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4 Ways to Raise Fun and Fearless Kids

by Laura on February 18th, 2013

1. I ask myself, What type of person do I want to live with?

What behaviors do I enjoy? What can I tolerate? What makes me lock myself in the shower just to get a moment’s peace-and-quiet, so I don’t have to worry that my son will continue his tantrum, running screaming into the bathroom, slip and break his head open on the slippery tile floor?


Motherhood: Raising tiny, scream-y humans to be … humans.

No matter how much Dr. Spock, Ferberizing, breast-is-best, Mommy Wars reading I do, I always come back to this basic premise: What type of child do I want to raise? What type of person do I want to live with for the next couple of decades? What type of human do I want to unleash proudly on the world?

In answering these questions I inevitably apply my own experience to the way I raise my kids.

2. I remain true to my parenting values

Or, at least I try very hard to.

In a very American way, I admit, I want my children to be happy. But happy in a very simple way: I want them to be able to enjoy living in the moment, to appreciate what they have, to be empathetic and generous.

Possibly incongruously, moving to Serbia has allowed my husband and me to do just that. The economy is in a sorry state, salaries are low, there’s not much in the way of economic revival.

The effects of war are just two miles away from where I live. This bombed out military building was bombed in 1999. There aren’t the funds for restoration, and fyi … it’s half a city block away from the United States Embassy.

3. I avoid imposing my personal issues

I want my kids to be social and brave, and I want them to be able to enjoy simple joys in life.

They don’t need a ton of toys to have fun. They don’t need a huge pile of cute clothes; either–they mostly get trashed at the park, anyway. They do love to play; they love their preschool and they love socializing with their friends. Organizing a play-date at our house (with the same darn friends they spent the whole darn day with already) is the best way these days to get a huge hug and a “Thank you mommy! You’re a nice mommy!”

I grew up living the “grateful adoptee” stereotype, always thankful for having a home to grow up in, and compliant (or at least tried) towards my (adoptive) parents. But for my kids, now, I don’t want them to feel grateful to me for having raised them; I simply would like them to treat me like a human being–polite and generous.

4. I encourage fun and fearless behaviors

I want my kids to feel secure enough in their own beliefs to stand up for what they think, and to stand up for each other (and not to be punished for it, either).

D posing as a Barbie musketeer–the one who does ballet. We can knock Barbie all we want, but in that movie, she kicks butt and chooses an adventure over a date with the prince.

One afternoon at the moon bounce, a three-year-old D noticed a child looking menacingly at her then one-year-old brother, M, jumping around, oblivious to any imminent toddler-size bully danger.

We saw what was happening–I mean, the scowling kid hadn’t made a move on M … yet. No need to helicopter around, or even to step in. D, on the other hand, was not taking any chances. She walked right up to the stink-eyed kid and stated firmly in Serbian, “You leave my brother alone. That is my brother.”

Threat averted, D proceeded to tackle M, much to his dismay. (Those are “Sister Rules,” as in a sister is the only one who gets to mess with her brother.)

On an American playground, D would’ve been in trouble, scolded for preemptive aggressiveness. In Serbia it’s, “Good for her. She’s strong, she’s a survivor. That’s a good attitude to have for life.”

This mentality is truly freeing for an anxious ex-anxious American mommy like me. Plus, it rubs off onto my kids–fun and fearless, in a good, happy, socialized way.

*  *  *  *  *

If you want to read more about my personal approach to motherhood, and how it was influenced by my having been adopted, check out my recent column at The Lost Daughters, Parenting Issues–Article 1–The Beginning.


From → Expat Mommy

  1. I felt more free in Belize with my kids. No "inappropriate" a word I cannot stand.

    Anyway, my kid are adults now and all I can say, is relax as a mom. Love and guidance is all they need. I think I worried way too much, and my 3 sons are all so different, despite me thinking that if I did this or that, they would all be the same towards me.

    • Laura permalink

      Yes, but what you did as a parent was relate to them as individuals. I saw this in your memoir, Freeways to Flip-flops. You made a decision for your oldest son–to save him from whatever teenage hormones/demons/social influences he was descending into. You related to your nervous, over-achiever middle son as such. You worried. That worrying made you figure out how best to take action. Could you have worried less? Perhaps. But, perhaps that would have led you to send your eldest to boarding school, instead of keeping the family together.
      I respect you for your decisions,

  2. I think your outlook as a mother is excellent Laura, and I can tell you after having raised three children to adulthood, that if YOU are grounded and live in the moment, your kids will most likely turn out just fine. No matter what the outside pressures my kids encountered, I made sure home was a stable place to be, and that they knew what the rules were and that I loved them fearlessly…and ferociously. They are all three close to middle age now and doing marvelously…all that I need as reward for raising them.

    • Laura permalink

      This is good advice. Being grounded and in-the-moment is SO important. I'm so glad to hear that your own kids are thriving, that makes me feel as if there is light at the end of the tunnel, if I can just keep myself on track!

  3. When it comes to children, it's difficult and every parent has his own way of raising his child. But I would like to share this phrase from Kahlil Gibran's poem. "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you…"

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks for writing. What a wonderful quote, thanks for sharing it.

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