What My Daughters Taught Me
By Marvin Pirila
Teach your children early on to keep their promises, no matter how trivial. Nothing is worse than someone agreeing to something and not doing it.
Explain the value of keeping promises, taking references from the bible.
One day I overheard my granddaughter saying she would pay $5 for a piece of gum. When she received the gum, I made her pay the money. I wanted all of them to weigh the importance of what they planned to say before they said it.
You can be different than the way you were raised
My parents never said they loved me, even once, growing up. When my daughters were born, I loved them tremendously, but felt awkward saying “I love you.” This awkwardness eventually went away and it now feels natural.
Things aren’t always “fine” just because everyone is behaving and acting normally
My oldest daughter absorbs a lot of stuff and doesn’t say anything. Even when it bothers her, it’s hard to get her to talk about it. I learned to use different examples of situations that were similar and more importantly how it was handled. She listens well, absorbs it, and makes good decisions. I just had to learn how to talk to her in terms she could understand just as Jesus used parables. In effect, we talked about a situation similar to the one on her mind, but without directly discussing it.
The youngest children speak the “untarnished” truth
If you want to hear “true honesty” at work, listen to the conversation of young children. They don’t politicize, fabricate, or otherwise make information easier to swallow. Nope, they just say it like it is. It makes you laugh, as well as relish the simple truth.
Young children know how to communicate
Kids say it like it is and understand each other perfectly. Perfectly, unfortunately, isn’t necessarily “agreeing.” Adults tend to soften the bad news and exaggerate the good news. Adults seem to drift too often into ‘gray areas” whereas kids deal strictly in the “black and white.”
Kids are quick to meet new kids, no matter where it may be. Someone they never knew will quickly play a game with them at the park. As adults, we are more guarded and protective of our own personal space.
Kids need goals
What happens to children who grow up impoverished, feeling no hope for their futures? Teenage pregnancy, drug use, suicide, crime, depression, etc.
I put money into savings bonds for my daughters’ education. They know it’s there, but only if they go to college. I make sure to ask frequently what they are going to do when they grow up. Their choice of occupations change occasionally, but they’re always consistent in saying they are going to college.
Children Say What You Say - Good and Bad
I was running out the door one day trying to make an appointment when the cat got out. “[Profane word] Cat!”, I yelled. My daughter was right behind me saying, “[Same profane word] cat!” She used the same tone and inflection that I had. That cured me of my cursing right then and there. It’s horrible to hear an innocent child use such ungodly language.
Kids feel they can do everything, so why can’t we?
Ask them if they can sing, dance, draw, or write and they’ll all say yes. If you ask an adult, they probably say not absolutely not, not well, never, and poorly. Kids are optimistic and happy because everything is possible in their eyes. Why can’t we be so open to the world?
Kids don’t miss the little things we walk by blindly
The odd-shaped rock, a mushroom, birch bark, princess pine, even dandelions (at least to my daughter) are exciting to them. I had grown bored with them long ago, as I had many things. My girls made me take another look at the world and appreciate it again.
Time is all that truly matters to them
You can’t win their affection by merely buying it with gifts. They want your #1 gift – your time. Eat dinner with them, discuss their day at school, their homework, sports, friends, etc. The more involvement you have with them the better. This will help create the strong familial bonds that will help them avoid the pitfalls and effects of absent or neglectful parents.
Kids are such a blessing and are only with you a little while, so take advantage of the time you have.
Walks in the Wilderness
My girls and I used to walk railroad tracks and state hiking trails looking for agates. Lily loved rocks, big and small, agate and otherwise. Emily and I would just smile as Lily piled on the rocks. Every pocket I had would be full, as would any bag I brought. When we got back to the car we would look at what we found and admire the wonders of nature. Lily’s rocks alone filled about four inches of a five-gallon bucket. To us they looked normal; to her they were rare gems.
Our walks allowed us to talk and dream of finding the “big” agate or gemstone. Over the years, we have accumulated a large pile of agates and other cool looking rocks. Emily once found a rock about two-to-three inches in length and in girth with amazing eyes. It was incredible. More incredible was that she found it where many other people had walked. Too often in life, we walk right by the treasures of the earth.
What you don’t say is important too!
How do you handle stress, problems, and catastrophes? If you handle them calmly and make rational decisions, they are more likely to as well. Are you good to pets, attend church (without grumbling), positive, happy, friendly, etc.?
Project desirable qualities and direction onto your children
Both of my daughters have great leadership abilities, albeit different styles. Both are good speakers, listen well, and adapt quickly to their environments.
Emily is good at remaining neutral, even when she really would to like to say something. She knows when to listen and when it’s time to talk.
Lily is the researcher. She learns everything she can about a topic before debating it with others. She doesn’t enter anything without being thoroughly prepared.
To project confidence and direction, I will point out the qualities they possess and what they could do with them. I will tell them things like “you are a great leader because…” or “you have great leadership qualities because…”
Kids need discipline, that’s fair and equitably given
The 1-2-3 technique works great for teaching children discipline and restraint. This requires you to tell your child to discontinue an appropriate behavior. If he or she doesn’t listen, then you count, “that’s one.” If it does not stop immediately, you say, “That’s two.” If they go beyond that point you say, “That’s three” and put them in a timeout. Never pause when counting or extend it one iota. You will teach them to push limits, rather than stay within them. You must mean what you say and back it up each and every time.
They should get one minute for each year of age. A timeout means sitting somewhere, in view, and not saying anything or making any inappropriate gestures. If he or she does, the timer starts over. The first timeouts may take a long time but it will improve quickly. At the end of the timeout they should be made aware of the appropriate behavior and they should apologize.
Timeouts are meant to teach restraint. How many times have we blurted things out in anger or frustration and wish we could have them back? I know there are many good opportunities to take a “timeout” myself.
Letting Them Make Their Own Decisions
Parents need to keep in mind that they are raising their kids to be successful, honest, and respected adults. Kids need to learn to speak up and make decisions of incremental importance, as they get older.
Grades are not as important as the effort
I have always stressed that the grade is not as important as the effort that went into the class. If you work hard and get a C, be proud. Some things are easier than other’s and no one can be the “best” at everything.
The Experiences of Childhood are Critical to Selecting the Right Road in Adulthood
You find out as you get older that you have to start to narrow in on what you want to do most. As a child, experiences are important in many different areas, but the adult world is specialized.
Earned Trust must be Respected
As my daughters have gotten older and shown greater and greater responsibility, they earned additional consideration to opportunities they desired. For example, Emily had worked hard for Gordy’s restaurant over the last two seasons, and had another job opportunity.
Emily was just 17, but she wanted to work as a server at a resort. The resort was located about 60 miles away and her and her friend would have to stay overnight one to two days a week. The first inclination of many, including mine, was to say no immediately. Parents conjure up every bad thing that could happen to their kids, forgetting that in just a short time they would be on their own. I reminded myself that Emily was an exceptional young woman. She was honest, trustworthy, mature, and responsible. She had earned this opportunity.
She bought her car on her own when she was 16 and paid for her own car insurance. She worked at Gordy’s during the spring and summer, cleaned at the Cloquet Forestry Center with her aunt Ginny, and baby sat for different people.
Emily had continued to do well in school, taking college courses, while working two different jobs part-time. She had managed to remain social, keep many friends, and avoid any trouble. In every way, she had earned the right to work at the resort.
Clearly raising kids has taught me as much as it has them and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity.