Well…ah…(clearing my throat)…this blog isn’t exactly written by Ashley. Yes…I totally stretched my title. Ashley is my daughter-in-law and I am taking the liberty of compiling a list of parenting tips based on the things I have observed as I have watched her train up her kids for the past 5 1/2 years. Here – let me introduce you before we get started.
Ashley is married to my oldest son Steven. Their oldest daughter is Payton – 5 1/2 yrs, Cooper – just over 4 years, and Finley is presently 8 months.
Last night we had the three kids for a sleepover as we often do and I was thinking about what a great mom Ashley is. Because of the way she raises those kids it makes it a pure pleasure to have them for long periods of time. What a gift that is to me.
I was thinking how Ashley is doing so many things right…and then I was thinking about it so much I finally decided it was blog worthy. I think it’s safe to brag since I didn’t raise her and this has nothing to do with me. Don’t you? (Well…except for the fact that I raised the boy who married her and I must say that I do think they make a pretty great team.)
Ashley will be embarrassed by this and she would openly admit to you that there all kinds of times when she finds parenting to be difficult. She is a normal young mom who sometimes struggles with the chaos, the fights between siblings, lack of sleep, and daily disasters…and often times she yearns for a little more time for herself. There are even a few moments when she wonders if she is doing it very well at all.
So, I am first going to say this – Ashley Eastman, you are doing a fabulous job and I am so grateful you are raising my grandbabies. And now I am going to share some parenting tips from Ashley – via me. I am hoping that some of you might take a tip or two and incorporate it into your own family life.
#1 – She encourages her kids to embrace new experiences.
This is what first got me going on this blog. The other day I took Payton to tennis and she quickly discovered that it was a new bunch of kids who also looked older and also realized she would be using the full-size net for the first time. In about two minutes the tears welled up.
I called Ashley because I had no clue what to do and this is exactly what she said to me, “Payton gets nervous for new things and needs to learn to tackle them. Can you get her to go?” Of course I can. Payton pulled it together and did fabulous. The bigger kids were sweet and she had a wonderful time. (In my unbiased opinion she was the best one in the class – !)
Payton left tennis that day with a bright smile and got a whiff of that tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Rather than reinforcing her tears and her fears, Ashley reinforced to her daughter that she is a very capable little girl.
#2 – She lets her kids answer their own questions.
As soon as the kids were able to talk, whenever an adult would ask them a question – Ashley sat quiet and let the kids answer. She never jumped in to help them out. Payton and Cooper are very comfortable conversing with adults in an appropriate manner and I believe it stemmed from her allowing them to speak for themselves.
I have noticed that when adults start talking baby talk to Payton and Coop, the kids look at the adults with a puzzled look on their faces. They have viewed themselves as older kids pretty much since they were able to walk.
#3 – She taught her kids that they are not always the center of attention.
When we are together with our entire adult family, Payton, Cooper, and Finley get a ton of attention because…well… we just can’t resist them. At the same time, they blend in nicely. The adults are still able to carry on adult conversations and Payton and Cooper enjoy it like they are just one of the gang.
The kids learned early on that if they refused to listen or had bad behavior, their adorable little family would quietly and quickly pack it up and head for home. And I am telling you…those kids learned fast. They are an absolute delight to be around.
#4 – She lets her kids do what they can do for themselves.
OK – I must admit that when the kids were little this one almost killed me. As soon as they were physically able, Ashley let them buckle their own car seats and dress themselves. This caused me to want to bang my head against the wall, because when 2 year olds are doing these sort of things it takes about four times longer than it would if I just did it myself.
But here’s the deal. Very shortly after that… it was so much easier. When little kids brush their teeth, get dressed, put their jammies in the laundry, put on their shoes, zip their jackets and buckle themselves in…life is pretty good for a Nana.
#5 – She disciplines.
Those kids don’t get to run all over her and they don’t get to talk sassy. Oh, how they try…. I can’t tell you the hilarious stories I have heard when they have reported how mom disciplined them and they even admit what they did to earn it. Once they have been disciplined they rarely re-enact the same dirty deed again.
Payton and Coop still have their share of squabbles -please don’t get me wrong. But they know drill…they definitely know the drill…
When kids are disciplined, they learn to discipline themselves and they grow in strength and character.
#6 – She doesn’t let the kids make a habit of sleeping in her bed.
I know there is a lot of thought out there that little ones should sleep with their mama for an extended period of time in order to properly bond. I can tell you for a fact that you do not need to worry about that – not even one little bit. Each of my sons were born premature and wound up in the hospital for two months…and they were also too weak to nurse. You can’t believe how many people told me how sad it was that I would not be able to bond with my boys. I was scared to death.
Well, let me tell you this. They were wrong. Once those baby boys got home they bonded with both me and their dad and we still have strong bonds today.
When it comes to your bedmates – it is much more important to protect the bond of your marriage. If you asked almost any man – and if he was truly honest – he would most likely tell you that he much prefers to sleep alone with his wife.
It is crucial that you don’t lose sight of being a couple once you become parents. It is my observation that in most cases, the kids who were raised by parents who valued their marriage usually grew up to value their own marriage in the same way. The most important thing to kids…in the whole wide world…is that their parents love each other. It gives them confidence and makes them feel secure. So…cuddle up.
When Ashley is faced with a frightened child in the night and a potential third bedmate, she snuggles them until they are settled down and finally get sleepy. Then she gently escorts them to their room and tells them that everything is just fine. And they learned to trust that it was.
#7 – She encourages one-on-one time in different combinations.
Ashely makes dates for mom/son, mom/daughter, dad/son, and dad/daughter. Fabulous idea. It’s very important for the child to develop emotional connections with each parent.
#8 – She delights in her kids.
Ashley is a really fun mom. She has a wicked sense of humor and very often those kids make her laugh so hard she can’t even talk. She may not look like it, but she is a tomboy through and through. She can throw a baseball and shoot a basketball in the hoop …and she does all of those things with the kids.
She makes cookies, puts together legos and little play sets, plays board games, card games, and tic tac toe, puts together puzzles, and gets the kids outside even on many winter days. She tries do something fun and different on most weekends. I am pretty sure she would rather hang with those kids than go to coffee with a friend.
There is no doubt that her family is the most important thing in the world to her and I believe her kids know that they are her first priority.
#9 –She fiercely protects her marriage.
Ashley has a regularly scheduled babysitter who comes in the middle of the work week just so that she and my son can get out and stay connected. Another fabulous idea. When a couple is busy raising a family it’s very easy to just pass in the night without any real conversation. As often as possible they go out on Friday or Saturday , a few times a year they get away alone for 3-5 days. I’m telling you…after almost 10 years she is still crazy about my son.
Parents are better parents when they get some time to themselves.
#10 – She never directs me as to how I should take care of her kids.
While this isn’t really a parenting tip – it’s something I really appreciate about Ashley. She doesn’t tell me what they should or shouldn’t eat – what they should or shouldn’t do – how to do it – or even when. I always ask her how she would like things done but most often she leaves it in my hands.
The kids will tell me things like, “Mom doesn’t let us watch Spongebob” or “I’m trying not to eat much sugar because it’s not good for me” – but Ashley lets us figure it out. I guess she figures since I raised the man who she thinks is pretty wonderful, that I must know what I’m doing. It makes it really easy to say yes whenever they ask for help.
#11 – She trains the kids up in the Lord. Ashley makes faith a part of their daily lives. There isn’t a time that I drive in their car when they don’t have kids’ Christian songs blaring and the kids sing along with the words. They talk about Jesus easily as though He was a member of their family. Coop recently told Ashley that Jesus and God live in the same apartment…??!?!??
She asks for prayer whenever there is a need.
Ashley loves big and she loves well. She cries when she sees old baby pictures and her kids haven’t even reached first grade. She loves those kids enough to help them to be the best they can be. She desires that they would become everything that God created them to be and she understands that she has a strong role in shaping their very lives.
My daughter is due with her first child in 3 weeks and my other daughter-in-law is due with her first 3 months after that. Both of them have made the comment that they have taken mental notes as they have watched the way that Ashley has parented. I think her parenting tips are very, very good. And I think I am going to be a very, very, busy Nana…
Parenting takes being intentional, consistent, firm, loving …and a whole lot of prayer.