As parents, we can all agree that we want to raise good people who are kind to the world and productive in society, right? After four kids, I’ve decided I just want to not send more people out into the world who are assholes.
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First of all you gotta have a goal. Lay out your plan. Something simple and easy to achieve because overcomplicating things always leads to disaster and failure.
“I am a parent and I will choose to NOT raise assholes,”
is a good starting point.
The last thing the world needs is more assholes.
No need to be out there bringing up more. We can work together and break the cycle, mmmmK? Before we get into the How Not To’s, let’s take a moment to establish How To Tell If You Already Are. It might seem obvious, but it isn’t. Take my four kids, for example.
My mama always told me, “Never judge how well you’ve raised (are raising) your babies by how they act when they are with you. It is how they behave for other people when you are not around. That’s how you know if you are doing a good job.”
My kids get rave reviews from other people. When they are with me, they go feral in the school supply section at Target. You might think that reflects badly on my parenting, but in fact, no. Just the opposite.
According to my Mama, anyway.
If the people your littles are with bring them back telling you how amazing they were, high five yourself and keep doing what you do. If they just bring them back, perhaps you’ll find the following helpful.
Disclaimer – TEENAGERS are assholes by default sometimes. Don’t blame yourself.
But, here is what I like to call – Mama’s Guide to NOT Raising Assholes.
This is, in no particular order, very nearly guaranteed advice to keep Judy McJudgerson from giving you side eye in public.
Channel your inner Miss Manners.
Start with the basics. “Please.” “Thank you.” “I’m sorry I just puked on your cat.” Things like that. Now, I’m not saying the three-nager needs to understand which fork she should use for the appetizer at dinner, but teach her to say thank you or no thank you when it’s offered to her. The wait staff will be so very impressed and you can have the extra salad.
I try to say yes to my kids as much as possible. “Yes, you can destroy the kitchen playing Top Chef. Yes, build a ramp and jump your bike Evil Knievel style.” (Ok, but, not off the roof. Let’s exercise some common sense.)
But, seriously. No, you can’t have every toy Johnny Down The Street has. His dad is a neurosurgeon. Your dad is a teacher. Do the math.
No, you aren’t going to get picked first every time for the soccer team. No, I’m not going to let your sister starve so you can get the latest FORTNITE Battle Pass. Life is hard. Sometimes you have to do without. Get a job.
And clean up the kitchen.
“NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU!”
Kids are naturally self absorbed. They don’t see other… well, anyone. Show them that other people exist on the planet. Help them learn that kindness doesn’t cost anything. It is easy to be compassionate to others and no one ever got hurt remembering the world doesn’t revolve around them. It is ok if they trip over themselves every now and then – it builds character.
Be a Master Builder.
Speaking of. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is their character. Make them eat vegetables, watch educational TV, and learn the value of the dollar. Teach them to respect those who came before them who did the hard work and to embrace the hard work that needs to be done for the next generation.
Make Them Do Chores
When I was a kid we had a chore list. Half of our day was spent dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, folding. Until I was 15 I thought I was Cinderella and told all of my friends the movie was based on my life. I just hadn’t got to the fairy tale ending part, yet. Instead of wicked step-sisters I had a brother who liked to light stuff on fire.
I was always jealous of my friends who didn’t have half the chores I did and just got to run around THE NEIGHBORHOOD whenever they wanted eating popsicles while I was hauling firewood or weeding flower beds til I was very nearly dead with extra built character. (see above)
Except you know what happened? I learned how to do shit. I know how to take care of my house and wash my clothes and feed myself and my family. Because my parents cared about my not being helpless.
I still got to ride my bike and eat popsicles. And I don’t have to take my laundry to my mom now that I’m in my 40’s like some people I knew back then.
It takes a village.
It takes more than one crayon to paint the picture. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) There are billions of people on the planet and every one is different and every one is important. Not everyone is going to look like them, talk like them, or think like them.
Open minds create ideas and ideas change the world. Assholes won’t change their own mind, let alone anyone else’s. Raise thinkers, not stinkers.
Do the crime, do the time.
Accountability is dying in the world today. Keep it alive in your home and in your children. They won’t always make good choices. That is part of growing up. When they make wrong ones it is up to you to teach them how to accept consequences. Mistakes are ok. How they are dealt with is the true measure of growing maturity.
Don’t be an asshole yourself.
The easiest and best way to ensure that you will not raise an asshole is to actually Not. Be. One. Golden Rule, general good manners, non felony type behavior.
We all think our kids are ignoring us 100% of the time, but understand that your children are always watching you and their only goal is to be just like you without letting you know they adore you. (The last applies mostly to teenagers, whom, we have already established, will be assholes temporarily no matter what you do.)
If you model asshole behavior, they will grow up to be assholes. It’s basic common sense.
To err is human. To forgive and ask forgiveness is your job as a parent.
Your kids are going to screw up. A LOT. News flash. So will you. Figure out early on how to forgive them and you.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself and other people is forgiveness. One of the very best lessons you can give your children is seeing you mess up, take responsibility, and apologize. Your children will see that learning never stops and being responsible for your actions is lifelong. It isn’t just reserved for kids and it isn’t the end of the world.
We all have different beliefs about the right and wrong way to raise tiny humans. The fact is any parent could nail it and epically screw it up on the same day at any time. No one, not any one of us, is perfect.
Keep doing your best, Moms and Dads. Keep loving those kids and being the best possible humans you can and let them see you doing it.
And when you mess it all up, let them see that, too. Say you’re sorry and move on because they don’t need perfect.
They just need you.