Georgie with her brother Norman.
By Georgie Bright Kunkel
How well I remember my birthday just before school started each year.
More likely than not my present was school shoes. In those days there weren’t any shoes in my size—long and narrow. So there I was clomping along with blisters on my heels until my oxfords softened up enough to be only mildly uncomfortable. You would never have thought that this skinny sniffly nosed kid, me, would end up without any life threatening illnesses. I rarely missed a day of school and in my stash of memorabilia is a pile of perfect attendance cards. My oldest brother bragged that he never missed a day of school all the way through college at WWU in Bellingham. One summer he and I attended school there at the same time. Since he was twenty-one years older than I, some of my friends at first thought he must be my father.
My own father was one of the first men ever to graduate there when it was called Bellingham Normal. He was a handsome fellow who must have been admired by a lot of young women at school since there was only one other man in his graduating class. But he always came back home to my mother who eventually bore ten children before he died just before I was born. I followed several of my siblings in graduating from this college before it became a university.
Preparing a child for school was an important task in our family. Since both our parents were teachers, believe me, we had to shape up. Since there aren’t many extended families living in the same space these days parents need some guidelines for preparing children to go out into the world. Here are just a few parenting hints I learned from experience.
Concentrate on praise rather than blame. Children need to realize the natural outcome of their behavior and be encouraged when they show cooperation. When parents are too busy to respond to a child’s requests, the child soon becomes too busy to comply with our requests.
Instead of issuing orders, try taking the child’s personal plans into consideration and admit being wrong. Say no when needed but use no sparingly. Be a model for children to follow by keeping promises faithfully and refrain from lying. When quarrels between children arise listen but do not expect to get the real story about what happened if you didn’t actually see what happened. Listen for feelings and offer empathy when children are angry.
Since our society does not operate like the Scandinavian countries in providing adequate support services to families it is up to families to seek out help within the extended family or in the community. No parent was meant to supervise children all alone. When our children were young we had friends we could call on to babysit. Many parent-teacher groups, social service agencies or churches establish caring committees that are available to assist parents and give an outside view when needed.
In our family of four children, our oldest son became the babysitter for his younger siblings. We never left home without leaving the phone number of the place we were going. And, of course, we needed to listen to everything that happened while we were gone but that is the name of the parenting game. Be there. Listen. And learn. Then when you are old enough to be a grandparent you can be an expert, right?
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-935-8663. Note: If you belong to a community group that wants to experience a live skit about Corporate Personhood you may contact me.