A Rant On Raising Children Which Isn’t Meant To Be A Rant…

…more of a Public Service Announcement, really.

My kids, though admittedly not perfect (Who is, really? No, no… not even me. Stop it.), are fabulous. They are caring, polite, and unspoiled. Jim and I get complimented often on how well we raised them, and the boys get complimented often on how they, well, ARE.

People act as if having well-adjusted kids is something so rare it could be a sideshow act in a circus. It’s not; it’s actually attainable by anybody.

Here’s the deal, people. Do you know what kind of voodoo magic Jim and I have used for the last just-about-eighteen years in raising our kids?


What have we done? What’s our secret?

We refuse to take the easy way out. We do things in ways that require hard work (and sometimes, hard emotions), but the payoff is much greater than it would have been, had we pressed that Easy Button. What does this mean? I’ll tell you.

~We have always tried to be consistent. When we say “No,” we mean it. Likewise, when we say “yes,” we mean it.
~We follow through with what we say we’re going to do. We don’t offer empty promises of consequences–or rewards!–on which we aren’t ready to act.
~We don’t give in to every whim.
~We aren’t afraid of our kids being annoyed with us.
~We don’t conduct ourselves like we’re best buds with our boys.
~We show our boys that we work hard for what we have, and we expect them to do the same.
~We have certain expectations of our boys, and they know that, as long as they put their best effort forward, we are happy.

All of that was going on starting from their youngest days, in age-appropriate nuggets.

When you parent, you are always building on what you have previously taught. Always. You don’t start setting a child’s moral and ethical compass when they are kindergarten-aged; if you wait that long, you’re making so much work for yourself that you might never catch up, not to mention the bad habits you’ve taught yourself.

~The reward for being consistent? Our boys are secure in knowing what to expect from us.
~The reward for following through? We don’t have kids who laugh in our face when we give them consequences for something they’ve done.
~The reward for not giving in to every whim? Our kids are appreciative for what they have, and truly appreciate little surprises. I bring home somebody’s favorite pretzels or pack of gum from the grocery store, and it’s as if I’ve given them something much greater.
~The reward for freely allowing our kids to be displeased with us on occasion? They know that emotions like unhappiness and anger are, unfortunately, a normal part of life, and they aren’t permanent. They also know that we love each other through all emotions, not just the happy ones.
~The reward for not being buddy-buddy with our boys? Mutual respect, and really, super-great relationships with them as parents and children/young men.
~The reward for showing them that we work hard and expecting that they do the same? Again, appreciation for what we have and the desire to reach higher. We have kids who expect to help pay their own way through college, and as you remember, expect to buy their own car with their own money.
~The reward for setting certain expectations? THEY MEET THEM.

Though everyone obviously has their own way of parenting and I can only really worry about my own family, I always shake my head at the parents who give in to their kids (in all different ways) on a regular basis* because I know what they’re in for later on. Personally, I’d much rather do the work ahead of time and reap bigger rewards later than succumb to the quick “fixes” that will require real repair later.

I guess, if I had to end this post with a really corny metaphor, I believe that parents are better off accepting that raising children is sort of like sailing a boat: it’s much better to develop a sail plan with an ultimate destination and learn the skills to adjust the sails as you go rather than just taking the boat out and going wherever the wind takes you**.

*Don’t get me wrong; I give in to my kids in certain ways, on occasion; I save it for when I know it will be appreciated.
**REALLY corny. Sorry.


©2010 Suburban Scrawl


  • Dawn

    Look at those boys! How cute…memories!

    And, I totally agree with you and your parenting outlook. 🙂

  • Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com

    I totally agree with you here. My daughter is only 10 months old, but my parents put up the time and effort when other parents gave in, and I appreciate it today. I was much more prepared than most of my friends for jumping into the deep end, so to speak. And I know that in parenting my daughter and any future siblings we give her with as much care and hard work, I will be doing her (and us!) an enormous favor. Well done you for sticking by your guns! It's tough!

  • Oscar

    Nothing wrong with structure. A problem I had was "go ask dad". So I said if thats the route – then everything goes to dad.
    It worked out. LOL

    No – expectations should be set.

    Good for you!

  • PJ Mullen

    So, what you're saying is parenting like a box of chocolates that you've picked through, gotten rid of the ones with nuts and bought more of the ones you really like? 🙂

    From parenting to diet and exercise there will always be a market for the latest and greatest "break-through" or phenomenon. Far too often people insist on ignore that anything worth doing right is hard work.

  • ThePeachy1

    I love it too and want to shout it from the roof tops. However my oldest 21 and my youngest 9, are constantly receiving awards and compliments and teachers and other parents treat us like we are parenting guru's. The 18 year old with problems we get the opposite reaction from people. We never took the easy road. But people who parent from the couch drive me insane, it's a hands on job folks … I still try my best not to judge other kids and other parents because Dusty taught me that. But it's hard when it's right in front of you.

  • Mrs4444

    We've done the same. I would say that it all boils down to boundaries; they want them, need them, and flourish with them. Good job! 🙂

  • nycgirl0501

    This post could have been written word for word by my parents. This is the way we were brought up. I've worked since I was 17, paid for my first car (used) which my dad financed and I made payments on. That's the only way I know. Maybe this is why I value your opinion so much, you give me such great advice just like my mom & dad 🙂

    sorry I had to run out on the show my boss needed something. Ugh didn't he know I was watching Suburban Wow?! 🙂

  • Huckdoll

    This was SUCH a good read, Melisa. So good in fact, that I'm going to print a copy to review occasionally.

  • Michelle

    Amen! I'm right there with ya… especially living where I do.

    But let me tell ya, telling Little Miss there was no McD's after a fiasco playdate there at the end of April and ensuring no one took her there, got her food from there, etc until after the end of the school year – not pleasant. Fortunately, accomplished 🙂

  • kat

    It's because of this that I want to kiss you. On the mouth!!! :). Seriously, you're an awesome family and I can't wait to finally meet you in person real soon. Hugs.

  • Lucy

    Love this post. Even though Little Ricky is a little guy this is how we are trying to be with him. He has started biting and usually it's because he's super excited, but we are consistently telling him no and giving him a (brief) time-out. Would I rather laugh it off and keep playing? Hell, yeah. But it won't be so funny when he takes a chunk out of a kid at a play date!

    Speaking of play dates, I have a friend who has gone the opposite route. Her 2 year old rules her household already. I can only imagine what his teenage years are going to be like!