4 Ways to Raise Fun and Fearless Kids
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.
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).
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.
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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.