GAIL JOAN COHEN
A parent’s practical manual
for guiding children from
infancy to responsible adults
and enjoying the process
This little book is dedicated to my wonderful and very patient husband, Gary, who listened to my ideas, probably over and over again and gave me honest feedback. To our magnificent children; Jay, David, Robert and Andrew, who, in spite of my mistakes, grew into special adults anyway. To their wonderful wives, Sharon, Maria and Loretta, who accept me the way I am and love me anyway and always make me feel welcome. To our amazing grandchildren; Joshua, Ana, Eliana, Carina, Chava, Rebecca, Jamie and Hannah, individual people with ideas, feelings and personalities all their own. And, to all of my friends and coaches from Oxyfresh who taught me that being who I really am is okay and gave me the courage to finally write this book.
When I was pregnant with my first child, Jay, I read many books on raising children. I thought this made me an expert and I then knew all about children and how they behaved. When Jay was born he did not follow the books, so I believed the books were wrong and concluded, “So, this is what children are really like.” After all, I now had a child and so I knew everything! Then David was born. He was different than Jay. How could that be? By the time Bobby and Andrew came along, I began to realize that all children are different and I did not know very much. Later, as the children began to teach me, and I experienced more of life, I realized how little we really know about raising children. This is such an important task, and most of us are not prepared or trained to be effective parents.
After raising four sons, the next generation blessed us, as of this writing, with Joshua, Ana, Eliana, Carina, Chava, Rebecca, Jamie and Hannah. Now we had four wonderful children and eight amazing grandchildren. Twelve children and they are all different, brilliant, talented and challenged in different areas.
So if children are all different, how do we raise them with one set of rules? What is our purpose and what are we trying to achieve? How do we enjoy, guide, love and assist these precious children to grow into happy and productive adults? I believe our goal is to raise and guide all children to become who they really are, with their own unique gifts and challenges. We want to help our children to adjust, contribute to society and become responsible adults. We want to guide them be happy and love the journey along the way.
Let’s not focus on child behavior, the usual standard for today. Instead, I will focus on the lessons I believe we want our children to learn and the life skills they will need to know as adults. We will not talk about how to get children simply to obey. Perhaps we no longer want blind obedience for our children. After all, we do not want them to follow strangers or do everything their friends tell them to do. We do, however, want them to learn about rules and to either live by them or learn the proper procedures to change them. We want them to learn how to make decisions, have confidence in themselves and others and learn to listen to what other people are really saying. We want to instill values and develop leadership abilities. We want our children to learn to care for their minds and their bodies, to care for the earth, to help others when appropriate and to live in peace.
Do you ever stop and think about what your kids will be like when they “grow up”? When you talk to them (or yell at them) are you conscious of what impact what you are saying will have on them? Are you raising your children to be “perfect” so that friends and relatives will think they are “perfect” and that you are great “perfect” parents? Are you raising them to “obey” and be “good” or are you raising them to be special, confident and loving adults? This is a big question and perhaps the most important point of this book. Should our focus be on raising children to “behave” or helping children to discover their own true core values and abilities and how best to live within who they really are and how to support them to develop the skills necessary to meet life's challenges and to be happy adults? I believe the latter is the more important focus. We need to guide our children to learn the necessary skills and values we all need to be productive members of our society.
This is a little book but with a lot of my thoughts. You may want to read a chapter and make whatever changes seem appropriate for your family before going on to the next chapter. Or, you may read the entire book and then go back to each chapter and implement the changes. Change does not come easily or naturally for any of us, so we must be very patient with ourselves and very patient with our children. It takes time and planned repetition to affect change. At first a change will seem awkward and unnatural. Each time it is repeated it will become easier and easier. Eventually, the change will become part of you. That will be who you are. Do not give up. Becoming who you were meant to be and developing children who will be happy and contribute to society will take time. Make the commitment. If you’ve decided to read this book you are on your way. I commend you and I believe in you.
Raising children is not simple. It is an incredible challenge! However, it can be the most important job of your life and it can be fun. So relax, read on and keep in mind that we do not have to be perfect. And, by the way, kids don’t have to be perfect either.
Since the English language does not have a word that combines “he” and “she”, I have taken the liberty to use them interchangeably. Rather than use “he/she”, I have at times used one or the other. Please know that each also includes the other.
Read, love and enjoy the journey that we call life