Guiding Values, Week 1

This month, we look at the values the drive the way we raise our families. February’s posts look at questions like:

  • What ideas informed your approach to parenting: around structure, discipline, identity, etc.?
  • Where did these values come from?
  • How did they change over time?

This week’s excerpt from Magic Lessons looks at the all-important (to me) value of structure:

When I got my kids, I made a conscious decision to make myself central in their lives, to a point that others might consider (and that, in retrospect, maybe was) excessive. Want something to eat? Ask. Watch TV? Same. Going outside? Let me know. Have a lot of homework and need to skip chores? Don’t just blow them off—talk to me about it. And so on, and so on.

My reasoning was twofold: (a) They had never had a parent who was a center, so I felt like we had a lot of catching up to do. And (b) I wanted to try to instill the belief—especially in Daveon—that it’s possible to get what you want by going through the person who can provide it to you. You don’t have to figure out everything on your own (he did), you can trust adults (he didn’t), and they won’t let you down (they had). So rather than him raiding the fridge on a whim, or walking up to someone he had just met and fiddling around with their hair, we spent a lot of time—a lot—on, “Ask. If you want something, or want to touch someone, just ask. You can trust that the answer will be yes, or at least, we’ll work something out.”

This message didn’t always sink in—often, for example, when told to close the fridge door and ask for something to eat, Daveon just decided he wasn’t hungry and left the kitchen. But I felt that it was important to reinforce the message whenever possible. You can get what you want, and the people around you will be happy to provide it. And of all those people, the main provider is me.

Now it’s your turn! Share your family-building story by leaving a comment, or contact me at joe@jmswordsmith.com to have your story featured as a post in a future week!

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