The Cambrian

How to raise caring kids: 9 tips for parents and grandparents

Dianne Brooke
Dianne Brooke

I seem to recall watching a conversation on television with one of my heartthrobs, rocker Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and what it was like to be a father. He said something to the effect that folks had told him how much fuller his life would be when he had children. While he didn’t deny that, he also stated that now he was scared to death about what kind of world he was bringing them into! I think many of us have had that conversation with ourselves. I did and still do as a new Gramma.

Before our little bundle of joy arrived in May, I had the chance to have “the baby talk” with my daughter-in-law. You know, what are you most excited about, do you have any concerns, what are your thoughts about the actual birthing experience? A really good conversation. When my son came from Portland for his dad’s birthday, pre-baby, I had the same talk.

“I’m not worried at all about the birth,” he chuckled, realizing he wouldn’t be the one trying to push a bowling ball through a keyhole. But, seriously, he has his EMT certification, was a Boy Scout and is just all around very level-headed.

“It isn’t the physical aspect I’m worried about. It’s just more like, am I going to be able to raise a good person?” I nearly wept, for his concern as much for the total lack of doubt in my heart in his abilities to do just that.

I assured him that with enough love, respect and laughter, he will have done the best he could and I am pretty sure little Arlo will be fine.

The rest of the world, however, is another story. With love and respect along with truth, justice, empathy and caring seeming to be on the endangered species list, there is much work to be done to provide a healthy world in which our wee ones can grow. (Oh, that’s right, the Endangered Species Act is also endangered!)

With summer here, whether you are a parent or perhaps a grandparent looking forward to the grandkids spending some time with you, how are you going to help our latest generation be the best they can be? Here are some thoughts on that:

Demonstrate the qualities you want to see. Be compassionate, empathetic and caring toward the child as well as all others around you!

Listen to them and teach them to listen to others. We all have our own stories that affect how we act and interact; help them understand that.

Don’t put feelings in their mouths, but help guide them to understand what they are feeling and then ask questions about it.

Have reasonable expectations for them, such as how to behave around others, doing chores (without special rewards for doing what they should be doing anyway) and being an all-around responsible person within their means. Also set reasonable boundaries and keep them.

Help them understand that all feelings are OK but some ways of dealing with or expressing them are not helpful and won'e make them feel better (like hitting or badmouthing someone).

NEVER call names, even if it’s to someone on television or in the newspaper. No matter how young the child, they hear and remember these things and this is a common form or disrespect. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but calling names does nothing to diffuse a situation or event.

Spend time with them outside. From an energy perspective, it is essential to proper bodily and emotional function to be in nature. It also is a good opportunity to expand their knowledge of the natural world thereby encouraging them to maintain a healthy planet.

Perform service for others with them. Stepping outside their own needs helps build empathy and compassion and encourages healthy social interactions with others. Teach them that by giving, they receive the best benefit of feeling good about themselves. “We all do better when we all do better,” Paul Wellstone said.

Practice gratitude daily, not just for the home run they hit but how they made someone smile by being nice or helping, how beautiful the trees are, how soft that new puppy is, how good that hot chocolate treat is, how comfortable it is to be snuggled in Gramma’s arms all safe and cozy. The more little things you find to be grateful for, the more likely you are to realize what a blessing each day is and it becomes less overwhelming when the universe might be closing in on you.

I look forward to my little grandson coming to spend time here or going up to Portland to do the same. I practiced these things with my kids, and they turned out OK.

If it’s been a while since you had young ones around or you’re new to the game, consider these things. When you have your own plan, you will help give them the tools they need to cope! Happy summer!

Here are some great articles I found on raising good kids: