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The Magic Formula to Raise Children?

manuelita otero

As parents, we want our children to be happy; the problem is that at times we think we always know what will make them happy and we end up pushing our views, ideas, and dreams into them.  

Have you ever done something just to please your parents? Do you really want your children to do things just to make you happy or find approval? Or do you want them to be free to be themselves and follow their own path?

There’s a thin line when it comes to parenting.  We need to guide our children, encourage good decisions, help them when they are facing difficulties so they can learn and grow. At the same time, we need to give them the freedom to make their own choices without depending on approval, including ours.

Raising strong children is a lifelong endeavor.  We don’t start teaching our children to take responsibility for their actions when they become teens; we start from the moment they are born because everything they hear, experience and see is going to shape them and affect their future.

We have an amazing impact on our children and it should be positive. That doesn’t mean that we will always get it right, because we won’t. Being a parent is the hardest thing we will ever do.  We can’t compare ourselves to our friends or to the perfect families we see on TV.  We need to know our family, know each member and create our own family style, allowing everyone to be who they are.  No one has the secret formula to raise children.  It hasn’t been defined; it changes as our children grow and it develops as we mature. It is a continuous learning process; a beautiful process.

When a child has a strong sense of self love, he or she will be ready to face peer pressure, bullying, criticism, rejection and so many other challenges that we hope they never have to encounter. They won’t only survive through difficulties but thrive and grow. 

We won’t always be present to protect and guide our children, so we need to teach them to do these things on their own.  

So, how can we teach our children to feel free to be who they are?

- Example: This may bring some pressure to us, but there’s no way around it.  Our children see everything we do, hear everything we say and know us better than we imagine. Whether they want to or not, our children many times end up imitating what we do.  What good it is to tell them to love what they do if they hear us complaining daily about our job? What good is it to teach them not to judge, yet we criticize anyone who seems “different”?

- Experiences: My son tried several sports before he found his love for tennis.  That meant long hours of driving, waiting and of course, a monetary investment. But it was all worth it because he found his passion. My daughter always knew she wanted to act, and experiences in life have given her a wider view of things; a different perspective that she can take into the characters she plays.  We all need experiences in life.  We need to break the routine, try out new things. Children will benefit if they are exposed to different situations.  Travel far and near, explore your city, visit museums, go to the theater, encourage visits to family members and conversations with them.  Teach your children to search for what they love, and once they find it to dedicate themselves to it with discipline and joy.

- Advice: As parents, why do we establish rules in our house? To guide our children, to protect them, and to teach them. Rules are not bad, but sometimes we present them in a negative way to our children.   More than a list of rules, children need advice and procedures so they can remember them later when situations arise.  Limits are required and they need to be respected and followed, guidelines are the foundation so later children can make their own decisions without needing someone looking over their shoulders. There is no need for a power struggle at home; it has to be very clear that the parent is the authority and the guidelines established need to be seen in a positive way so they will add to our children’s growth and development. Rules can always be broken, but advice will be remembered.  

- Unconditional love:  Telling our children that our love for them will not change no matter what is one of the best things we can do.  They need to hear this often so they see that we don’t base our love on their success, grades, accomplishments or anything they do.  Children need to know that they will be loved, even if they make mistakes. They want us to be proud of them, that is why they hide the negative things they have done. But if they feel that they can come to us no matter what, a lot of positive can come out of a negative situation.

Children grow up fast and the time that they are home with us, when we can influence them the most goes by quickly.  We need to take advantage of it.  We can’t shelter our children from life, they need to see it with us so when they go out on their own they will be able to face it without stress, knowing that they can make a positive impact in the world being who they are meant to be and loving every minute of it.

Manuelita@manuelitaotero

Loving Us More

manuelita otero

“Regardless of being wives and mothers we are still women”*

I wonder at what time so many women that I know stopped resting as they should and doing the things they love?  I have been thinking about this for the last two to three years, maybe because I am at that phase in my life in which most of my friends, beautiful and valuable women, are starting to change their priorities as they have decided to live with someone, get married, have children and start a family, which of course changes the rhythm of life.

As these changes were happening; I started receiving several invitations to bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers or birthday parties.  And every time one arrives I feel a great joy since lately it has become the only opportunity to get together to chat and laugh with the ones that a few months ago were like my shadow, my inseparable friends. 

At the parties, I'd see my friends rushing around, beautiful as always, happy and confident, but as I looked closer, however, I noticed they seemed exhausted from all the planning, as if they were regretting having the life they chose. This is a problem where the reality of the daily rush wins over the joy to be with the people they love.  

But what reality am I talking about? The one we tell ourselves in short texts while we are doing our errands, or the one we share through emails that seem therapeutic, or the one we discuss during lunches that took forever to plan.  The deep issues of our life that we share as we eat, work, look at a wedding dress or help our children with their homework.  And at the heart of it all stress seems to be in the middle of our lives due to excess work and fatigue.  We worry and we have anxiety because we feel there is never “enough time” for everything we want to do.  And maybe the things that stress us are not necessarily always big, but they steal our energy and sleep and in a way trouble our soul.   

When I notice all that fatigue I can’t help but ask, at what time did we allow so many things worry us?  Things like groceries that can wait or an errand that is not vital stress us to the point that we forget to do some of the things we really enjoy.  At what time did we allow the “normal” rush of having a new family invade us more than necessary?  Because if we are honest, it invades our time, our dreams, and even our essence. Of course it is not our family’s fault; it is up to us to choose how to use our time.   

It is not about ignoring all the beautiful things and the joy involved with having a new family, but it is not either about resigning to live tired because we want to pretend we can do it all, control it all, have the perfect family; even when we don’t realize that is what we are trying to do. 

Since we are the ones in charge of our time, we should make the decision to love ourselves by taking care of ourselves before we take care of others. This is the only way we can find balance.

This invitation is for us to understand how valuable we are and how we can love ourselves more during our day to day activities:  

1. Have a set day to put into practice a simple beauty tip.  

2. Plan to do something you love, at least once a month. Make it something that is just yours. 

3. If you feel tired and you have a partner, agree with him to have your own time.  Not just the opportunity to sleep a little longer in the morning or at night, but maybe some hours on Saturday or Sunday to read for a while, watch T.V., think without being rushed, or listen to music. Whatever you enjoy.  

4. Teach your children from a young age to respect your space (If they respect it, they will understand that you deserve it and some day they will remind you to take time for you and to enjoy your space)

5.  Think “Nothing will happen…” The world will not collapse if you stay a Saturday or Sunday at home resting without making a specific plan.  Nothing will happen if you say no to a family lunch because you are tired and want to be alone for a while.  Nothing will happen if you tell your partner that you need time just for you.  Nothing will happen if when buying groceries you buy first something you really want, even before you buy the goodies for your children, and if there is only money for yours… nothing will happen, at least nothing major that is worth worrying about.  

PD.  I dedicate this to my soul sisters, my friends of forever, the ones I know in good times and bad times. 

Ana

*Marcela Mar || Actriz colombiana || Revista Esquire edición No. 52 - Colombia, septiembre de 2014.