Nothing but sweetness, right?
How do you ensure your kid grows up to be a “nice” person?
It is not a rhetorical question – I hope you will give me your best advice.
My children are very different. Sydney is loud, outgoing, brash. Tyson is reserved, quiet, maybe even a little timid.
We met the Easter Bunny last weekend. Sydney ran to him and hugged him like he was her best friend. Tyson clung to my legs.
A neighbor whom we don’t know walked her dog by our house the other day. Sydney ran to the end of the driveway and started a conversation with her like they were old friends.
Tyson clung to my legs.
Their personalities, so far, are completely different. They are very stereotypical: Sydney is verbal and very smart with vocabulary. Tyson is quiet but is much better than his sister at math, puzzles and similar activities.
Their differences are evident in other ways, too, and that is where I am concerned. Take Christmas for example. Sydney tore through her presents like the Tasmanian Devil. As soon as she had the wrapping off one, she was reaching for another.
Tyson still had unopened toys weeks later. If he opened something he liked, he would play with it for the rest of the day, not worried about what he could have, but content with what he had.
You see where I am going here?
I have said it many times before: If someone were to offer Tyson a balloon, he would ask for one for his sister. He is THAT nice and thoughtful.
On the other hand, if Sydney saw someone offer Tyson a balloon, she would run up and steal it for herself.
She is THAT kind of kid.
This isn’t a learned behavior. Some of it might be from being the first born and having all the attention for nearly two years, but I think she was born like this.
Ask Tyson to help clean the room, he is on it. Ask Sydney to help and you get three hours of bargaining and procrastinating and outright defiance.
All I have to do to get Tyson to go to bed is set my phone timer to go off, no matter what time it is. He knows that when the timer goes off, he has to go to bed and he starts heading that way.
The timer is like the bell at a boxing match for Sydney. Time to start the verbal sparring in order to squeeze in another hour or so of play time. She comes out jabbing like Muhammad Ali.
Before you say, “You can’t let her get away with these things,” understand that I know that and I don’t. But my point is, I want her to act the right way without the threat, or distribution, of punishment.
Also, I have known kids who grew up in very strict environments, where they were afraid to step out of line or challenge their parents on anything. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well, either. I’m not trying to turn my child into a submissive robot or someone who rebels with drugs or other felonious behavior to deal with overbearing parents.
She’ll get her fair share of groundings, or worse. But I don’t believe I can punish someone into being a good person. She has to come into that on her own.
More than once, my wife and I have looked at each other and asked, “How do we make her understand how important this is?”
I had friends visiting this summer and they have two older children who are respectful and very well behaved. I asked my buddy how he and his wife did it, and his answer was vague. Really, they simply tried to steer their children between right and wrong and hoped for the best. So far, it has worked. Or they just got lucky. Or both.
I asked another friend the same thing a few weekends ago. He and his wife have raised three daughters who are all on their own and doing very well as adults. His answer was much the same.
But how much of it is luck? I know siblings who grew up in the same environment. One is an empathetic soul who leads a successful life, while the other is a pathological liar who scams everyone in their path.
Some of it has to be the luck of the draw, right?
I spend a great deal of time trying to keep my kids safe. Sydney is so oblivious, she wouldn’t see a car coming until the Ford emblem was implanted on her head. Tyson would play football on our flight of stairs if I let him. They’d both put coins or balls or other choke-able items in their mouth if we weren’t watching them 24/7.
Safety is always the number one concern. It won’t change as they get older. I’ll worry about them experimenting with drugs or driving drunk or hanging out with some knucklehead who thinks Interstate 71 is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A lot of energy is spent on keeping them safe. Then, you worry about their intellect and how smart they might become. You spend hours reading books to them, playing online learning games and ensuring they are watching educational TV.
At some point, I am sapped of parental energy. Yet, there is still a mountain to climb: turning your kid into a “nice” person. Someone who respects others, cares about others and is not as self-absorbed as Kim Kardashian.
But then again, Kim’s doing ok. Maybe the selfie-centric way of life is the way of the future?
Screech!!!! Hold the phone. Pardon my interruption!
While I was writing this, my daughter just came up to me and gave me a nickle she had found on the floor somewhere in the house. Instead of keeping it, she gave it to me in “case you need to buy something for yourself.”
Not buy something for HER. Buy something for ME. What a quantum leap forward! Perhaps not all is lost.
Maybe 4 years old is a little too early to consign the fate of "incorrigible" to a child. Maybe I am worrying for no reason.
But just in case, feel free to send advice my way. I’ll be the clueless dad in the corner.