To all of you adults out there no matter what stage you may be at, this letter of little powerful reminders is addressed to you written by a teen (me, 17 years old) for you and based on every single experience I have ever had with you.
First of all, parents of teens or real grown adults: Take a moment, breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and out for 8. You've done it. You've conquered the baby, defied the toddler, outwitted the child, outlasted the teen, and are left with us, the children of this world. It's quite an achievement.
Or, maybe you are just beginning this journey and are nervously excited: even better. Or maybe you aren't a parent.
Here's the thing. You were all children once, but as you grow older, this part of you can be dimmed by circumstance, lack of awareness, and a truckload of stress. It's my hope that this letter will, in some small way, help you reignite your inner child, give you a perspective that your children will struggle to express to you, and take you on a joyful trip down memory lane.
Please enjoy and share the love with someone who could use it.
1. Stop worrying.
You love to worry. It's part of your nature. It fulfills some desire within you. It helps you cope. But stop! For your own good and ours.
2. Love us when we say we don't want it.
We always do. It's just a short-term thing us children go through every once in a while.
3. Embarrass us.
We secretly love it when you do this, even though we also kind of hate it. It shows us that you care for us beyond what anyone else's opinion matters. It means a lot. Do it lots. Plus, it's fun and will definitely end up as some good stories to tell and laugh at.
4. Give us freedom.
We know that you mean well and are only trying to help, but sometimes your getting involved honestly, truly, and completely does not help. We've got to work out this life business ourselves and if we have a problem, let us try and solve it. You will know when it gets to a point when you should intervene; it's in your genes; it's part of you. Let our mistakes be ours, so we can own them and learn what we need to.
5. Sing in the car to us.
It always makes our day when an old song we would sing together pops up on our phone and cuts through the noise of our everyday lives. Also, it makes for much more entertaining car journeys, and here's a little secret...even us kids get bored of I Spy in the end. Mix it up. Put on Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, or some old gold...but no jazz...please!
6. Read and tell us stories.
We will remember them forever. I remember the time I was lying in bed and protesting how I didn't have a TV in my room because I'd been to my spoiled brat friend's house and he had a TV. Anyway, I was lying in bed making some 5-year-old argument, when Dad told me a story about how the only TV that really matters is up here (pointing to his head) and that you can make anything you want up there and it will be real for you. It's a good story; I tell it often. He doesn't know I still tell it, but I do. So, tell us stories.
7. Tell us about your struggles.
There is nothing worse for a child than knowing something is wrong but not knowing exactly what it is and so feeling completely and utterly helpless. It is a recurring theme throughout childhood. Let us into your world. Share your work with us, tell us what family issues there are, speak your truth, and we will surprise you with our wisdom and compassion. Kids can be much more intuitive and wise than you give us credit for.
8. Tell us about your past.
We yearn for knowledge. Crave it. Especially when it is about our own parents. We want to know more about you than any other human. We want to be able to help in any small way, so tell us your story, tell us what your childhood was like. Tell us the funny things you got up to, the shenanigans in the woods, the tree houses, the parties, the drunken nights. We love this sort of stuff. It allows us to connect to you on a whole new level so that it is not just a one-way system.
9. Don't brag about us to other parents.
Period. We know you think we are God's gift to the world, but let us shine our own light, for our sakes and yours.
10. Teach us vulnerability.
Sometimes it's really, bloody hard to talk to your parents about certain things (and no, I'm not talking about sex here—but you should definitely make that an open subject!). So show us how it's done. Be vulnerable with us, in an empowering way. We don't want wet and fragile parents, but by opening up to us in a raw and honest way, it makes it so much easier when we need to do it.
11. Show, don't tell.
As with the above, don't try and tell us to do things that we don't even understand and are afraid of doing. Show us how it's done, and we will mimic you. It's what we do best, it's how we've learned almost everything up to this point. Show us how to be bold, courageous, and vulnerable, and we will follow. Also, telling us to do things, though it is often necessary, is not an effective way to negotiate with us stubborn kids. Make us want to do things and it will be so, so much easier. And there is always a time and a place for a telling off; you are our parents, quite often it's your job to make us do the stuff we don't want to do—we will always be grateful for it after.
12. Teach us to love books.
The No. 1 thing that we love is a good story. Show us the magic that books hold. Introduce us to the world of literature. Read us funny poems. We will remember them! Also, you have no idea how greatly this will serve us later on—a love of books is timeless and invaluable.
13. Make us wait.
Don't give us what we want. Most of the time we don't even know why we want it. Put your foot down and make us wait. Usually, give it two weeks and we will forget we ever wanted something, but if we still want it at this point, then make us work for it. There is no such thing as something for nothing—teach us this as early as possible.
14. Be our parents, not our friends.
We love our parents. We cherish our friends. Big difference. Don't try to be our friends. We might like it for a while, but in the long run, it will only cause issues and ruin what is the most special relationship on this earth. Parents are not friends, never have been and never will be, so don't think you're different. Stick to what you are and what you know.
15. Teach us to love nature.
Take us on walks. Take us camping. Take us tree climbing. Let us fall out of the trees. Let us make a fire. Teach us to love animals. The best trips I have ever been on as a family and on my own have all involved nature in some part. The earlier you can show this to us, the better.
16. Make us get muddy.
Don't let us be clean and tidy the whole time—even if we are that sort of child. Make us get out of our comfort zone and get very, very muddy. Eventually, we all give in...mud is healthy.
17. Show us that we always have a choice.
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my parents is that I always have a choice as to how I show up in any given situation and how I react to anything that happens. Show us, through your actions, this eternal truth. It will serve us and you for all the time to come.
18. Make us have an opinion.
I know this one sounds counterintuitive given that all children can be pretty darn opinionated (not in our minds!). But it is a very valuable thing to have in this day and age. Too many people don't have opinions or beliefs because they were never shown what is it to stand for something other than yourself. Give us the opportunity to stand for something by debating with us, having proper conversations, and letting us make up our own mind. No big—you can change your beliefs at any time, so don't feel guilt for it.
19. Teach us self-confidence.
Being a child can be seriously daunting at times. Girls, guys, public speaking, schools, playgrounds, parties, play dates, summer schools. The list of scary experiences is endless. So teach us self-confidence, it's an art that can be learned, not a gift. Give us an example to follow, show us what to do when we are scared (take a deep breath and do it anyway), and build our confidence. We will thank you for it one day.
20. Cook Brussels sprouts.
I love salad. Nearly all of my friends don't; they laugh at me for it, but really I'm the one laughing. Thanks to my parents, salad is just another part of life—Brussels sprouts...what's the big deal? Make it a game, make it fun, and we will turn to the green side in the end. I am grateful for this every day and know it will pay dividends in the long run.
21. Go on a run.
I got introduced to the joy of running by my Dad. I hated it at first. Now I love it. I had to hate it to grow to love it. So take us on runs, walks, jogs, swims, surfs, kayaks, skates, hops, skips, and all the like. Teaching us a love of exercise while we're young is a skill we will keep coming back to.
22. Don't spoil us.
It's tempting...you love us so much that you just want to fulfill our every wish and need. Don't. It does more harm than good. Even though we will definitely not say so at the time.
23. Let us be bored.
My Mom always used to say that "A bored person is a boring person." I know she's right. Sometimes it's absolutely fantastic to leave us to be bored. Some of the games my brother and I came up with during these times became all-time favorites. Wizard games, soldier games, Lego structures, paintings, drawings, writings... Let us be bored and you will teach us creativity. It's invaluable.
24. Teach us how to write a letter.
It's a must. They are pieces we will treasure forever and ways for us to make history as children.
25. Keep a treasure box.
My mom was religious when it came to our treasure boxes. She put anything and everything of sentimental value in there. There's a difference between mindless hoarding and treasure boxes. Treasure boxes are time machines, and every once in a while when we go back through them, they reignite the past and can turn around any bad times.
26. Make us earn money.
I wanted a toy. I was told to earn the money. I would mow the lawn, and to this day it is a form of meditation that I adore. Also, it teaches us the value of work and time and money. Pretty useful when it comes to being an adult...or so I've heard.
27. Take photos.
They, too, are time machines and will immortalize the people who pass through our lives and the experiences we have. Think long-term and take photos.
28. Play board games.
Except for monopoly at Christmas, that is just asking for trouble.
29. Show us good TV and films.
These films will become our all-time favorites and will transport us to our childhoods when we are older. Also, they will act as guiding lights in our darker moments. All GOOD films and TV shows have a message worth sharing.
30. Play us good music.
We all have that one song that comes on when we are mindlessly shuffling through our playlists, which takes us back a decade to a road trip, a holiday, a beach day, a rainy day, happy days, miserable days. These moments are priceless.
31. Sit around the table for supper.
Although we love supper in front of the TV and it can actually be quite a healing experience, the number of funny conversations and memories that will be formed in our childish brains from the dinner table will astonish you.
32. Let us have PJ days.
When the holidays start and if we are knackered, give us a break. Have a dedicated pajama day and you will avoid the inevitable overtired tantrum that would have occurred the day before school starts.
33. Teach us to question.
Inspire within us an insatiable curiosity in the workings of the world and its people. It really is easy to do. Just ask us questions and make us think. And do your best to answer our questions, even when there are ten thousand million of them.
34. Make us make our beds.
My parents taught me this: "How you do anything is how you do everything." It is undeniably true. So start by making us make our beds. It sounds simple and insignificant, but therein lies its beauty. This small daily win first thing in the morning makes a difference. It still does today as a 17-year-old.
35. Teach us to write.
It doesn't matter what, but let us write from a young age. A diary. A letter. A journal. A blog. Who knows and who cares. Self-expression is hard and ever harder to be authentic while doing it, so if you can help us start young, it will change our lives.
36. Don't be a fake dreamer.
There is nothing worse than that moment of realization when you grow up and find out that a truth your parents had told you when you were younger is actually A LIE! Don't lie to us. It will only cause both of us hurt in the end. While we're at it, let us dream for ourselves and don't try to impart your own dreams and desires and regrets on us so that you can relive what you've lost. You will be so much happier, in the end, to know that we did what we did for ourselves rather than for you. For if it is the former, we will all be left feeling empty and crushed when we reach a goal that turned out not be our own.
37. Say no.
It's something we need to get used to hearing.
38. Say yes more than you say no.
Manipulate the noes into yeses. It inspires a feeling of possibility in us and allows us to see the opportunity in any given situation. In time, we will turn the noes we hear from others into our own yeses. Everything will be an opportunity and we will not be victims of our situations. It plants the seed for a growth-oriented mindset—when failures are not feared but rather accepted and learned from.
39. Share good quotes with us.
The ones that resonate with us we will keep forever and call upon in times of need. Here's a list of the quotes I've compiled.
40. Forgive us.
Simple though it may sound, grudges are poisonous, inflammatory and no matter how badly we've screwed up, we never want to hurt you in the long run, though it may sometimes seem that way. Forgive, don't forget; learn and move on. Make us learn, let us learn, and let us move on and forgive ourselves. We find it hard to do too.
So there you go. The guide to parenting written by children. Well...really it was written by a 17-year-old guy, but on behalf of all the children out there.
The fact is, we are all children. We just often forget this. Especially the older ones among us. So, I hope this article uncovered the inner child within you and brought you back to your roots. For you parents out there, I promise that everything I have said in this article was true for me, and mostly true for all the other children out there; we are all very similar in reality.
We will struggle at times, you will have conflicting emotions, beliefs and thoughts, but you will prevail. Parents always do, but in their own unique ways. Love us and we will love you. Teach us and we will teach you. Forgive us and we will forgive you. Look after us and one day when the time comes, we will look after you.