A consistent bug in your life from the moment you start having children is how to raise them well. Especially in a morally depraved society like the one we now live in, the prospect of raising good children could cause some anxiety because you think no matter how well you raise them at home, once they go outside, they’d throw aside your vital lessons and imbibe the horrible ones from the culture.
But the good news is that they most likely wouldn’t do that. It still heavily depends on you and your family to raise good children. What you model at home is what seems to stick the most. It’s a foundation that, if well laid, would be hard to deviate from. They may deviate a bit, but would always have to return to build their lives and future upon it. They can’t build on any other foundation that they don’t have, after all.
So, I was listening to my favourite podcast last week, and it addressed this concern. Rabbi Daniel Lapin recorded his 5 Rules for Raising Great Children and I thought to share some of my takeaways here. Perhaps those who share this concern could benefit from it as well. Of course, if you want more than this article has to offer, hop over to the podcast and listen to the whole thing. But for now here are my takeaways:
Put Your Marriage First
When children grow up, and they see a passionate, loving, committed marriage between their parents, it’s a huge benefit to those children. They have notably improved outcomes: in school, in behaviour, and so on.
Here, he stresses putting your marriage first, even over your kids. For example, if a husband proposes to take his wife along on a work-related trip, but she doesn’t want to leave her young child at home to be babysat by maybe grandma or other arrangements. She, instead, wants to give up the trip and stay home to care for her children. It may seem noble, but she’s putting her children ahead of her marriage. Her priority is to her husband and not her children. Keeping to that priority will help build up a marriage that the children can then flourish in.
We are first married to our spouses before children come along — ideally. Children should thus fit around our lives and marriage, and not us fitting our lives and marriage around our children. That’d make for both spoiled, entitled children and a weak marriage. A recipe for disaster!
When older children see how much their parents love being together and enjoy each other’s company, it gives them a sense of stability that is essential to growing up into well-adjusted adults.
Present a United Front
Make sure your child knows that when they are instructed by one parent not to do something, they can’t go to the other parent and have them overrule the instruction. This creates a manipulative child. Even if you’re not aware of a new instruction your spouse has given to your child (perhaps it was at the spur of the moment to prevent the child from doing something dangerous or wrong) if the child comes to you seeking permission to do otherwise, be sure to uphold your spouse’s decision. Then later, go to your spouse and talk about it. If it’s something you both decide needs to be changed, communicate the new decision to your child together.
Children must know that their parents are always on the same p age and that they can’t use one parent to get at the other. Teach them to love and respect people (starting with yourselves) rather than manipulate them. Always present a united front. Any parent’s decision should be every parent’s decision to your children.
Don’t Disagree or Argue In Front of Your Children
Instead, honour one another in front of them. Never miss an opportunity to compliment your spouse in the presence of your children – be it for a well-cooked meal, for providing for the family, or for working hard.
Mom, never complain in front of them that dad spends too long at work and is never home in time for dinner. Instead, praise how dad works so hard so that the family has dinner to eat. You can later privately discuss with your husband about how he may adjust his work schedule to be able to dine with his family.
Speaking negatively about your spouse in front of your children can make them resent you, take advantage of the situation, and milk you for what they want by telling you what you want to hear about your spouse. This could do great damage to your marriage. Neither of these outcomes makes for great children by the way.
Don’t Make Empty Threats
Keep your word. You’d notice when you have kids, that it becomes so easy – especially when you’re frustrated with their rambunctiousness – to blurt out huge threats like: “if you keep on doing that, you’ll go to bed without dinner!” or “you can’t go out to play for the next two weeks!”
Those are big threats that you’d later wish you hadn’t made, because it’s hard not to give your child dinner before bed, or watch them sulk in sadness inside the house while their siblings are out playing with the neighbours. But you have to keep your word at that point. If not, they’d know that they can always call your bluff and what that fosters is kids who grow up without any form of self-discipline. Such kids hardly become useful adults to society.
One of the best gifts you can give your children is to raise them to have self-discipline, and that comes from you keeping your word in front of them. So don’t speak if you don’t mean it, and if you do, then you must act like you mean it!
Have Regular Family Meetings
This one pleasantly surprised me because my wife and I instituted monthly family meetings right after we got married, with the aim of including our children down the road. We fell off the wagon during COVID, but we’re trying to pick it up again.
Having regular family meetings is a very good idea. Make sure nothing interferes with it. Once it’s fixed, it must happen. No distractions like phones and TVs are allowed during that time either. Have an agenda prepared that you want to discuss. Talk about what’s going well in the family and what’s not going well. Invite and encourage each person to speak. When the children know that they’ve got your full attention and whatever they bring to the table is going to be addressed, they’d be looking forward to those meetings.
Regular family meetings help make sure your family never sinks to being no more than a socio-economic unit of a socialist-leaning society. It bolsters the family instead to being a place of security, comfort, happiness, and delight.
And there are the 5 rules succinctly summarized. Even better than raising great children is the prospect of becoming a better person yourself. You’d notice that these rules encourage you to deal with difficult things such as confrontation, unity, self-discipline, and organization. Things that, in turn, make you a better person. The act of raising children the right way guarantees a healthy personal growth and development process for the parents involved. It’s a win-win-win! For the parents, children, and society in general.