Parenthood takes us to extreme heights where we have never ventured! The uncharted territory can take us off guard, not knowing how quite to proceed. How does a parent begin the enormous task of raising and educating a precious child?
It begins in our neighborhoods, our homes and most importantly in our hearts. Let’s talk about neighborhoods first, then we will look inside our homes. We will save the heart for last. The heart is complex!
Homes are a powerful representation of us, our values, our ideologies. What type of neighborhood surrounds us? Do we have neighbors? Do we know our neighbors? Is our neighborhood culturally and/or religiously diverse? Perhaps, the family home is out in the country and neighbors are rarely seen. Maybe the home is a city apartment surrounded with academia. As a child grows there are many outside influences on their developing minds. Outside the front door is a classroom. Have you looked at your neighborhood this way! What is your neighborhood teaching your child? Is it the message you want portrayed? If not, how are you counteracting? Perhaps you want your kids to be culturally diverse, but your neighborhood is not. Read essay for you about foreign lands together, talk about cultural differences, host an exchange student. If you can’t host one yourself, I’m sure a host family wouldn’t mind sharing a student for an evening! Go to a Rotary Club meeting. If the budget allows, travel! Learning by experience is the best teacher of all! Children will question as they experience. A child might ask, “what’s that on the man’s head?” Children have inquisitive minds and they aren’t bashful! Those little eyes are observant! They ask questions. We answer. They learn.
There are families who will only socialize with others who are “like-minded” to quote them. This sounds like a great idea. The families share similar interests and hobbies as well as political and religious views. Is this best in the long run? Have the parents thought hard about the future? Today’s world is a diverse world. We are only a flight away from extreme differences in culture and religion as well as language. If a child learns young to respect and get along with people who are different from us, what a gift! Better still, give the child a chance to learn a foreign language. It will be invaluable! Communicating with others in foreign lands is of utmost importance in today’s global economy. A child who speaks more than one language will have more opportunities knocking as an adult. What wonderful gifts we can give our children if we look past our own small world and think creatively!
What’s the environment inside the home? Is it warm and welcoming? Full of love and affection? Is it kid friendly? Can a child reach a coat hook? Or is it placed at adult level? If a child can’t reach a coat hook are they picking up the message that they aren’t as important as the bigger members of the family? Most parents don’t want to portray harmful messages! As parents, we need to think outside the box. Children think like children. We as adults, might need to put aside our adult thinking now and then and try to understand the world from a child’s viewpoint. Your home sends a powerful message! Let’s keep walking thru the house. The family or living room is next. Are there any child sized chairs? One pint-sized chair may pack a lot of punches when it comes to self-worth! Little Johnny may want to sit and read. He feels important and knows he belongs. That sense of self-worth, will translate to self-confidence as an adult.
In many houses the heart of the home is the kitchen. There was a wise Grandma who always kept one drawer in the kitchen for toys. It was the lowest drawer in the room and it was the Grandchild’s special drawer. Wooden spoons, plastic cups and other “toys” filled the drawer which would serve the imagination well. If the child went to go in another drawer, it was a moment for teaching. Grandma said, “You have your special drawer and Grandma has her special drawer. I won’t go in yours, and you won’t go in mine.” What a lovely way to express tenderness, respect and boundaries all in this simple interaction. There are many, many teachable moments. We need to make sure we don’t miss a golden opportunity when it’s presented!
Expecting parents spend oodles of money making sure everything is perfect. Holidays have become a haven for more store bought items, that none of us need and kids grow tired of. Is it really necessary? Children don’t need as much as our materialistic society tells us! Step away from all that, let kids be kids and use their imaginations.
It will be hard for parents to break away from this harmful mindset at first, but it’s freeing for you and the child once you do!
Here are examples worth trying with a toddler or older child. An old broom handle, with a brown sock decorated like a horses head and attached to the broom makes a wonderful play horse! They can ride wherever their young imagination takes them!
Place a huge map in their room! Inexpensive, but geography will be learned without trying! Put stickers where you have traveled.
A personal favorite, paint one wall with chalkboard paint and foster the hidden artist! The child gets to decorate and parents can be happy knowing its’ paint and chalk. It can be painted over any time!
A family tree decal on a wall. Photographs of family members become the leaves. This provides a winning combination, children see how they fit it into the family and it adds a pleasant touch to the décor!
Encourage the child to have a say where they want their bed or dresser. Include them in on age appropriate decorating choices. It fosters ownership, which gives parents a teachable opportunity about taking proper care of belongings!
Money can’t buy a child’s true happiness. You can foster their inner joy and sense of self-worth by providing the love and security they need and deserve.
You have read different ways our children are being educated with or without realizing it! We discussed our neighborhoods and the interior of our homes. Let’s focus on our hearts now. The most important of all! These following two true stories will cause you to pause….. After you read them, think about your heart. Is it open to love and to learn with your child?
There was a wealthy couple who were expecting their first child. To give you a bit of their background, their lives revolved around money, image and what did the neighbor’s think! They took private childbirth classes because of their busy lives. They arrived at class in separate his and her BMW’s. Truth. The Dad had one major concern, that his wife might make noise or not be able to control her bodily functions during childbirth. Wonder how that turned out? This couple had no time for children. People doubted they wanted them. Becoming parents was something expected of them, or so they thought. They hired a Nanny and after little Johnny pushed out of the womb, he was pushed out of their world (and heart). How tragic for them and their child! Their hearts stone cold to the joys a child brings! They could only see a material world.
Hearts need to be open to the joys of raising and educating children. We were children once. We need to examine our own heart attitudes, which may mean taking an in-depth look at our own childhoods, the good and the bad. Our childhoods can’t be changed, but we can learn from them. What does our heart attitude say about children? Is there room for them?
Another short story for you. A young couple had a baby. Both were in their young twenty’s and honestly did not feel ready to embark on the journey of parenthood yet. They were active and adventurous. After careful thought, they chose to include their child in all their activities! What a loving thing to do! They bought a backpack for the child to sit in while hiking. Later, the child went kayaking tucked between parent’s legs wearing a life jacket. This little child was loved and accepted! She was able to have all kinds of different learning experiences because of the decision two young, but responsible people made. Love expands as the family expands! If you keep your heart open and you are teachable, the right mindset to raise and educate your children will come. Let’s keep our hearts open to focus on children because in doing so we are focusing on society. Children are the world’s greatest resource. Children are our future!