Today I have recruited Sergeant Mom to talk about her number one piece of advice for mamas – setting your parenting fundamentals now so they will pay off later! Sergeant Mom shares some amazing fundamental to start with your little one that can have a lasting impression into their teenage years and beyond!
Toddlers to Teens – Parenting Fundamentals That Will Pay off Later
Motherhood is a strange journey. It seems like a straightforward concept at first – have baby, feed baby, love her through all the phases of growth and she will launch into adulthood without a problem on her way to saving the rainforests. Simple, right?
Well if you have been mothering for more than five minutes, I am sure you are mockingly laughing at that last sentence.
Being a mom is everything but simple.
Welcome to the Mom Club
One aspect of momming that I was not expecting was the social environment. Suddenly you are a member of an exclusive club.
Moms have a way of gravitating towards each other, like there’s an internal beacon of sleep deprivation and unidentifiable objects in the purse calling us towards one another.
Another complication of motherhood is that it is forever changing.
My kids are all on the brink of becoming adults. This has caused a whirlwind of nostalgia to be at the forefront of my mind almost daily. I’ve been reflecting on all the ways our journey has changed, on how I have changed and how fun it has all been.
A place for moms new and… old?
However, being a mom with older kids feels like graduating out of the system. It’s a little lonely, really.
Which is why I am delighted to be connecting with you today. New moms and old moms (do we need to call ourselves that? Hmm…how about seasoned moms? Much better)…new moms and seasoned moms should connect more often. I think it’s healthy for both.
Seasoned moms can relieve so many fears and doubts that inevitably seize a new mom’s thoughts. Did you let the baby roll off the bed? Not that big a deal. Turns out we’ve almost all done that, and the kids are alive to tell the tale! And new moms can give the seasoned moms a refreshing social outlet.
We need to relive the old days and memories once in a while, and we need the opportunity to see just how far we’ve come.
A place to share experience
So, as I evaluate how my club has evolved and, in a way, mourn and miss the days of playdates and over planned birthday parties, I am inspired by the idea that I can still contribute to the new mom community. We are knee-deep in driving lessons, volatile hormone shifts and the ever-growing grocery bill.
Through all this child-rearing I have concluded motherhood is a phased existence. With every year comes new lessons that build on the ones learned the year before. The early years are basic building blocks, just keep the baby fed, clean, and happy. Then you’re dealing with their schooling, daycare, friends, fashion, sports, music, character building and on and on and on.
And then one day you look over and you realize you’ve done it. You have a grownish, kind-of-ready-to-make-life-decisions-young adult and you wonder if you should have done anything differently.
A place to share wisdom
I am sharing my list of things I would not have done differently. These are the tenets of my motherhood doctrine. And I share them intentionally with new moms because, to me, the gospel of mothering is that what you do now with young children sets the precedent for how you interact with them as troubled teenagers, how you relate to them in times of need and most importantly, how they develop independence and confidence so that they truly can launch into the world with anticipation. It will make the transition from kid to adult easier on you both.
So here they are, my parenting fundamentals for now that will pay off later.
1. You are the boss.
The Big Kahuna. The HBIC. I will preach this until I am dead, and even then, I fully intend to haunt my descendants to make sure this idea carries on. Set the hierarchy of the relationship early and do not deviate.
Yes, a 1-year old can be defiant. Your NO means NO because you are the mature, experienced authority in your family. Do not try to negotiate with toddlers or distract them into a false concept of compliance or simply suggest and suggest that they do things your way until you are exhausted and just give up and let them have their way.
BE. THE. PARENT.
This in not tyranny or dictatorship. It is love. It is love to create a relationship system in which your child learns she is not the center of the world; life comes with rules and choices lead to consequences. Because when she goes out into the world, this is what real life is like and it will be a serious (and possibly painful) challenge for her to reprogram her thinking if you spend more time making things easy for her than helping her understand reality.
Do your work early on so they will reap the rewards as they approach adulthood. And yes, this works with toddlers. And YES, it is hard work. It requires you to be constantly vigilant and consistently dedicated to your expectations.
If you want a child with good manners, you as the parent need the discipline to correct and require manners at all times. Not just when there is company over or when you are visiting grandma, but all the time. You will say “wipe your face” two trillion times. I promise, some day he will do it without you asking.
2. Parenting is leadership.
More specifically, it is servant leadership. This is very closely related to my first point, but instead of focusing on mom’s behavior we are exploring her motivation.
Leaders, really good leaders, are not motivated by their own personal success but by the overall success of the team. You are building an adult, much like a company builds an empire. This requires competence, communication, humility, and caring. These four aspects could fill an article on their own, so I’ll give a bite-size explanation here.
Competence—get smart on what you need to get smart on. Read, google-search things, go to mom-classes. A few of my favorite books are on birth order, strong willed children, and the developmental phases of boys. I love my mom-brary and I fall back on that literature regularly.
Communication—kids do not speak adult. You must speak kid and the language will change over time, much like all this other mom-stuff does. I believe the terrible twos are the result of our kids’ intellect and curiosity developing faster than their communication skills. Most of the tantrums are out of frustration…come to think of it the same is true of my teenagers. They want to say something, I do not get it, tantrum ensues. This is VERY true of expressing emotions. Emotional maturity happens in our twenties, maybe even later. You are coaching them to that maturity, and that journey starts now.
Humility—you have got admit when you are wrong and say you’re sorry when you are. If for no other reason than to model this behavior for your child. But also because this is true love. It shows the child is more important than events or things. If you accidentally throw away a rock that they thought was the most precious thing in the world, do not blow it off. Show them you empathize with their feelings, apologize, explain you didn’t realize how important it was, and help them find a new special rock. This will move mountains in your relationship in years to come.
Caring—kiss the boo-boos, play pretend, listen to their gibberish stories, eat the fake food they make, cherish the unrecognizable art. This may sound like common sense now, especially if you have an infant and you can’t wait for some of these awesome moments. But life gets busy, more kids come along and it is easier than you think to lose sight of this precious moments. Be intentional with showing you care. Eventually boo-boos become first love heartbreaks, the artwork becomes their passion and you will want to be involved in all of this.
3. Show that your love is unconditional.
This does not mean spoiling them with stuff. This does mean you do things you don’t like. Do you know how many hours of Doodlebops, the Wiggles and Thomas the Tank Engine I sat through? Or how many times I’ve given my kids a ride to this thing or that thing? Or how many times I’ve seen Toy Story?!?! These are not things we do because we enjoy them, but because our children enjoy sharing their likes with us. Our children need examples of how you are there for them in the simplest ways, like a ride to the park, so that when they get older and life hits the fan, they have an unshakeable confidence that you will be there for them.
I’ve read mixed opinions about things like rescuing your kid when they leave their lunch at home. There is wisdom in the view that not having their lunch is a consequence of their not being organized in the morning. Conversely, this is an opportunity to show your child you are there for them. Neither is more right or wrong than the other, in my opinion. But you have to decide the standard in your relationship and the desired message you want to convey.
And it could be totally situational. Maybe it’s the third time this week it has happened. Definitely time for a lesson. Lessons are love, too. The point is you want your child to be absolutely confident that you have their back, and you have to prove that with action.
4. DO things with your kids.
This sounds like it makes sense, but in today’s technology age it is becoming an antiquated idea. Do not let the TV, video game console or tablet be the main influence in your child’s life. The activities I did with my toddlers are ironically some of the most fun things we do now that they are teenagers.
Playing with blocks turns into a game of Jenga or doing a massive puzzle together.
Reading to them becomes reading with them—we all read the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson saga, and the Divergent trilogy. It is a blast to discuss plot twists and character evolution…and not to mention having something thought-provoking to discuss with my teens. Real conversations, what? Yes, you too can have this life.
Tea parties are now actual coffee shop trips. We still go outside and draw murals with sidewalk chalk. We still take the sand toys to the beach to build sandcastles. And we still watch Toy Story about once a month. The tech can be a tool for bonding, too. Obviously, we are movie lovers, so a lot of our quality time centers on the big screen (closed theaters due to COVID is so sad!). We also play pool, checkers, and mancala via Game Pigeon on our phones and I embarrass myself playing Wii sports.
Tech, in appropriate portions, can add to your relationship and quality time options. But that’s for older kids, tweens, and preteens. The younger the brain, the less it needs screens. Please, mamas, do not hand a screen to your toddler! Remember how important it is to stay in your mom comfort zone if some things are too much.
5. You cannot protect them from everything.
You just can’t. And you shouldn’t. The issues they have to deal with in pre-school will be nothing compared to later on in life. But the thought process that you cultivate will shape who your child becomes and how equipped he is to deal with issues as they come.
Kids in conflict is a good example. I called it the Law of the Playground and it applied in my backyard as well as the park or anywhere else we were for that matter. Unless it looked like someone was going to draw blood, I let my kids duke it out and deal with conflicts amongst each other and their friends on their own.
If they ask for help or advice, give them objective information and several options for dealing with their situation, and then let them choose their own path. Sound too profound for a 3-year-old? It’s not. “Mommy, Sally won’t play with me!” Give them options like ask Sally if there is something she’d like to play, find another friend to play with or have fun on your own. Help them see choices.
There have been studies about babies dying from a lack of being held. IS THAT NOT THE SADDEST TRAGEDY YOU’VE EVER HEARD???? Just the thought is making me choke up.
I volunteered at an infant orphanage while I was stationed overseas, and our only task was to hold the babies. They were starving for attention, so excited just to be held and devastated when we had to put them down to leave. Affection is a human need. The more hugs and cuddles and high-fives and handholding and shoulder rubs you can give your child, the better.
Now a quick word specifically to the boy moms. Affection is going to evolve with your son, brace yourself. Wrestling and head butting will be his new way of showing he loves you.
My 14-year-old son is a football player and wrestler. His version of a hug is crushing your internal organs. Or it could seem like it disappears altogether. My 18-year-old son just likes me to sit next to him. Occasionally he’ll ask me to scratch his back, which I’ve been doing since he was a baby. See? What you are doing now truly does set the stage for the quality of your relationship in the future. And I’m here to testify, the work is worth the reward!
Establish your Parenting Fundamentals
Motherhood is an adventure, a trek into the frontier, a jungle cruise. Sometimes you are on the trail you mapped out, and sometimes you are wading through swamps, sinking in quicksand, or just working and working your way up a mountain. The beauty of the destination lies in the lessons learned and memories made along the way. Enjoy being a mom; it is the greatest adventure of all.
So, what do you think of these parenting fundamentals?
Sergeant Mom really dropped some eye-opening and AMAZING parenting fundamentals for us newer mamas! I am so glad I was given this experience while my baby is still a baby and I have time to shape the life I want to live with her!
What did you think? Was there anything that really tugged on your heart? Let me know in the comments!
Meet the Author:
Lisa is a mom on a mission! Saving the world one woman at a time, starting with herself through self care, healthy lifestyle and connecting with the greater mom community. She is a mom of five, wife, sister to seven and a 20-year US Air Force veteran. Lisa writes, coaches, speaks, and cheers others on to make the most of their motherhood adventure. With her blog, Sergeant Mom, she uplifts women by creating a space for sharing experiences, stories, tears and laughter. Reach out, connect online and become part of the Sergeant Mom squad!