by Harvey Gould
I was 27 when my first children were born (identical twins), and 30 when my third child was born. I shared nighttime duty with my wife, changed diapers routinely when I was home and helped in whatever other manners possible.
So lesson number one is that men should participate in all possible child-rearing duties. Not doing so because a football game is on is no excuse. These are your kids as much as your wife’s (or significant other) and the more you participate, the more you’ll appreciate how tough a job it is to raise kids.
Only as a young parent myself did I realize that my folks probably knew just about as little as my wife and I did about raising children and that they had done exactly what we were doing - dealing with issues as they arose with no fixed idea of the right or wrong answers, but relying on a good dose of common sense.
Which brings me to how things seem to have changed. When our daughters were infants, after we’d put them down, we’d let them cry for a bit - and most of the time, they’d fall asleep. If they’d get themselves too worked up, we’d go to them, pick them up and rock them to sleep. This wasn’t rocket science. Yet, today, I hear about “sleep training”. Please.
When our daughters were old enough to know that when we said it was bedtime we meant it, and that meant that without much fanfare, there would be a nighttime story, a lullaby, a back rub, a kiss and lights out, and then it was time to sleep. Now, I hear of the “procedures” to be followed so as not to damage a child’s psyche at bedtime. Ugh.
We told our kids they’d done a good job when it was true, not just because they ate when they were supposed to eat or said please and thank you. Today, all I hear is “good job” for the most inane of reasons. I understand that positive reinforcement serves a purpose, but I also understand that constantly rendering unmerited praise renders true praise meaningless.
Don’t answer every problem for your child. Kids need to learn to fail to develop coping skills as adults. You do them no favor by completing all their problems for them.
And sorry, folks: Children don’t just need a 30-second “time out” when they’ve acted like brats. They need to be punished - appropriately, but meaningfully punished. Otherwise, you’re just reinforcing bad behavior. And, no, “punishing” your child does not mean you standing in a corner, thereby “denying” your child the benefit of your company.
And please, stop telling your kids they’re geniuses. The odds are fairly strong that they’re not.
So don’t read the “how to” books on raising kids, forget about sleep training, stop all the unmerited “good jobs,” the meaningless “time outs” and all the rest of the nonsense.
Here's all you need to know:
Love your kids. Establish reasonable rules, stick to them and try what worked for an old fogie. And use your common sense.
Trust me, it will work. Honestly. My kids turned out fine.
Harvey Gould is the author of A Fierce Local: Memoirs of My Love Affair with Ireland, a finalist in the San Francisco Writers Conference Indie Publishing Contest. For more information, visit www.harveygould.com or check out Harvey’s blog at www.harveygould.authorsxpress.com.