Parenting well is a lot like being a master gardener. I have learned a lot of parenting lessons tending to the perennials in my garden (and I’m not a master gardener.) Here are a few of them:
GET WEEDS OUT BY THEIR ROOTS
Whether you’re growing finicky roses, tender delphinium or indomitable hostas, weeds will try to snuff the life out of a healthy plant. All flowers are susceptible to being attacked by the nasty greens. The trick to preventing weeds from harming flowers is to dig beneath the weed’s roots to keep it from returning. Pulling off the top and leaving the roots behind (which I have been guilty of doing) allows them to rob the flower’s roots from vital nutrients. Then the plant will limp along, looking pretty enough on the surface for a while, but eventually, those remnant roots will get the best of the plant.
What weeds do your kids have working in their lives that threaten their emotional, intellectual or physical health? Some weeds might look pretty on the surface but make no mistake, if you don’t help your kids steer clear of them, they can eventually strangle the life out of them. Here are the ones that I frequently see erupting in kids’ lives: an unhealthy friendship, drugs, drinking, kids being sexually active, addiction to electronics and more. Weeds in your children’s lives come in all different forms – so when you identify what is threatening your child- attack it hard and fight for your kids. Yank those weeds up by their roots.
GOOD PRUNING IS DONE WHILE PLANTS ARE ALIVE
I love pruning my plants in the fall. Something about clearing dead branches and stems feels like I’m ridding my garden of toxins. But pruning during the summer when the blooms are full and the flowers look stunning really bothers me. Cutting back something thriving and lovely feels intuitively wrong. If you’re a gardener you know exactly what I mean. Lop those beautiful blossoms off at the right place, wait a few weeks – and voila! Bigger, stronger and more blossoms grow in the same spot that you macerated.
No parent likes to discipline a son or daughter. We want to be nice. We don’t want confrontation or arguments and wedon’t ever want to feel that our kids don’t like us. So we look at them, see a blossom or two and think, “Well, at least they’re not as bad as their friends”, and we leave them alone. Don’t ever excuse yourself from healthy pruning. It hurts, but that’s what good parents and gardeners do to get the best results in the future.
LEAVE FLOWERS ALONE TOO LONG AND THEY WILT – OR EVEN DIE
All flowers: delphinium, roses, hydrangeas, etc. need water, trimming and adequate attention every week. Ignoring them too long, you pay the price of cleaning up the mess in the garden and seeing thriving flowers die.
If there is one golden rule that I would prescribe to every parent, it is this: the more time you spend with your kids, the bigger the payoff for them (and you) in the future. Period. This is especially true if you have a troubled child. The answer to an angry teen’s issues isn’t less time with parents – but more time. Tough to hear, but it’s true. That’s how problems get solved.
We parents are blinded by the desire to do more, work more, and expand our interests beyond home life, and we get duped into believing that our kids are “just fine” if we spend little time with them. Never be duped by the seductions around you wooing you away from time with your kids. Studies show that the average parent spends 43 minutes per day with their child and that same child spends 7 hours per day in front of a screen. Computers, iPhones and all instruments with screens can act like fertilizer: a little is just fine but too much will kill the plant.
Keeping your attention focused on your family helps everyone grow. Guaranteed.
MEG MEEKER, MD
Dr. Meg is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens, and children’s health.
Like you, she has know the frustration of arguing with kids, struggling to discipline, and worrying about whether or not they’ll turn out to be great adults. So whatever you’re feeling today, She has been there.