First, you have to acquire some children of your own. You may adopt, foster, or give birth to your babies. Make sure they are yours. Having one more child than you think you can comfortably handle will be the thing that absolutely demands the best you can give. At times, it will demand MORE than you can give, which in turn increases your abilities. Sometimes it takes awhile for the abilities to increase. Ask me how I know. 🙂
Believe in what you are doing. This includes discipline, nutrition, healthcare, social development, education, religion, exercise, and love. It’s really awesome when you can be consistent about these things, but there is also value in being open to learning new ideas and implementing them judiciously. I recommend that if you want to change the type of bread your children are eating, that you NOT angrily throw out all the Wonder bread and then present them with seriously firm whole wheat bread at dinner, homemade or not. 🙂
Do what you believe in. This requires you to make more effort than you want to, go places, put the mittens and coats and snow pants and boots on all the little hands and legs and feet, drive to places you haven’t been, notice what is around you and teach your children “in the way.” Every minute is an opportunity to teach your children, but you must be intentional about this. I remember once we went to a local greenhouse to draw a picture of a bird of paradise plant. Just for that reason.
When my 4 big kids were little, I didn’t even own a cellphone, let alone stare at it for minutes/hours at a time. I have one little kid left, and he knows all about mommy’s phone and how much she likes to use it.
Delight in your children. Celebrate their joys. See the world through their eyes, and share their excitement about the small things. One of my favorite memories is of shucking corn with one of my children on our back porch. Apparently, he was just putting some facts together in his mind, because as we pulled the shucks off, he said in a reverent yet excited voice, “Mommy, I wonder what is inside here!”
Keep some tangible records of your experiences. Make memories together doing things, and take pictures of what you do. Make some of your records old-fashioned things like notebooks with handwritten memories in them, Again, no cell phones back in the day, so while it is very easy now to take photos of every single moment of our lives, it is important to be intentional about how we preserve memories for our children. I managed to attend a popular scrapbooking home party one time, but never managed more than a couple of scrapbook pages. I’m actually glad about that, as I have come to understand the value of having less “stuff.”
Apologize and ask for forgiveness. No parent ever does it all right. Think of the most perfect parent you know, and then realize that their children are still going to have issues to work through as they grow and develop. That is just the way life is. Asking for forgiveness is one of the most important relational skills I know about. Saying the words, “Will you forgive me?” is POWERFUL. Granting forgiveness to someone who is asking genuinely is POWERFUL.
Learn about natural consequences and let your children experience them. In my opinion, this is MUCH, much harder to do these days. We are all basically on record for everything we say and do. So, this one may need some thoughtful consideration of how to implement it in our digital world. But, trust me; when you fail to do this; when you fail to let your children fail in a safe way, you are not doing them any favors.
Have a good primary relationship, ideally with the father of the children. I know, I know, kids are growing up just “fine” coming from divorced homes. But there is something brilliant about modeling a relationship for children; a relationship that includes mistakes, forgiveness, joy, laughter, tears, anger, and figuring out how to deal with irreconcilable differences (because every single relationship has them). I realize that there are situations where divorce is necessary. I’m just saying that whatever the relationship status is of the parents, make it a good one.
Stay current with trends, language, media, and habits of the generation of your children. It keeps you young, for one thing. For another thing, it can be easier to communicate with a child when you understand what a “meme” is, or when you know what kind of clothes most of the kids are wearing, or when you stay somewhat abreast of slang!
Believe that you are a kick-ass mother. My first baby was born in 1993, and from 1993 to about 2006, I felt I was doing a great job as a mother. From 2006 to about 2013, I felt more and more like a failure, partly because I had unrealistic expectations about what the word “teenager” means. See, I had only my own teenage experience which was alarmingly bereft of rebellion and acting out. Turns out, not many go that route.
What would you add to this list?