I was watching a TV show one night and something sparked a thought. It came crashing over me suddenly because at that very moment I was not sure if I had the answers to the questions I had just asked myself. As I watched the screen, I saw children fixated on phones, young girls barely the age of 14 with a full face of makeup that puts airbrushing to shame and dressed in heels that most runway models would struggle to walk in. Young teens using language that I have never heard before, like childhood was years ago, long forgotten.
The thought came to me, when did children stop being children? The thoughts that followed were the ones that knocked me off my feet. Was I a good enough role model to my kids? Was I doing enough to preserve my kids’ innocence for as long as possible? What are they learning from other kids at school when I am not around, should I quit my job? Should I homeschool them? The questions kept replaying in my head until the early hours of the morning and still, I had no answers, no solutions to how I was going to keep my gentle, well-mannered children from turning into self-conscious, name brand addicted selfie queens that spend the majority of their time updating profile pictures, constantly changing their relationship status and expecting instant gratification.
I was at a crossroads and for days I toyed with the idea of handing in my resignation to become a full-time mom just so that I could always have my eyes on my children, waiting around the corner to jump in on any situation that may pose a threat. Luckily, I exhausted myself with the thought of having to give up the only hours of peace I get in a day at the office with other adults who stimulate my mind and keep me from going insane. After spending some time reading parenting inspiration blogs and helpful articles on websites such as Mommy Authority, I finally realized that no matter how sheltered my kids were, changing the wifi password, forbidding playdates or taking away their tablets was not going to change what they would grow up to be. Changing my bad habits, educating them and influencing them in a positive way was the only solution I could see that could potentially impact my children enough to remain as well mannered, conservative and as kind-hearted as they are today.
Read the rest of this article for tips on how I changed my habits for the better and began influencing my children.
1. Self-respect and admiration
I’ll get the most challenging obstacle out the way first. This is the hardest bad habit to kick, I cannot count the times I have stood in front of the mirror analyzing each bump, lump, and roll. Sometimes I was so fixated on my flaws and pointing them out that I had not realized how it would impact my children who were in the same room at the time. It had not dawned on me how they would see themselves when they got older and if my perception of myself would affect what beauty and confidence would mean to them one day. My girls look like me, after all, and I’d never want them to feel that they are not good enough. I had to learn to channel that negativity into something positive, to start looking at myself in a different light. Instead of saying I look fat, I changed my tone to I don’t feel very comfortable in this outfit today.
Changing my mindset was only the first part, I also began focusing on my lifestyle and what I was putting into my body. I cleared out the cupboards of any chocolate bars, sodas, and sugary cereals and replaced them with wholesome foods and snacks. I got some backlash from my spouse and the kids about this but I simply explained that our bodies are temples and that looking after our bodies and feeling great begins on the inside. I further explained that by looking after ourselves through a healthy diet and lifestyle, we begin to nurture, appreciate and love our body, it is the only one we have been given and should be respected in every way. By setting a good example when it comes to foods and eliminating the word diet from my vocabulary will help my daughters to grow up in a body shaming free environment.
A takeaway tip: Avoid using words like fat, diets or any other negative connotation you have with your own body, especially if you have daughters. Instead, teach them how to love and respect their own bodies. It’s also important to set a good example when it comes to healthy foods, children don’t understand why adults get to eat a whole bag of potato chips and they can’t so it’s necessary to practice a healthy lifestyle yourself before preaching to your kids about eating their vegetables.
2. The thin line between bribery, reward and earnings
I’m sure that many can agree that we all want our children to be successful and only recently did I learn that it’s not as easy in today’s economy. This is where the value of money, morals, and goals come into play. In my industry, I have had countless applicants for the apprentice programs we offer, some of whom I interviewed and hired, and others who weren’t so lucky to get any further. What I saw was there were two main types of people. The type who was on time, answered my questions with unique concepts and at the end of the interview politely asked me important questions. The other type was almost opposite to the first. Some had excuses for being a few minutes late, others answered my questions briefly and left immediately after I was done interviewing them without bothering to find out important facts or more information about the company. It seemed they were only interested in how many hours they needed to work, one person even asked to work 2 hours less every day. It seems that in today’s world, motivation is lacking and that instant gratification is a real thing. People are starting to expect more for less in all aspects of life. Less effort for more reward. Surely that cannot be, right? I began to look at what I was instilling in my children when it came to chores, rewards, school work and goals. Earlier I said my children are gentle and well-mannered which is true for the most part but there are those days, the ones where they test every bit of your patience. I’ve had to deal with the tantrums at the grocery store, the screaming matches in the mornings before school and the outbursts before bedtime. But the way in which I resolved it all had a common trend – I used bribery. If you stop screaming, I’ll get you the chocolate. If you stop crying, I’ll let you play on my phone. I was rewarding their bad behavior and letting them have all the power. I put an end to this very quickly because I knew that if I didn’t, they would not understand that there are consequences for their actions. They also had no concept of money because they have never had an allowance or had to do chores to earn that money, everything they have ever wanted has been handed to them. My kids had no clue that you have to work in order to receive. That goes for grades, sports, and tangibles.
One morning I sat them down and explained the new rules I had planned. Good behavior, good manners, getting ready for school, going to bed on time, completing homework and doing chores will earn them a monthly allowance. The chores involve one night a week where they are responsible for dinner (with a bit of my help, of course), helping me wash dishes afterward and helping me with general housework like hanging the washing out or folding clothes. This also gives them a sense of independence and responsibility. When it comes to tangibles, I explained that if there is something that they want, they will have to save up for it from their allowance. As much as I want to spoil them and give them everything they want, I have to hold back the urge so that they can learn the value of rewards, money and work towards something they want.
A takeaway tip: Teaching your children early on in life about the value of money and limiting how much you spoil them helps develop healthy spending habits. It also helps them to manage and save money wisely when they are older. When it comes to motivation, dreams, and aspirations, it is important that children have a sense of responsibility and hard work early on in life. By rewarding good behavior and tasks they have completed, you are showing them that hard work pays off.
3. The no phone zone
Being on my phone almost the entire day was what I was most guilty of. Responding to emails, taking calls and replying to texts during dinner, or at the shop, or while we are spending time as a family outdoors – those were my crimes. At work I am constantly putting out fires, chasing deadlines and checking up on who has done what, and before I knew it, there was no separation between work or my family life. It all becomes blurred and once you have reached that threshold, it becomes difficult to distinguish what is urgent and what is not.
I didn’t want my daughters to be the kind of kids who are fixated on a screen, completely oblivious to any social conversation or family time that is going on in those moments because they see me doing it. Becoming a mother was my choice and working full time was also a choice I had made yet I was making them suffer the consequences by dedicating the time that was meant for them on something else at work. I decided then and there that work life should never take away from time I have with my family. There is nothing that urgent which can’t wait until I’m in the office again in the morning, the emails can be replied to during office hours and unless the office is on fire, I am not available to take calls during dinner or on weekends. The same rules apply to social media.
When the four of us are in the same room together or out and about, it is strictly a no phone policy. I can’t stress enough how important it is to value time. Life is short and I want my girls to savor every moment of it, the internet will always be there and there will always be a hot trending topic or an email to respond to but there will never be a moment like this at this exact time again. Setting an example in social situations is also extremely important because it teaches kids to build and maintain relationships. Using your phone while someone is talking shows that all your attention is not focused on the conversation. In my opinion, every relationship whether it be friends or lovers deserves undivided attention.
A takeaway tip: Encourage your kids to spend less time on a screen and more time engaging with you. Limit time spent on social platforms or online by getting your kids to help you make dinner or helping out in the yard (this will also earn them some allowance money as I mentioned before).
Set playdates for your kids where there are strictly no tablets or phones allowed, rather encourage them to play together or engage in conversation with each other instead. Let children be children, let them get dirty, act silly and play. While I know that technology is a crucial part of our lives and education, it does not mean that we all can’t enjoy the finer and simpler things in life like spending quality time on a walk around the block or having a picnic in the garden.