Saturday, August 24, 2013

Raising Children with Character

Our kids live amazing lives. Just looking at this 3-year review is proof that they are lucky kids to dress cool and have cool hair and live in a cool city.

More than that, they have already had amazing experiences. The kids go to world class museums every few weeks. They live in a world class city that they have explored on foot, car, and public transit. They attend a great school that is as diverse in its teaching as it is culturally, socio-economically and ethnically. They have experienced eating foods from around the world.

The kids have family in Tulsa where they experienced mid-America to the fullest with cousins their age, doting grandparents, horses, 4-wheelers, boats, fishing, etc. and family in Canada where they experienced older cousins that treat them like a niece or nephew, swimming, hot tubs, church with Granny and Pappa, Trinidadian food and culture.

While we know our children are beautiful on the outside, it is the inside we are most concerned about. We want our kids to be beautiful on the inside. To have strong character. To make choices based upon a strong moral and ethical standard instilled in them.

They are adopted. We want them to have a strong sense of self and family belonging. They have been told: "You are a Widney and Widneys tell the truth (don't steal, work hard, don't litter, etc.) They have open adoptions with their birth families. Knowing where they came from and their people of origin is important in self-awareness. As is knowing their birth moms loved them SO much they chose us to be their parents.

We are Christians. We strive to be honest with our kids about what it means to be a Christian. That when we say all people are equal, we mean all people and not just a chosen few. When we say love your neighbor we mean their Muslim and Hindu friends, the gay couples that are like aunts and uncles to our kids, and understanding that the beggar on the street could be any one of us.

We teach our kids about sex when they are developmentally ready. First, we let them see us kissing and hugging. The best thing we can do for our children is to love each other and let the kids see that love modeled in a healthy, daily setting. We want to be our children's experts so we don't shy away from their questions and we answer them honestly and directly.

We have trained our children to be polite and respectful from the time they could wave "Bye Bye." And blow kisses. As toddlers they were taught to look someone in the eye when shaking hands. Shyness and hiding behind our legs upon meeting a stranger was not acceptable. And we used big words like "inappropriate" and "unacceptable" and "incredible" with them from babies because kids are not dumb and can process tone and manner as part of language.

Somewhere in there we strive to let our children be who they are. One is a conservative and the other is a free spirit. They have individual interests and we try to foster those interests and be supportive of them.

We set rules and boundaries and give rewards, accolades and encouragement. They are disciplined in an age appropriate manner because tapping a toddler's hand when touching the outlet works the equivalent of taking away electronics usage works from a 10-yr old. They have set activities they need to do every day to make life run smoothly for themselves and our family unit.

We spend time together. Eat dinner together. Ask about each other's day, the "Top 3," and "How could you have made someone's life better or easier today?" We go everywhere together. Scare each other whenever possible and have special memory building activities like Pizza Monday and Family Friday.

All this and yet still we know that one day, our kids will talk to their therapist about how we messed up their lives and childhoods. Sigh. Still, we trudge on in our effort to raise children of character with lots of character.

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