"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths,
but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
Last month our garden was featured as one of the stops on the local garden tour. Because of my busy schedule I hadn't regularly weeded around the marigolds in the bed surrounding the fountain. The little nitrogen rich weed invaders had not only taken over but had woven themselves within the marigolds. As I attempted to pull them out, their massive growth uprooted the flowers. I spent hours trying to untangle the roots with no success. The dirt there is rich and loose so I gave up and pulled all fifty little marigolds out of the ground and laid them to the side. With the flora protected, I was able to quickly and easily hoe out all the weeds. Then I replanted each marigold.
Without the distraction and life robbing weeds the marigolds went on to thrive. Although they were pretty for the garden tour, today-unencumbered, they are thick, full and beautiful.
Raising children can be like growing marigolds. The tender plants can be easily over-whelmed by negative circumstances. Hands-on parenting requires us to daily watch for the destructive influencers and pull them away until our children's roots are strong enough to withstand on their own. As much as I'd love to be able to pluck them out of every disabling situation (sometimes it's necessary) and rip the uglies away from them, it is impossible to yank every intruder. It's essential we guard them when they're young, but as they mature, they are better equipped by us inspiring them to be strong and well-rooted.
Along the way, and more in hind-sight, I've learned some tricks that help to inspire sturdy growth:
• Say no only when there are no more options.
• Listen more than talk.
• Talk with them not at them.
• Make adventures often and out of nothing--those are the things they'll remember.
• As often as possible ask their opinions and do it their way.
• Pay them for discovering something new: a new word from the dictionary, a science fact, or setting goals just beyond their reach rather than for chores they should be doing because they are part of a family.
• Be intimately involved and familiar with their education--know what they know, their strengths and weaknesses, and be certain they're challenged and advocated for.
• Say to them often: You can be anything you want to be; it just depends on how hard you are willing to work at it.
• That's a great or interesting idea, let me think about it and get back to you.
• Respond rather than react.
• Praise them often (even if today it's just for breathing well!)
• Find 100 ways to say I love you, but ALWAYS also say I LOVE YOU!
• Remind them they are family and family goes through the good, the bad and the ugly together. Bring the problem home and use the strength of many to solve it.
• Play together.
• Share your mistakes with them and the process you learned to make it right.
• Don't take yourself so seriously: laugh often together.
Although there are times we'll wish we could just pluck them out of difficult situations, we need to remember another lesson my garden taught me--Wild growth is only showy growth; fruit only bears out on the branches that are challenged or cut back. Protect them but better yet, equip them to fight the tests of character growth.