supplements. Help her prepare for tests. Shadow help, but don’t do the work for her.
Exploit teaching moments. Someone died drinking and driving? Point that out. Someone lose his job through alcoholism? Point that out. Someone injured by not wearing a helmet? Point that out. A candidate exposed for padding his resume? Point that out. Classmates injured or kill not wearing a seatbelt? Point that out. An athlete becomes a champion by working hard? Point that out. Dad got a good job by graduating from college? Point that out. Life is tough; it’s really tough if one is stupid.
Surround yourself with good music. There are many genres: classical, jazz, rock, country, hip-hop, Broadway musicals, religious, even barbershopping! Have a wide selection to play out load during household chores or other appropriate times. Avoid music with explicit lyrics or messages that are immoral, demeaning, or otherwise not uplifting. Music is powerful. Make it a power for good.
Monitor her friends. Unfortunately, studies show that peer pressure can easily be more powerful than parents’ influence. Learn who her friends are. Get to know them. Invite them over for a cookout. Invite them along for a hike. Invite them to church! Steer her away from toxic personalities, especially of the opposite sex. No one-on-one dating until the age of 16 probably won’t do irreparable harm.
Attend church together. Do not send a child to church; take her to church. A child has a very sensitive hypocrite detector. Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do is a recipe for disaster. Church will usually have a reservoir of admirable peers and leaders. If not, consider another church.
Put the kid to work. This can start very early: picking up her room, helping mommy and daddy around the house and yard. Don’t expect her to instinctively know how to do things. Explicitly show her how to wipe the dishes, sweep the floor, clear the table, etc. Allow for mistakes if she does something wrong. Positive reinforcement is more powerful than negative reinforcement. Rewarding good behavior is a better strategy than punishing the lack of good behavior. Make sure chores are age appropriate (a child should not be mowing the lawn). Do not pay an allowance for normally accepted housework. This creates an attitude of entitlement. Pay (allowance or treats) for “extra” work. Do not tolerate tantrums, but avoid getting angry.