Knock yourself out was a phrase I remember using quite often when my boys were little; when they'd ask if they could do something like play in the mud.
"Go!" I would say. "That's why we have water."
I think back to when my boys were little—hence the little red pickup with two little boys—and I credit God for giving me the patience and the knowledge and the wisdom to be a great, young mom. And although naive, because that is what I was in many ways, I thank Him for guiding me when I didn't even know He was.
I was so young and although I knew God, and believed in Him, and prayed to Him, I didn't really know about Him like I do today. And because of that, there were so many different paths I could have taken [as a mom] because I didn't know better. But by His Grace, I made it.
As a parent who has been there, done that, here are a few—because I have so many—words of wisdom I'd like to pass on to you as you raise your littles:
Let them get dirty. That's what water is for.
When they fall, allow them to get back up on their own.
Stop confusing your child. We teach our kids to stay away from strangers, only to get mad at them when they don't want to hug or kiss or sit on Uncle Bob's lap. And to clarify: Uncle Bob may be a sweetheart, but if your child doesn't know him—for your child—he is a stranger.
Rather than dictating a to-do list of chores, teach your kids how to do things. For even you, as an adult, do better when asked and shown, than ordered.
Don't be afraid to say no. You are their parent first, before you are their friend. A practice I still live by today.
Make every experience a fun, learning one. Like washing dishes and bathing the dog. Don't be afraid to get dirty with them.
Incorporate independence by allowing them to do things on their own. Even if it's easier for you to do it, let them do it. Like changing their clothes or coloring Easter eggs.
Encourage leadership. Because you are their biggest cheerLEADER!
Instill God with the simplest of things like prayers before dinner or bedtime praying. Because without Him, we are nothing, and your children need to grow up believing this.
Sticking to a routine is crucial. When it comes to bedtime, homework, and other important daily habits, designate specific times and never get lazy about it.
Don't just read to your child, make a habit of reading yourself. Your children watch your every move. Lead by example not only in what you say, but in what you do. Let them see you read to yourself too.
When your child asks for simple things like a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, ask them to make it themselves, and to teach you. This gives your child a sense of importance.
If your child doesn't like a certain food(s) respect their decision by not encouraging force. Respect is taught in so many ways. And yes, even a child deserves respect. When my boys were little, all they ever wanted was chicken nuggets. It became so infamously known that my family would actually joke about it. But as their mom, I didn't care, I respected my children's yes' and no's. Now as grown men, they've expanded their food choices into so many different cultural foods.
Allow your child to make mistakes. And don't be too quick to get upset. Most days, mistakes are how we learn.
Quitting was not an option. My boys were never forced to do anything they didn't want to do BUT if they signed up to do something, they were not allowed to quit.
Never, ever, let a day pass you by without telling your child/children you love them. A practice I still live by today and until the day I die.
Some of you may read this list and think I'm crazy. Too easy. Too patient. Too perfect. Too much. Or you may have your own ways of raising a child.
But I raised two boys into men—with these exact principles. And by the Grace of God, they didn't just turn out ok—they turned out more than ok.
So knock yourself out. Let loose a bit. It's ok! Let them get dirty. Show patience. And love them hard. Because it won't be this way for long.