1. Check your kid’s hands. Do they have opposable thumbs? Yes? Well don’t make their lunches. They can spread their own peanut butter on their own 2 slices of bread, or go hungry. I mean, how hard is it to put an apple in a lunch box? You buy good healthy food, they make their lunch. They’ll either eat or die. Opposable thumbs also come in handy for other such tasks.
2. Don’t make your bed. Hear me out. If you make your bed, then you will expect them to make theirs. They wont. You will then fight over something that will never actually impact the world just to build resentment before you even get to the stuff that actually matters. This will buy you some wiggle room so you can really give it to them over the big stuff, like when they’re sneaking off with your gin under their coat.
3. Fart in front of your kids. If your kids feel grossed out by you, then they feel comfortable enough to gross you out too- by asking tricky sex questions, not having to be perfect, and by just being their growing-up-awkward-and-messy selves. By keeping it real you are allowing them to be forgiving of their own selves, while having a giggle. ‘Cause I don’t care how old you are- farts are funny, so they better get used to laughing at themselves. Might not want take this one to the streets though, keep it as your own special bond.
4. Get them their damn dog/cat/guinea pig/mountain goat they keep begging for. This is a no-brainer. Yes you will get stuck with cleaning up even more poo and having to hunt the thing down when it hides under a bed, but bit-by-bit they’ll get it. A living breathing creature needs food, water, play and cuddles –which are all good and worthy things in life. The sooner they learn to give these to another, the better for us all.
5. Pocket money is not a one way transaction. They don’t just get it just because you love them. Show them that in other ways. (see #1 though #10) Write a chore list with $$ amounts. They have to get their chubby little hands dirty. Whatever you think they’re capable of, throw even more at them. They can do way more than you give them credit for- they’re playing you, don’t buy it. Time to drop your standards, like, super low. This is not about a vacuumed floor, or even a remotely clean floor. It’s about believing they are capable of contributing and valuing their efforts. (which is more important than a clean floor any day, except for the day your finicky old aunt visits)
6. Shrug your shoulders. Get them to make choices, all the time! From the minute they can- anything from what socks to wear, what cup to drink from, to where to go on the next family vacation. Don’t jump in to rescue them when they can’t decide, just shrug your shoulders in the most supportive shrugging way. A kid who can make decisions that don’t actually kill anyone, turns into an adult who can make bigger, more life altering decisions with confidence. Practice practice practice.
7. Don’t be a wuss. You are the parent, you get to say no if you want. No to R rated movies, getting your 6yr old an iphone, or letting your teen grunt at people. You are the adult, you get to make the rules. Children who follow rules know their place. And that place is in the care of people who are looking out for them, who care more than anybody else about them. They will resist, but will be secretly glad someone else is steering this crazy ride. And as a bonus, you are teaching your kids just how powerful the word no is and that it’s ok to use it. See- win/win!
8. Eyeball your kids- like right up in their face. That will require putting down your iphone, kindle, turning off the TV, and bookmarking your page. When they talk- listen with your eyes. Don’t just say a half-assed aha, ok, yup. Ask a question back, it shows you care, and give a damn about what they have to say. Love them more than some cat jumping off a lamp on youtube. Because if you care, then maybe they will believe others will care too, and finally trust the world around them enough to eventually move out of home becoming healthy and productive citizens of society. See how it goes- you listen, they move out believing in the good of humanity. It starts with you.
9. Let them fight like dogs (or puppies at least) with their siblings. It will drive you to drink but it must be done. (If they don’t have siblings, then sorry, you’re next in the firing line) Don’t get all up their business. Stop refereeing every single minute, and try just doing it every second minute instead. They will get nasty, feelings will be hurt and there could be blood- but learning how to argue may just lead them toward gaining negotiation skills, compromise and empathy, on a good day. Either that, or tie them up in separate rooms till the day they graduate, and every family dinner from then on.
10. Paaaaartay like a rock star Well perhaps not quite like a 20-something (minus the bong, perm and hangover) Show your kids you are human, and that you have a life of your own outside of their algebra homework (that you may not have really understood the first time round anyway) Basically, get a life (outside of your parent role)- then live it! Show them how to walk confidently out that door and into the world to book club, yoga, or Las Vegas.
Disclaimer : This may or may not work. Our kids are really decent people - we like to think it had something to do with us, but who knows. Take or leave these tips, each to their own. I understand making beds could be a deal breaker for some.