Last month I was asked to present to a room full of executives on advice that has been valuable in my life and could be of value to others. Considering the room was almost entirely full of men, I chose to speak on a slightly unconventional topic that I thought pertinent given the timing of our youngest son’s graduation from USC’s Master’s program just a few days prior.
By way of background, I won the lottery when it comes to our children. My husband, Jason, and I have three adult children ages 26, 24, and 22, and all three are absolutely stellar people and role models. I wish I could take credit for them being as amazing as they are, but there is a lot more that comes into play than just nature and nurture. The fact that they are all impeccable adults is something that, in the end, they deserve all the credit for achieving. People ask me all the time, “What did you do to raise such amazing children – and not just one, but all three?” There is no easy answer to this, but as I presented to the room that day, I tried to sum up nearly 27 years of parenting in to 12 simple, albeit powerful, tips.
Treat your children like adults. We have always been transparent with our children, sharing with them perhaps more than others would think is savvy, and looking to them for their wise counsel. Even at a young age, we talked to them about everything – from business to money to serious problems people face like addiction – so they learned how the world works and knew we had no secrets. We never hid anything from our children, even when others thought we should shelter them from challenges or tough times.
Invest in your home. Neither my husband nor I lived in one house as we grew up, and we really wanted that for our children. My husband’s family was foreclosed on numerous times in his childhood, and my family moved so often that I went to 11 different schools in 11 years. Having a house that our children could grow up in and call their home base was important to us, so we stretched to buy our dream property where we’ve lived for almost 19 years. Now as empty nesters, we are swimming in extra space, but we’d have a mutiny on our hands if we tried to sell the family home.
Travel. Traveling with our family is the single best financial investment we made in raising our children. From driving a 40-foot motorhome all over the western U.S. over two summers, to taking three young children to Europe, lugging suitcases on trains and traveling to 11 countries in nine days, our family’s love of travel started at a young age. To this day, it is one of the things we still do as a family that binds us together, but the adventures have only gotten even more fun over the years. Together we’ve visited more than 60 countries. Nothing beats time away with your family experiencing something new together.
Have an unlimited budget for books – and really anything else learning related. The wonderful thing about this is there are countless free resources online, including thousands of free books on Amazon. We never said no to our children when it came to spending money on anything related to education, and for that, our children have been voracious readers and always had a deep love of learning.
Focus on what matters most and don’t do everything. For us, two things matter: family and our company. As a new parent, we initially wanted to get involved in everything – from coaching soccer to being room mom, volunteering and going to charity events. Then we realized that all of those things we were doing “for” our children was actually taking us away “from” our children. So we scaled back and focused on being present with our children and participating in things that were with them, not just for them.
Trust your gut. No one knows your children better than you do. My advice is to not take other people’s word for something. If it feels off to you – whether it’s a doctor, teacher, or coach – it probably is. Your gut instinct is made up of millions of decisions your brain is processing, and it is almost always right, but ultimately you must be in tune with it in order to be able to listen to your gut.
Say no – even when it’s not popular. Over the years, there were some unpopular decisions we made that other parents frowned upon, but we knew we had to do what was right for our children. There were limo rides to formals that we passed on and sleepovers that we missed because we didn’t trust everyone else to do what was right. It didn’t always feel good to make those decisions, but in hindsight, those decisions were spot on.
Have dinner together every night (that you can) as a family. Even with adult children, this is still a priority for us whenever we are in the same city as our children, who now live in Los Angeles and San Diego. No one in our family likes to miss family dinners, even if it means a late drive home from one city to another.
I believe that as parents, if you give everything you have to your children and make them the center of your universe, they will naturally want to do everything they can to make you proud in return.
Parents, take time to nurture your own relationship. This is something we certainly could have done better when our children were young, but the reality is if you don’t keep your parent relationship happy, then the lives of your children might be negatively impacted. Do everything you can to not let that happen. If life gets too busy, cut other things out, but always take care of each other, so you can take care of your children.
Make your children your whole world and they will in turn make you theirs. I believe that as parents, if you give everything you have to your children and make them the center of your universe, they will naturally want to do everything they can to make you proud in return. If I had to pick one of these lessons as the single most important one, this is it.
Be your child’s best friend. Growing up is hard. There is peer pressure, bullying, cliques, awkward stages in life, and people can be really mean – certainly other children, but even teachers and coaches. What children need the most is someone they can count on to be nice to them 100% of the time. To be their rock and their best friend.
Stay on track and constantly course correct, so you never veer too far from the straight and narrow path. Teach your children to do the same. Life isn’t always a perfectly laid out plan that you stay on target one hundred percent of the time. Just like a ship navigating the seas, chart your path and stick as close to that line as possible, course correcting constantly, and never lose sight of the path you chose, so you ultimately arrive right where you were aiming.
No doubt many of these ideas are ones that you might already do, or are familiar with, while others may look new and inviting. Try a few out for yourself and see how they work. I would love to hear what you think!