Yesterday, I returned home from a seven day cruise with my 19 year old daughter. It was an awesome trip full of bonding moments as it was just her and I out in the world for 7 days (and she was trapped on the ship with me with no where to go). On the last day of our trip which was a sea day, we were eating lunch and starting talking with this couple who had 2 teenagers but were traveling alone. The gentleman was in law enforcement and my daughter is in college for Criminal Justice. We talked to them for almost an hour sharing great advice and talking about our passions. My daughter shared many of the things she has learned over the years and the couple seemed shocked and impressed at her knowledge and grasp on reality. One of the subjects we talked about was the epidemic in this country with teenagers and young adults believing they are entitled to everything without working for it. And my daughter agreed – she sees this with her friends and others all the time. When it was time for us to part ways and move on to other activities, the lady leaned over and whispered in my ear “You raised her well.” I admit I teared up a little.
I don’t say this to brag although I am super proud of my daughter and the young lady she has become. I am telling this story because it brought home a lesson that I learned many years ago and have shared from that day forward – we are raising adults. It doesn’t matter whether a kid is 2, 12, or 20, you are always raising an adult. Let me explain.
Your kids and kids in your life – whether for a moment or for a lifetime – are watching every move you make and every word you say (and the way you say it). Kids aren’t born knowing how to do things. They learn by what we teach them. The key word is teach them. Now, you can teach your kids on purpose like I did my daughter or you can teach them by default – either way, they are watching and learning every moment of every day. The other day I was in Wal-Mart and I heard a kid screaming from 4 aisles over. He just kept screaming until he got to the aisle I was on. Then I saw his mom give him a phone and he stopped. Whether she realized it or not, she taught him that if he screamed, he would eventually get his way.
I hear parents say all the time “We don’t use the word no”. Well you should, but not as a mantra. Use it in conjunction with an explanation as to why the action or behavior is not allowed. A great example is the entitlement issue I spoke of earlier. Kids believe they are entitled to everything because that is what they have been taught – again either on purpose or simply by not teaching them a different way. My daughter is no different than every other kid out there – she wanted stuff and still does. However, I have no issue telling her no and at the same time explaining to her why not. She has never once heard “because I said so” from me.
We must realize we are raising adults from the moment our kids are born. Did you know that a newborn will cry and get upset if you are stressed when holding them? But if you are calm and soothing they will be too. It starts from day one and continues through their entire lives. My daughter is still watching me even at 19 years old. It is still my responsibility to be an awesome example to her on how to navigate life in a positive direction and reach all of her goals and dreams (not mine, hers). So the next time you are speaking with a little tone because something isn’t going right or you are swiping that credit card to pay for something, just remember they are watching your every move.