Children: Are They Worth It?
Have you ever found yourself wondering, Is this really what I signed up for when I decided to have children? Have you ever thought after a long day, Is this as good as parenting gets? If so, I quit! Being a parent is hard work. It's difficult to have someone need you 24/7. And to make it worse, most kids are still in the process of learning that their needs are not the only ones on the planet. Children can be demanding, frustrating and exhausting. But they can also be a tremendous source of positive change in our lives. They inspire us to be better people. And though it may seem at times that children are nothing but a nuisance, there are a few very good reasons to have them around.
Children keep you on your best behavior. As your child grows, you begin looking at your bad habits from another perspective — your child's. You realize that you don't want him to behave badly or irresponsibly, so you begin to clean up your own act to set a good example. It's much easier to make positive decisions about your lifestyle when you know someone you love is watching. (An added benefit: the same holds true for your children, too. They're more likely to make good lifestyle choices if they're close to their parents.)
Children keep you from thinking that YOUR needs are the only ones on the planet. Though most of us learned as children that we should "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," we don't always live by the golden rule. Helping our children learn and grow can help us practice it in a whole new way. They don't just need a kind word or a helping hand every now and then; they need our support with nearly every aspect of their lives. Meeting the needs of our children and being sensitive to their feelings can help us become the kind of adults we really want to be — caring, compassionate and unselfish. Since my children were born, I know I've become a better person; I'm more helpful and hospitable to friends, more loving and appreciative toward family members and more gracious to strangers. Even the slowest counter attendant at McDonald's gets a pleasant "thank you" from me now, because I know my children will notice if it's missing.
Children keep you in touch with your sense of humor. My first grade son waited anxiously for my husband to come home last week. When he saw his dad, the first words out of his mouth were, "Daddy, do you want some punch?" His dad saw the joke coming and, after a punch in the arm, my husband and my son had a good laugh together. A silly prank like that may not tickle your funny bone, but you can learn a lot about laughter from your child, who is probably an expert in the subject. The average adult laughs about 17 times a day, while children giggle more often — nearer to 30 times daily. Kids know how to make everything fun, from cleaning their rooms to taking a bath. They benefit from all those guffaws, too; laughing boosts your immune system, reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure and may even make pain less noticeable. Studies show that we laugh most often with those we are close to, and who better to get the giggles with than your child?
Children keep you honest. Before kids, most of us were pretty good liars. Maybe we didn't necessarily tell the big, bad kind of lies that were intended to hurt others, but many of us were experts at the little white ones we thought would do someone else good. Truth be told, you're better off sticking with the straight story; it's easier to explain your feelings than it is to get yourself out of the trap when you're caught telling a fib. So when your 5-year-old tells your mom that you really can't stand her famous stuffing and that you've always eaten it just to keep her from bugging you about it, don't be angry. Instead recognize that it would have saved you some heartache, and years of stuffing down the dreaded stuffing, if you had just told your mom the truth in the first place.
Children can also help you to set your financial priorities straight. Many adult lives revolved around money and materialism before their children arrived. With only your own needs to meet, why not spend the money on the things you want to make your life comfortable? But children arrive with a high price tag, starting with the diapers and reaching a peak with college tuition. You begin to teach them the value of money and how to develop good dollar sense. As you model wise spending for your children, you begin to re-evaluate what's really important to you. Spending your paycheck on a new flat-screen TV may seem less important than saving the money and spending time with your child at the zoo.
Possibly, the most important thing your child can teach you is a lesson in love. Nearly all children are devoted to their parents. A child strives for his mom's approval, measures his self-esteem by his dad's pride and longs to hear "I love you!" at the end of the day. When you make mistakes, your child forgives you, not because he knows you're human, but because he loves you. And when you feel frustrated or depressed about other things in your life, your child's love will help to cheer you up again. That kind of unwavering love can give parents a sense that even though things may get tough, all is right with the world.
Our love for them can teach us valuable lessons as well. From the moment they're born, we adore them in a way we never imagined. We discover a whole new dimension of love. We sacrifice ourselves for their well-being. We put their needs first because we care so much. And even though we sometimes feel like we're giving up everything, it's hard to imagine what life would be like without the little life that's so much a part of ours.
So even when you hear choruses of "Are we there yet?" from the back seat or your child forgets his lunch box for the third time this week, keep in mind that he may require a great deal of patience and work, but he's well worth it.
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When Not To Discipline
Parents should recognize when they should and shouldn't discipline their children.
When You Feel Like Calling in the SWAT Team
Are your children constantly testing you? This classic parenting advice will help you regain the upper hand.
Questions and Answers
After I spank my child, she usually wants to hug me and make up, but I continue to be cool to her for a few hours. Do you think that is right?
We'd like to be more unified in our approach, but how do we successfully move from two financial approaches to one?
How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being punished? Is there a limit?
I have never spanked my 3-year-old because I am afraid it will teach her to hit others and be a violent person. Do you think I am wrong?
It just seems barbaric to cause pain to a defenseless child. Is it healthy to spank him or her?
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Other Things to Consider
Ten Things Toddlers Wish They Could Tell You
It can do wonders for the frazzled parent to know what's going on in the mind of your little one.
Transitions: Having a Baby, Preparing for Adolescence
Life Pressures: Working Moms, Stay-At-Home Moms, Time for Family
Relationships: Parents and Adult Children, Blended Families