I think too many parents focus too much on education. Yes, I think education is extremely important. But every child first needs some basic things in order to thrive educationally. I am not a cookie cutter person. My kids are not cookie cutter kids. In fact, every time we make cookie cut outs, they never turn out. Our circles are always somehow oval. Our squares somehow have way more than four sides. Yet biting into that cookie, it tastes damn good (unless I screw up the recipe, which has happened, but for the sake of this blog, it tastes damn good). As my oldest starts kindergarten on Thursday, I want him to know I don't want him to be perfect. I don't want cookie cutter kids. I can't stand reading lists stating what my children should be doing by the time they're in kindergarten. I refuse to look at a list given to me that tells me if my kid is on track or not. I'm his mother, I've spent practically every day of his life with him. I can tell you, without looking at that list, what he can and can't do. I can tell you my just turned five year old can count to 100, with help, but still skips the numbers 15 and 16. It's like they don't even exist in his mind. He's clumsy, but can hop, skip, jump, and run for miles. He may not be the fastest, but he does it. He's the most creative and imaginative kid I've ever known. He refuses to do anything he doesn't want to do. This will both hurt and help him. He knows all of his letters and their sounds. He can sounds out words. He's ready to start reading, but would rather be read to. I will never complain about this. The longer I can do my reading snuggles with him, the better, I just have to deal with him telling me I "mispronounced that word."
Parents need to stop stacking kids up to their peers. This starts in infancy when mom's get together and start focusing on milestones. "Can your four month old pick up a toy? Eating food? Oh no, well mine is," said in a slightly smug voice. Trust me, every mom (especially first timers and only one child mums) will do this. Don't lie, you still do this and will throughout their life. It's called bragging and all parents deserve some bragging rights. You are after all raising a superstar. I refuse to expect my kids to be the smartest, to know everything, because no one is truly the smartest and no one truly knows everything. I refuse to expect too much from them. I want them to know they are loved, will always be loved. I want my children to be open minded. I want them to love unconditionally. Education alone does not make kids into who they're meant to be. Education alone can not carry you through life. Parents, before you get lost in the world of "well, my child is doing this..." remember these things:
Sleep is so important. For everyone. As an adult, you know how horrible you feel after a crappy night's sleep. It's the same for children, and children need a lot more sleep than adults.
Schedules should be kept consistently.
Read to your child.
Give them kisses.
Don't tell them they are bad. Naughty is one thing, but bad, no.
Relish in their imaginations, creativity, and talents, no matter how odd they may seem. Someday you will have to share that beautiful imagination, creations, and talent with the world. Enjoy it while it's only yours.
Everyone has a weakness(es) and strong suites. Same can be said for children. Don't fault them for their weaknesses. Instead, help them strengthen their weaknesses.
Teach your children how to behave. Teach them this by showing them. I don't care if your four year old can read if they act like they're two years old.
Listen to your children, so they will know how to listen to others. I know it's hard to imagine that strong headed toddler will ever listen, but I promise, someday it will happen. When it does, they will learn more than that algebra equation parents are trying to teach their second grader.
Give your children responsibility. I wish I had started this long ago. I'm shocked to see just how much a two year old can understand. It may take constant reminders and some help on parent's part, but give them jobs to do around the house. It teaches them responsibility and they earn their keep.Toddlers and preschoolers love to feel helpful. Use it to your advantage. My kids beg to unload the dishwasher just so they can touch the knives (with two boys I really should be more concerned about this). They may need help putting the bowls up in the cupboards and things may not be put away properly, but it really does help me out. It teaches them they must help out.
Whining is a no-no. Have them use their words. Remind them of this. Discipline them when they don't. Whining will be instantly knocked out.
Discipline your children. It's not always fun, but it's needed. There is no excuse for not disciplining your children.
Let your child(ren) decide their own interests. Don't do it for them.
Don't squander their dreams. Do everything you can to make their dreams a reality.
Don't raise lazy children. Exercise, running around, and being active make life fun.
Encourage creativity and imagination. It's a HUGE part of childhood development (and is just as important to education and learning).
Children learn best from each other.
Before you interrupt your three year old for another round of flashcards, pay attention to what he/she is doing. You may just learn something from your child.
Play with your children. Even if it means playing tea party for the millionth time, or building with those teeny tiny Legos that make your fingertips hurt. Getting down to their level for some fun makes them open up and gives you fantastic insight to their minds.
Give them kisses.
Give them hugs.
Don't spoil them and give them everything they want.
Follow through. Remember every time you've threatened to leave a store because of bad behavior? Leave once and they'll remember forever. It's a pretty sure promise you'll never have to actually leave again.
Give them opportunity to think for themselves (with a little guiding of course, mommies).
Parents, if you take anything away from this, take this: do not make your children into cookie cutters. They are their own person. Instead, posses them with the power to become their own cookie cutter. A new shape. One that is unique and different. That is what makes the world go 'round. This is what makes a difference in the world. I am not a cookie cutter person and neither will my children.
p.s.-For the record: I will always brag about my child, speaking highly of their good qualities, no matter how old they get.