Friday, March 25, 2011

10 Tips From Parents Of ... Nineteen?

When you raise a child, you learn every day.  When you raise 19, you learn a lot - every day.  Like 'em or not, agree with them or not, the Duggar Family have 19 pretty well adjusted, well spoken, well behaved, and well adjusted children - even in the opinion of top experts.  Here are 10 lessons that all parents can learn from this surprisingly normal, and exceptionally large clan:
The Duggars Know Best: Parenting Lessons From America's Biggest TV Family

Lesson 1: Ask for Help When You Need It
Michelle likes to tell the story of when she “only” had seven kids, and the laundry pile was more than she could handle. She was exhausted from staying up until two in the morning trying to get the situation under control, and finally, in desperation, mentioned the challenge and her need to a friend. To her surprise, the friend admitted to actually enjoying laundry, and offered to come over to help Michelle catch up. Sometimes it feels silly to be overwhelmed by things like laundry or dinner prep but those frustrations are real and can add up and can make parenthood a dark place to be at times.
Lesson 2: Budget.
Let's be honest here: if you've been through adoption, budget is a big deal. Michelle Duggar is big on heading to the consignment store and buying used - and there's certainly no shortage of hand me downs in their home.  "It took us 7 years to get debt free," said Michelle, whose take on budgeting is "buy used and save the difference." (In fact, I think they refer to it as their family motto!)
Lesson 3: Dole out the chores.
With all the kids helping out, chores can be an easy routine. The kids are responsible for a specific area of the home (Michelle calls it a “jurisdiction”) and receive age-appropriate responsibilities. Even the youngest members of the family can do things like pick up toys or wipe off a table, and everyone earns prizes or monetary rewards for doing their part. Older kids who go above and beyond their assigned chores can earn extra money. Michelle says one of the best parts of their chore system is watching the older kids help out the younger kids and seeing the younger ones yearn for the same responsibility the older ones have earned. Now believe me, I've heard the arguments that the Duggar children work "too much" and are "raising each other", so take the part of the advice that works for you - literally.  Children do need to learn the value of work - and team work within a family - so find the way that is healthiest within your home.
Lesson 4: Teach the importance of volunteering.

The Duggars homeschool, so the kids get a lot of knowledge through family experiences, whether they're helping remodel a house for a needy family or traveling to Central America to volunteer in orphanages. Michelle and Jim Bob make it a priority to give them opportunities to serve and learn and give back to the community -- and they've got well-rounded, world-citizen kids as a result.

Lesson 5: Make your marriage a priority.
Raising kids can be a strain on any marriage. And I believe adoption is a little extra strain at times. To keep their relationship in check, Michelle and Bob make regular weekly dates a top priority. Maintaining a strong relationship makes them better able to be great parents.
Lesson 6: Discipline with loads of patience.
Somehow the Duggars make all that discipline business look easy. They keep their cool when the kids act up and speak in soft, gentle voices. Michelle's philosophy is “to praise our children ten times more than we correct them.”  And I do think the speak softly philosophy is a great tool and great example.
Lesson 7: Let them think they chose dinner.
It’s hard to please 19 palettes, but the Duggars make everyone happy by serving their meals buffet-style so picky eaters can survey the options and enjoy the meal too. And of course, they eat all three meals together, at the same (absolutely enormous) table.  And once again....take a look at the studies that show the many benefits of family dinner time.
Lesson 8: Always make time for family.
Michelle's top priority as a stay-at-home mom isn't to get all the laundry done or have a steaming hot dinner on the table when her husband comes home from work -- instead it's to build strong relationships with each and every child by playing with them, talking through hardships with them and guiding them through life. 
Lesson 9:  Help kids maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Vegging out on the couch with a Wii or Playstation? Not the Duggar kids. Michelle and Jim Bob promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage their kids to exercise with them. Just recently, the kids took swimming lessons, and one of their favorite ways to spend time together is at their local rec center playing broomball. Even Michelle -- stay-at-home mom to a million kids -- manages to get up before the kids do to spend a dedicated hour with her elliptical machine.
Lesson 10: Celebrate birthdays.*  (*and I would add to that "Gotcha Days"-the day your child joined your family- "Finalization Celebration", "Match Date" - the day you were matched with birthmom, etc.   Any day your family celebrates specific to adoption!)
Planning birthday parties for 19 kids can get old fast, but whether their kids are turning 8 or 18, the Duggars always celebrate their children’s birthdays. Year after year, it’s one of the many ways Michelle and Jim Bob show their kids how much they love them. In addition to cake, there have been bounce houses and costume parties and once, for daughter Joy-Anna, a train ride. There's no such thing as birthday burnout at the Duggar house.

Now...do I agree with everything the Duggars do? No.  But are there things about them that I respect, and things I have learned from them - for good or bad? Absolutely. 
As parents, no matter how we arrived here, we can all learn from each other.  So take what you like, or what you can tweak to fit into your life, and apply it if you so desire. 
Adaopted from an article by Emilee Cassee

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