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I am a child raising badass.
Seriously, I must be. Anytime I take my kids out in public, I get the “How do you manage it?” question. Typically this comes from some young Millenial couple that is deathly afraid of having children. Society tells them that having kids is horrible and will end their life as they know it. Yet here I am, in front of them enjoying my time with my kids.
Since I am indebted to society to pass on my badass knowledge about raising kids, my wife and I came up with our top five rules about raising kids. You get them for free, so you don’t have to pay for multiple copies of the “What to expect…”, but if you find these useful, drop Da Tech Guy a couple bucks.
The Constant Pain Theorem of Child Rearing™
“Every child applies the same amount of pain from the age of zero to three.” – RH
The first three months with my first daughter were hell. She stopped breathing the night she was born, and then she wouldn’t sleep through the night when we eventually brought her home. A friend of mine who had a child at about the same time had the stereotypical nice, quiet, always sleeping baby. My wife fretted for those first months thinking she did something wrong. We were the stereotypical new parents, pulling out our hair, while my friend was looking like a boss with his kid.
And then the Constant Pain Theorem™ kicked in. My daughter got better, and somewhere around the 6 to 9 month mark was a cute angel. Meanwhile, my friend’s kid went off schedule and began waking up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder. My friend thought he had messed something up.
The Constant Pain Theorem™ states that all kids apply an equal amount of pain on their parents during those first few years. After about year three, how you parent really begins to matter, so the level of pain you get is linked more to your abilities than to your kids. For the mathematically inclined, if you take the integral of the application of pain on parent graph from 0 to 3 years on any kid, you get a value of X, and X is within a standard deviation of most other kids.
For the rest of us, see the fancy graph I drew below about my three kids. One caveat: this doesn’t apply to kids with special needs (like kids with autism). Your pain level is very different, and your kid’s demands will often be far above that of a normal kid. I sympathize with you, especially after what my family went through supporting Rebecca before she died.
The crazy truth is that children don’t progress on a linear slope, even though doctors, your neighbor and your psychologist act like they do. It’s more like spurts. A kid will suddenly hit a growth spurt, or have rapid brain development, or become more interactive. The timing of these things can’t be changed too much, and so long as you’re feeding and otherwise providing basic needs, your kid is typically fine. Getting worried about not meeting some sort of timeline set out in a book, or worse, comparing your child to another, is a recipe for pain and discontent. My advice: sit back, take your kid to the doctor as prescribed, and know that if life is painful for your now, it’ll get easier at some point.
And if your kid is an angel from 0 to 6 months…I’d be scared.
Your kids need to pay rent.
The Navy selected one of my Sailors for a commissioning program, and I invited him and his wife to my family’s home to have dinner and discuss how his life would change after he became a Naval Officer. When we finished eating, my son walked around and asked to clear each person’s plate. Our guests were shocked, remarking, “How do you teach them to do that?”
Simple: chores. I wrote out all the chores I wanted my kids to do on a magnetic whiteboard on our refrigerator. I broke it down by day of the week, and I gave each kid a set of colored magnets to place on the chore once it’s complete. A little bit of praise and sticking to a routine, and my two oldest kids were doing chores every day.
But the youngest was being a stickler. So I used peer pressure. I let my older two kids “steal” her chores if she hadn’t completed them by a certain time. If they stole enough chores, my youngest lost dessert or had to go to bed 20 minutes early. My oldest two kids would openly brag about stealing her chores, and I would see the youngest get visibly angry about it. Her siblings got under her skin more effectively than I ever could have, and soon she was doing daily chores.
Apparently I’m in the minority, because most of my friends have kids who don’t do chores. They either run out of time during the day, or they let their house (or sanity) go. I always share my recommendation, even showing them the chart I bought, but most don’t take the advice. It’s too bad.
Also, please note: I don’t pay my kids. They don’t get an allowance. We will eventually do that when they get into their teens, but at that point I’ll be buying less for them. Chores are the rent my kids pay for all the stuff my wife and I do to take care of them.
Running a house requires a lot of work. There’s laundry to clean, floors to wipe, bathrooms to scrub, and meals to cook. Personally, I’m sort of lazy. I come home from an intensive job, and I just don’t feel like scrubbing toilets. So I make my kids do it. I had to show them what my standard was the first time, but they do a pretty good job now. We still find time to play and I still find ways to spoil them, so it’s not like the chores damage them. What I do find is they leave less mess in the bathroom, and have started to automatically pick up toys before I tell them to do so. Chores teach them that life isn’t free, and they help keep you from feeling like a maid instead of a parent.
Tune in next week for my other three badass kid raising lessons!
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. Not that you would listen to a federal agency about raising your kids anyway…
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