1) Acknowledge your children are not “you” and they are not “each other.” This was my hardest learned lesson. I was an only child and thus had no experience of growing up with “relatives,” who were of the same blood as I, but nothing like me. Therefore, it took me awhile to know that it was okay that my children, though they came from me, were nothing like me (in temperament, interests, outlook, etc.) It took a while to let them be “who they are.” Likewise, it took a while to realize they were as different from each other as if they had come from different families. Never compare your children to each other.
2) Establish a routine. As much as anything else, this is the key to successful and happy parenting. Your children need security—not just financial security or the security that you will love them unconditionally—they need to know what is happening every day. No matter how hard you work or how challenged your biological make-up is [“I’m not a morning person”] you need to get up at a decent time every day and begin your day before your children are awake. They need meals at the same times every day.(Holidays, travel, sports, special occasions, etc. will disrupt your schedule, but these aberrations should be rare.)
3) Be fair. No child, however compliant, should do the lion’s share of the work, because another child is less motivated or giving. You should never ask your child to get up and do something that you yourself should do. If they’re going to work, you should work alongside them. Don’t send them to the kitchen to clean up or fetch you a glass of tea. In our house, we had a favorite chair that was the choice place to sit. To stop the fighting over this chair, I assigned two days a week to each child, i.e. on Monday and Thursday, my firstborn had “his day” in the chair, etc. Also, on Your Chair Day, you may also sit in the front seat of the car. Also, I solved the “Who Gets Pancakes First” problem by decreeing that whoever got up first could have the first pancakes.
4) Encourage each child’s God-given gifts. Here again, don’t force your child into the You Mold. I loved to play with dolls and paper dolls when I was little. Therefore, I was astonished that my daughter did not enjoy this activity. No, she loved pens and paper and eventually, a toy cash register and then, a real one. Very early in her childhood, we put the Barbies and babies away and let her carry around a “briefcase” filled with office supplies. Today, she is in banking.
5) Try this formula for When the Kids Are Home. During the summer (or any extended holiday period), I set three tasks for us every day: 1. Do something I’ve intended to do for a long time (this might mean cleaning out a drawer or sweeping off the sidewalk); 2. Do something nice for someone else (write to a missionary or send a get well card) 3. Do something fun with the kids. (This does not have to cost a lot of money. For instance, we would go for ice cream or ride on the Skyway Express or go to the Jacksonville Landing, sadly no longer there.) On these outings, if your kids want some little cheap toy to take home, buy it. If your son wants one more Hot Wheels or your daughter wants one more necklace, buy it. You’ll be surprised how much it means to your memory process when you look back on these simple days. Trust me, young moms, it’s not the huge holidays you look back on and smile and think, “Oh, that was so much fun.” No. It’s those small, quiet moments when you did something that might have seemed insignificant to you, but meant the world to your child.
6) Enjoy your children. I never had a problem with this. Even now, I’d rather be with my kids than with anyone else. They’re my best friends. If you follow the above steps, it will help toward this end.
7) Pray. This transformed my life as a mother. As my children grew older and were expressing their own personalities and their own wills, I was getting confused. I went to Ruby Cash, a mentor to me, and said, “How did you do it—raise two kids who love God and serve Him and are now raising good kids of their own?” I thought she’d give me a long list. No. All she said was, “Pray.” So I stopped lecturing and started praying—every day—and even now, my children are the first people I pray for every day. Read that again: “Stop lecturing and start praying.”
If you falter in the workplace or in your church, someone else will take up the slack, but no one can replace your influence in the lives of your own children. There’s no better way to improve this sin-sick, weary world than to equip good, compassionate people to make a difference in it. They are in your own home and they’ll be on their own before you know it.