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How to not ruin your kid

The bad news, if you're clicking on this to hear about my magic solution for raising children, is that it doesn't exist. The good news is that they're nearly impossible to ruin. So why do we so frequently, as parents, fall prey to the dual ideas that at some moment (or several moments) we've done something awful that will throw off their growth and development? Or that if just ____ then everything will be ok? Now they'll never end up as a responsible adult!

Which isn't to say that parents are never to blame. My theme here today is that it's much more likely to be the little, daily, insignificant things piling up to bring your kids down or lift them up. Your kids are more likely to pick up your bad habit of tracking dirt into the house or seeing you wash your hands before meals. Not whether you breastfeed or formula feed. Not whether they get no screen time or a computer. Not whether you feed them organic lettuce or conventional. Public school or homeschooling. That french fry won't kill them...but everyday? Maybe. Often, the things we elevate to critical status and debate with controversy are nothing. And "nothings" are really the huge matters we need to think about more.

Culturally, we're still stuck back on that old idea that kids are innocent and pure and easily corrupted. Ask the parent of any 3 year old and they'll tell you they're already capable of lying and hitting and stealing right out of the box. Nature wins that one without you doing anything. More to the point, it's what you do with human nature as a parent over the course of time that determines the outcome. Whether or not you read to your kids isn't going to be the deciding factor in whether or not they turn criminal.

Can reading to your kids become part of a universe of relevant things that help your kids mature? Sure. But so is eating a balanced breakfast and learning how to change a tire.

My mantra lately has become "skills and tools." We worry so much about our kids being exposed to violent movies, pornography, germs, whether or not there's chemicals on the soccer field, in their vaccines, etc. that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Kids don't need protection. Kids don't need extra help.

All our children need is to be taught the skills and tools to succeed. The rest is irrelevant background noise. Everybody wants to complain about the downfall of our society, but really it's the inability of so many people to tell the difference between essential skills as a human being and the static.

I'm trying to tell myself that as we go to meet my son's preschool teacher tonight and then send him off into the Big World on Monday. Remember the difference between what is important to him becoming an independent, responsible person...and let go of the things that don't matter.

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