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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm Not A Tiger Mom, But I Firmly Believe In Teaching My Kids To PRRRR

There's a wonderful old saying: "Looking after kids is like trying to herd cats."

As a cat owner and parent, I cannot help but agree.

Raising kids is an adventure. It's enriching and amazing and rewarding and a thousand other empowering adjectives. It's also frequently exhausting, occasionally irritating, and overwhelmingly under-appreciated. We all know that. What we all don't seem to know is the "right" way to do it.

We've got free-range Moms and feminist Moms and conservative Moms and Tiger Moms and lesbian Moms and Dads who are Moms. We've got single Moms, married Moms, divorced Moms and other people who've taken on the role when someone else didn't step up to the plate. And all of us, every single one of us, is worried that we're not doing it right.

I decided shortly after my kids were born that I was going to find out what really mattered in my life. I wanted to focus on what was shaping my choices and priorities, and those of the people around me. I also decided that above all, I wanted my kids to be people to be admired. I studied the lives of those that I considered to be terrific role models, famous or non-famous, and found a lot of similar qualities in all of them. These are the life skills and behaviors I have focused on when raising my children.

It's not exactly a Tiger Mom philosophy - it's more like a cat thing, really.

And no, I don't expect my children to relieve themselves in a box in the corner, destroy my draperies and ignore anyone who doesn't carry food.  I mean, I use a cat word to help me remember the key things I want my kids to embody.

The word is prrrr. P-R-R-R-R. That's a P and four "R's" if you're not in the mood to count. And here's how that acronym goes to work.

P is for perseverance. Looks only get you so far. Smarts are going to fail you if you don't put them to work. Luck is a great thing, but a rare thing. Perseverance will carry you through to the end.

R is for resilience. Put everything in perspective, and keep on moving. No matter how large the catastrophe, it is in the now, and how long it hangs around to color your world is partly up to you. I like to tell my daughter "Someday, this will only be a paragraph in a chapter of the book about your fabulously interesting life." Deal with what you have to deal with as best you can, but know that you will get through it.

R is for responsibility. Own your choices, good and bad. Make amends when you need to. Fix what's wrong if you can or ask how you can assist someone else to fix it. Think ahead to the consequences that your course of action might result in - not just for you, but for everyone involved. And while you're out there owning your own life, take a moment to shoulder some responsibility for someone who needs help. We're all in this together, after all. Be sure to give a hand up to those who are truly in need.

R is for respect. Respect not just the rights of others, but their viewpoints and opinions as well. To respect someone doesn't mean you wholeheartedly agree with what they agree with. It simply means that they have as much right to believe what they believe as you have. You also need to respect yourself enough to not let anyone push you around or treat you with disrespect. Be firm, but diplomatic when you need to be, and don't be a doormat for anyone who's determined to walk all over you.

R is for resourcefulness. When you're in a difficult situation, what are your options? You should be able to think of a few at any given time. Cultivate relationships with others and learn, learn, learn everything you can. Be endlessly curious about everything and everyone. You never know when an obscure, remembered bit of information or a long-standing friendship can be the key to a door that gets you out, or through, or into another world entirely.

There are many other things I teach my kids on a daily basis, but a lot of the big stuff falls under those categories. And of course, I try to follow the PRRRR rules myself so the kids can see them in action. It's made my life a lot more focused, and me a lot more true to who I am and what I should expect of myself.

As a parent, I may not be doing everything "right". Most days, though, we're prrrring right along.

What qualities do you think are most important to instill in your kids - and why?

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