10 Tips For Raising Decent Human Beings

by Maysaa Fahour
maxim ibragimov / Shutterstock

When I reflect on my parenting style, I feel like I choose the hard path. For instance, I give the kids “the look” (and a 10-minute lecture) if we get into the elevator and they don’t greet the people inside. I could choose to ignore their lack of empathy, interpret their demands, and positively reinforce everything they do. That would be easy. But for the life of me, I can’t ignore ungratefulness or shallow care. Each morning, I am ready to make life hard by not allowing my kids to get away with certain things. Below are 10 instances that use up every ounce of energy that I have to hopefully create decent humans.

1. I do not sugarcoat my words if my child loses. Of course, I try to be as kind as possible but the hard truth is, most times, there is a winner and loser in almost all sports/competitions, and my kid needs to accept that. If you’re new to the parenting game, I urge you to try explaining to your kid this concept. If you’re a New Age teacher and into giving all 25 kids a winning trophy for a game that only had one winner, then I urge you to reconsider. You’re ruining the system.

2. I do not stick every single artwork on the fridge. Earth-loving-mums, please sit down for this one. Yes, I agree with the power of art, and I consider anything artistic to be imperative in my children’s life. But, I draw the line when I’m given a half-assed drawing. Sometimes, Miss 7 will literally do a few scribbles, add a stick figure and then want to hang it up like it’s Picasso’s work! No way, Jose.

3. I need a five-point presentation before I accept taking them to a birthday party. When I am presented with a birthday invite, the following interrogation happens:

Me: How long have you known the birthday child? What is their favoritest thing in the world? How often do you play with them at school? Have you ever had a fight with them? Would you consider purchasing them a gift from your own money?

Note: The last question really identifies the urgency of the party. I am not that much of a meanie that I actually make them do it.

4. I don’t force food down their throat. I do not ever utter the words, “If you don’t eat this, I will…” or something along those lines. I have a huge phobia of my kid developing a hate toward food because of the love (times a thousand) I have for all cuisines. I do have rules though and they are: 1) This is what is for dinner, and 2) If you do not like what is for dinner, then refer to Rule A.

5. I do not partake in any extraordinary lunch-packing activities. This is not an attack to the talented parents out there who color-code and multi-match food groups in their kids’ lunch boxes. I just don’t possess the creativity nor the effort. No sandwiches in the shape of trains over here, sorry buddy!

6. There are “electronic bans” that occur in our household. This is purely to stop the brain-dead, evasive, comatose state my kids get into. Generally, I choose a time of day where anything electronic-based is banned (then I run away and hide in the corner because they all start savagely fighting).

7. I do not stop my boys from playing imaginary war games. My daughter plays with Barbies and my boys play made up soldier games. My house is a stereotypical mix of glitter and Nerf guns. There are gun sounds and pretend bomb (read: pillow) throwing, while simultaneously spying My Little Pony taking over the lounge room.

8. I use bribery like you wouldn’t believe. Imagine the scenario—kids are being jerks, visitors about to arrive—so what’s the best thing to do? Approach them with the best incentive ever! Don’t forget the important disclaimer to tell your kids: If you utter a word about doing this for a bribe, deal is off (they all try it once, but if you stick to your words, they’ll realize how much better it was to go with the flow and get the bribe).

9. If it comes up, we talk about the D word. When Paul Walker sadly died, my son was curious and so I made the conscious decision to talk about death. I don’t think it’s very healthy to avoid the topic, and I do believe in a mature conversation being helpful. Taking into consideration the child’s age and personality, I don’t shy away from the topic and 99 percent of the time children appreciate that.

10. I work hard on the Three-Minute Law. I once read that the first and the last three minutes of a child’s day is the most important aspect for them. At first I was critical, but when I narrowed in on the principle of the matter and actually took the effort to implement this law I noticed a shift in behavior. It takes three minutes, and it’s simple. I wake them up gently, and I ask them what they want for breakfast. I ask them if they have anything going on today that is exciting/boring, which is enough to make them feel special. At the end of the day, I always end the day with, “Anything you need to get off your chest?” and of course their spiel usually goes on for longer than three minutes, but I’ll tell you this much, it’s all worth it.

I’ve heard all the theories about “let kids be kids” and “eventually they’ll learn,” but I have met some serious jerk adults and even ruder teens. So, I will continue to give my children a dose of reality (with a whole lot of love!). Maybe, just maybe, one day my children will connect all of the reality checks I’ve given them and apply them to real-life situations. The end result? A decent human being. In the meantime, excuse me while I take some time out to let my 10-year-old know why it is not OK to talk to me like I’m a waitress (“maple syrup on the side, not on the pancake, mum!”).