1. Save the yelling for the really important things you want to instill upon me. There is nothing us daughters and sons hate more than when you yell at us. This is because respect is a natural value of the human condition – so all people (young, old, of all colors and shapes and sizes) want to feel respected, even from ages so when we were too young to really know what respect is. Most of the time, the things you yell about are useless and selfish. Usually, when you yell, we feel more and more like a disappointment to you. We feel like we are the problem when you excessively raise your voice, instead of feeling like we caused a problem (which is always the case). My dad gave me what he called “kiss therapy” when I misbehaved (it worked. I hated that), and only yelled when he really needed to get something across. I lied to him for the first time and he lost his mind. I don’t lie anymore because he instilled upon me how important truth is – and that lying is really bad.
2. Just because I am your child does not mean I have to be just like you. In some ways, I am just like you. I’m a spittin’ image of you and I have some of the same values and beliefs as you. Although this may be the case, I might have different goals, challenges, and dreams. This doesn’t make me a problem child or a failure, so don’t call me that, not even as a joke. I look up to you and I admire you. I’ve learned a hell of a lot from you, and I can’t thank you enough – but this life is mine to live. I just want your support and love, unconditionally.
3. You have to allow me to make my own mistakes. Sure, you might not want to see me make the same mistakes you did.
Maybe you want me to have everything you never did, so you want me to avoid everything you’ve ever done. Listen, Mom and Dad… I find that virtuous of you, but the human mind needs to make mistakes to learn, and in turn, my mistakes are not necessarily failures.
So guide me but let me fall. Pick me back up, and show me how to do it for myself. You do not need to protect me from the world – that will only make me weaker. So let me live, and let me learn. Do your best to protect me from the really bad stuff – but know that I will make it out okay in the end. Just trust me a little on this one.
4. You will see me feel pain. It is important to let me feel it, and teach me some ways I can cope (which, by the way, might not be the ways you cope). You started smoking cigarettes to deal with pain, and we know lot of people who turn to alcohol or drugs, or other harmful outlets. But then, there are some people who turn to writing, meditating, working out, reading, pottery, crafts, singing, dancing… what have you. Y’know, more healthy stuff. Show me some of that “stuff” – introduce me to it. Teach me how to write or draw or sing. Get me involved in a sport, or invest in a camera for me, so I can learn photography. Give me methods of dealing with pain and stress (even as a young one, because things get hard when you’re young, too), but don’t shield me too much from the bad stuff. Teach me about it, so hopefully I know it’s always best to steer clear of that route. Know that I might not cope the way you do or find an interest in the hobbies you have. Know that that’s not a problem – I love you, I do – I just want to be my own self.
5. Push me hard, but in what I want to be pushed hard in. This goes hand in hand with numbers 2 and 4 – please stop trying to live vicariously through me. Just because you wanted to do something when you were young doesn’t mean I want to do it. Show me new things! Sign me up for interesting classes, sign me up for band, or a club, or anything – and let me feel it out.
If I really love doing something, please don’t let me quit when things get hard. But if I don’t love it, please don’t make me keep doing it. Teach me discipline in the things I like most – because otherwise, I might end up dreading discipline and looking at it as discomfort and only that, instead of seeing it for the wonderful tool it is in chasing my dreams.
6. Your role as a parent is to teach me, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from me. There is no rule that says once you’re a parent, you know all. The same way I was new to the world when you brought me into it, you are new to the world of parenting. I might be young (or maybe I’m not), but I have things to show you. I get excited and point things out. I know love the way you once did, but lost sight of. So please be patient and keep me from letting the world turn me bitter – by remaining sweet yourself, showing me the way in life and logic and education, but let me show you the way in love, because I can assure you that I love you more than anything in the world.