So, as a teacher, I am required to do CEUs (continuing education units). One I was listening to online today talked about why teenagers act the way they do. They broke down how teenagers are influenced. A small fraction of hours is spent at church (for some), another small fraction influenced by parents, and the rest is by their educational system and media.
In other words, they are mostly influenced by people you don’t know.
Now, before you quit reading because you don’t have high schoolers, remember that you will one day (if you did your job right). And, if you are thinking this will be a religious rant, you are incorrect.
You see, influence starts way down before those kiddos can talk. How you and your spouse treat each other and your child speak volumes. How much influence do you have on your child, right now?
First of all, you need to have a game plan. What vision do you have your child? If you don’t have a vision, chances are you will just “survive” and not teach your child anything but survival. (If I don’t plan what I will teach during a certain day, how much will I really accomplish? Unleash your inner teacher!) Your vision is NOT what your child will do for a living. Your vision is WHO your child will be when no one watches. I would hope that you want to raise kids with character.
Secondly, re-evaluate how your child spends his or her time. I recommend the following hard look at you and your child’s lives.
Birth-4 or 5 years old: You either are a stay at home parent or have an outside source of childcare. Now, as a parent, it is important to choose a childcare that supports your views of parenting and vision for your child. If you don’t choose someone like that, they will be influencing your child in another way. This is truth, like it or not. That may mean you need to not let grandma babysit, if she is stuck doing things you don’t like. Make sacrifices elsewhere financially because raising your child is too important of a task! When you get home, does your child sit in front of the TV for long periods of time? Those shows are cute, but they are teaching your child something. It may not even be bad! But it is TAKING THE PLACE OF YOU in influence. Set a time limit on TV. Set a MINIMUM time that you want to spend with your child each day, shaping them.
Elementary: School is a main influence here! And I struggle what to do with my kids, educationally. Home school is a lot of work, and I feel very few are truly qualified to teach upper level subjects (most of the time, elementary is fine). Public schools are free, but are they supporting what you think is important? I think about common core issues and the FCAT in FL, and wonder how many parents truly are on board with all of this. Private school is expensive. We have to decide what our priorities are and go with that. Friends start to influence more here. PLEASE, get to know your kids’ friends! You need to know who they are and how they are influencing your kids. Monitor your kids’ music, TV and movies! You might think it isn’t influencing them, we tell ourselves that they are “too smart”, but if you stare at a correctly spelled word for a while, it looks incorrect. (Try it!) That just means, if your kid hears the same message over and over again, it may start to sound like truth! I am very careful not let my kids listen to music with even a hint of sexual overtones. I have heard 6 year olds sing songs that they have no business singing! Same thing with TVs and movies. Whatever they are watching over and over again, is what they will be influenced by.
Middle and High: DON’T bail on them now! Just because they are older, doesn’t mean that you stop trying to spend time with them. You know their friends are very important now. Try to let your house be a hangout for their friends. I think about my mom-in-law. All of her kids’ friends would come hang out at her house. She knew all of her boys’ friends, and who they dated! Still encourage good music, movies and TV. Monitor social media and PLEASE don’t be naive. My oldest is 12 1/2 and I still watch what he does online and TV from time to time. I reward for good behavior, but I let him know that the very most important reward he gets from me is my trust. Parents tell me all of the time in conferences that they are “trying to let them go”, when they still should be more involved! Let them know you love them unconditionally and are there to talk. Kids know when you are checking out and it affects them way more than you know.
These principles aren’t just for kids. I still guard what I watch and what music I listen to. Because I understand what influence has in my life. If it can affect me, I can only imagine what it will do to my kids. Your kid will become like who influences them most. Be someone worth imitating, and then spend time with your kid to pass on that influence!