Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year Resolutions

With only two more days left in the year, we start to think about the things we did, the things we didn't do, the projects we accomplished and all the things we want to do next year.

Every year we guide our kids through a little exercise that my father taught me: we sit down in the living room, put on good music, have a warm drink like hot chocolate and a bring a notebook so we can start writing down this year's accomplishments and our new goals for next year.

Some questions we use to get them started:

Did I do enough sports and exercise? Did I do my best in my team? Am I eating right or am I having to much junk food? Did I stop biting my nails? Have I done good to others? How have I treated my friends, my brothers and sisters, my parents?
How did I do at school? What can I do to improve my grades, my reading level, my math skills? How is my handwriting? Can I do better? Am I learning new languages and music? Am I being challenged?
How did I treat God this year? Have I forgotten Him? Have I read good spiritual books?

It is important to always remind them that good intentions are not always enough to accomplish our goals. The most likely reason that we did not achieve our goals is that we lacked perseverance, lacked motivation or we simply set unrealistic goals.

Usually we like to see results right away and we fail because we want to run a sprint instead of a marathon. Sometimes we don't want to move from the comfort zone we are in now. We need to persevere with strength; the continuous effort on the things we set out to do, is something that will help us be different, to stand out from the crowd. With a little effort every day, we can accomplish our goals.

In order to persevere, we must set realistic goals and be clear about our motivation. Even if the goal seems far away, the fuel that keeps our perseverance going is what drives us in the first place: it can be that somebody is counting on us, or that somebody has put their trust in us. Only we have the ability to produce a change inside of us.

Our next year resolutions must be realistic and very few. They cannot be impossible, they must be attainable, so we build confidence in ourselves first and later, as our confidence and strength grows, we can accomplish more demanding goals. Plan ahead, and keep track of your progress.

Finally, we encourage them again to don't give up, to persevere. We remind them that their parents and brothers and sisters will help them along the way to their goals as best we can.

These year-end meetings are getting better every year and we have made them a tradition, brought forth from my parents' home into ours.

Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Our Kids, Our Responsibility

When I was pregnant, I often thought about the great responsibility that God places on us as parents when he allows us to have children; we have to guide them through life and help them get to heaven.

It is a huge responsibility, so my husband and I set forth, early, what our goal was: We must make our children realize that their goal in this life must be to reach heaven. We must always keep this, the big picture, our goal, in the forefront of our minds as we want them to be great people, good leaders and successful individuals in the process.

In order to achieve this lofty goal we must:
  • Teach them virtues: order, obedience, gratitude, truthfulness, fortitude, responsibility.
  • Provide them with the best tools possible (good schools that help us with our jobs as parents) to help them achieve their goals.
  • Surround them with good people.
On a more earthly level, we understand that we have the future husband or wife of somebody living under our roof and in our care. In our hands, we have the future teachers, jet pilots, artists, presidents, football pros of the nation, who knows? What we have right now is a blank sheet of paper where we can start filling out all the good things that our children can have, so we must make sure that they want to:
  • be interested on current events around the world,
  • learn at least two languages,
  • know the history of other countries,
  • be creative, good critics, thinkers and
  • up to date with the latest in technology.
It is obvious to us, as it must be to you, that this is a full time job, but what a great job it is!

Friday, December 8, 2006

On Giving Orders and Obedience

After order, obedience is, in my opinion, the most important virtue to teach my kids.

As a parent, I try to teach this virtue since they are 6 months old, hoping to make a few important values their own.
I have to remind myself constantly that they have to obey me because it will make them better, not to be more comfortable or because I am lazy at that moment - they will notice the difference. This virtue helps my kids feel safe, because when you give them limits, it is not to keep them in a small range of action is to keeping them away of what ever is out of that range, that can harm them.

With my five year old and younger, when they ask "why do I have to....?", I tell them "because I'm your mother" or "because I say so". In this case I am not giving a long and boring explanation; I keep it short and clear. With our kids between five and ten years old, we say, for example: "you have to be here by 6 pm", why....? because those are the rules of our home. At these ages, if you start a negotiation process with your kids, you will loose. They will manipulate you and it will be easier for you to bend your rule than for them to understand, so don't even try to start to argue. Use a nice, very convincing tone of voice, and give your order looking at their eyes, then turn around and leave. We should not try to give too many orders, but the ones that we have, we don't change them. For example: bed time, arrival time, phone time.

For our 10 year old and older, we explain the consequences if they don't obey an order; for example: If they ask as for permission to go out to a party on a weekday, then we will tell them that they cannot go because daddy will stay up until you come back just to make sure that your get home OK, so tomorrow "not only you who will be sleepy at school, but daddy will have a hard time at work, and that is not fair. Why don't you go out on Friday or Saturday instead, so everybody can sleep well the next day; you will enjoy your party much more."

Set a list of home rules, before you have to improvise them. Keep them simple, five to ten is more than enough. That is a number you can remember without looking at the paper you wrote them on (and you should write them down!).
  • Phone hours: From Monday through Friday from 9 am until 9pm, Sat. or Sundays from 10 am to 9 pm.
  • Internet or video game hours: Monday through Friday 1 hour a day before 6 pm. Internet has all the parenting control system, if not an adult must be with you.
  • T.V. is available during the following times:
12:00pm - 2:00 pm 0 to 5 years olds,
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm 5 to 9 years olds,
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm 10 years old and up,
8:00 pm an onward is TV time for grown ups.
  • TV will be permitted only if you are done with your homework.
[We find that having only one TV for everybody will teach us generosity, will limit TV time for each of us, and will prevent us from watching bad TV programs - more on this in a future post]
  • Dirty clothes always in the hamper. Remember to do a not together with the pair of socks, and to turn your own dirty cloth inside out.
  • Backpacks for school, with all your papers and agendas - complete uniforms (pants or skirts, underwear, shirt, socks, sweater, tie, etc.) out and ready by the door before bedtime.
  • Pick up your plate after every meal as soon as daddy has left the table, and put it inside the dish washer.
  • Not eating allowed inside the bedrooms or inside the cars.

Why we impart orders.
We impart orders to our smaller kids to keep them safe from physical harm, like: "don't open the door to a stranger, no talking to a stranger, not cooking by yourself". As they grow older obedience will keep them safe from moral harm and will lead them to obey civil laws. When we explain to our children why they should be obedient, we tell them that it is not only to skip a punishment or to have a reward, it is "to teach you self-improvement, to become a better citizen."

Final very important note: It is essential to impart commands clearly- some pointers on this.
a) Be sure that your child knows what you are talking about, don't assume that it is obvious. For example: "go to my bathroom and open the little door at your right" might be confusing. Maybe there are three little doors, maybe they are not sure which is their right hand, so re-confirm the message with them.

b) Don't give more than one order at a time, like for example: "Go up stairs, and close the windows as it is raining. Then go to my closet and bring me the wallet from my purse. Then remember to turn off the lights on your way back and shut the door because your brother is sleeping." By the time they get to the part about their brother, they have completely forgotten what was it that they were looking for.

c) Be a bit flexible, you can bend a rule if you are having fun playing a family game, and is past their bed time. This does not happen everyday, enjoy the moment, soon they all will grow and leave home. What we are looking for is for them to remember the fun it was living at home, instead of "my mom (and/or dad) always ruins the moment".

Final, final note.
We, as parents are at the service of our children, God has given us the authority not to rule them, but to guide them to be good. They will be happy to have somebody who will help them, not somebody that exploits them. Let them know that they count on their Guardian Angle all the time and let them know that we all make mistakes, that we are all struggling to be good. Sometimes it is hard, but it is worth it!