Mantras in Our Family

  •  Avoid Creating Work for Other People – Maybe this comes from waiting tables through college, or from how hectic our careers feel now, but I’m reminding the girls often to not create work for other people. In little ways, this means checking under the table at restaurants to be sure we’ve not left a mess. In big ways, it means being prompt with letting people know where you are and what’s your plan, so they are not left to work or worry around you. It’s being responsible for your own stuff.
  •  Different Families Do Different Things – I have answered so many questions and started so many conversations with my children by saying, “different families do different things…” This has ranged from other families living in bigger houses and other children not having a set bedtime, to other sets of siblings slinging horrible names at each other going unchecked and a mom friend who slapped her then 4 year old during a playdate at our house. This works in both directions. Sometimes it’s nice to be in our family, sometimes they are wishing they could stay up nightly til they just conk out. In either direction, it brings them back to the focus on home and who we are.
  • Grow Up Slowly – While I understand they can’t really know this til they know it, I want my children to recognize that it goes by fast. That there’s no need to be in a hurry to be on top of the ticking clock. I want them to hold on to being a kid for as long as they can. We’ve made a great effort to enjoy things with them and talk about how even daddy’s not too old to enjoy an afternoon spent on mastering the Slip’n’slide. He notes The Wiggles as one of the best concerts he’s seen, and he’s seen many big acts in the last 30 years. We’ve put effort into putting off getting ears pierced, wearing make-up or having cells phones until they are following their friends rather than leading the charge.
  •  Enjoy Where You Are – I am still learning this one myself, so the mantra brings me back as much as them. For my 14-year-old, this is actually turning off her phone when we are at lunch with Grandma and Grandpa, so she can be fully engaged in the conversation. For me, it’s watching an entire gymnastics practice rather than taking the time to get caught up with work.
  • Move Forward in Peace – Okay, this is just mine.

Teaching Charity

When I hear the Salvation Army volunteers ringing their bells outside the grocery store, I am gently reminded to focus on giving and to share that focus with my children. There are so many ways to teach about charity and giving, a few ways are provided below.

  • If they get allowance, teach them to put some towards charity from the beginning – My girls started with chores as part of the family by three years old and chores for allowance by four. As soon as they started earning an allowance, we helped them divide it each week into saving and spending and a bit into charity. This became money they could put in the offering at church or use for the coin drive at school. We talked occasionally about how we, as a family, contribute to charities and why.
  • Investigate charities and organizations they are drawn to – As they get older, it may be helpful to allow children to choose their own charities. My younger daughter loves animals and is motivated to give to organizations like the ASPCA. You might make it fun by matching contributions.
  • Include them in volunteer efforts – If you volunteer, share this with your children. As allowed, take them along to community clean-ups, soup kitchens or nursing homes. www.Our-Kids.com is a website that provides a wealth of information on all things parenting in the VA/DC/MD area. They recently published a list of places to volunteer with kids. Please visit  http://www.our-kids.com/public/t/?f=5&s=133 for more information.
  • Look for organization efforts – Each September our church stuffs backpacks with new school supplies for area children who are in need, each December they stuff similar stockings. There are area organizations that send care packages to deployed soldiers throughout the year. These organizations offer hands-on ways for even young children to be involved in giving.
  • Include them when you donate toys and clothes – If you are already donating gently used items, just include your children in the process. Talk with them about what you are doing and why. Encourage them to find things they can also donate.
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