parenting tips from our "show mom"
Around here, Lisa Kridos Edgington is more than our Executive Producer, she’s also sort of the show’s de-facto mom. Even though Lisa’s not much older than many of us, she just seems...wiser. In this column, Lisa shares what she’s learned about parenting, and how some things, you just can’t learn from a so-called parenting expert. In this column from the July issue of Ricki magazine, Lisa addresses issues that arise with little kids. Don't miss her next article, a trip into the teen years, in the August edition, now available for download. -- Rebecca DiLiberto, Executive Editor, Ricki Magazine (@TeamRickiRD)
Lisa Kridos Edgington: I have worked in daytime television for more than 25 years. Recently, I watched an “expert” give parenting advice on a very popular morning show. This woman was going on and on about making sure to have a “date night” with your husband, how important it is to “be good to yourself,” suggesting viewers “take a bubble bath to get away from the kids..."
I almost had a meltdown. What was this woman talking about? Where have all these “experts” I’ve seen over the course of my TV career been getting their information? Have any of them actually raised kids? My reaction–or over-reaction–motivated me to jot down some parenting advice of my own.
First and foremost, let me say: I am NOT an expert. But my husband and I have raised two kids. They are polite. Both are in college. They write thank-you notes. Maybe we did something right?
Here’s what we learned over the course of the past 21 years. I thought I’d pass it on.
RULE #1: TALK TO YOUR KIDS
And I don’t mean “The Talk.” If you wait until they are teens, it’s too late. Talk to them--really talk to them--from the time they are little. If they have a question about sex–or anything that makes you uncomfortable– too bad! Answer it. They don’t need a lecture or a life lesson; just an age-appropriate answer.
While we were driving home from school one day during the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal, my relatively young son asked me if I knew what oral sex was. (He used the slang term he heard at school, but I won’t mention it here.)
I could have driven off the road, but instead I stayed calm and answered, “Yes, I do. Do you?” I first needed to understand what he had learned on the playground already, and go from there. He then proceeded to tell me EXACTLY what it was. With that he learned a simple thing: I can ask my mom something taboo, weird–even gross!–and she won’t freak out. She will answer me. Important lesson learned.
RULE #2: THEY NEED A MAN IN THEIR LIVES (AS A ROLE MODEL)
Whether it’s a father, stepfather, big brother, or neighbor, kids need to be exposed to some masculine presence. It took me a few years to accept this rule because it seemed so old-fashioned and sexist. Let’s face it, moms are nurturers: we want to protect our kids, pick them up when they fall down, not let them hurt or be uncomfortable... for even a second. This makes them feel safe and loved, but kids need balance--and that’s where a man comes in. There were times when I thought my husband was being so harsh and unreasonable with my son–getting in his face, even–that I had to leave the room. But now I realize that kids thrive on a balance of love and discipline. As parents, we are charged with preparing them to face hard lessons in life–and picking them up every time they fall doesn’t fulfill that responsibility. Oh and by the way, my kids are 20 and 21 now, and I still find it hard to back off!
RULE #3: IT’S OK TO LIE TO YOUR KIDS... IF YOU HAVE TO
During a month when we’d already made a gazillion trips to Toys ‘R Us, one day after school, my kids asked to go yet again. Instead of trying to teach them a lesson in moderation, I simply said, “We can’t go today. It’s closed for inventory.” That shut them right up, since they had no clue what “inventory” was. I told them that story not too long ago, and they both laughed.
When your kids ask–hopefully, years and years beyond their toy shopping days –”Did you ever do drugs?” say “no,” even if this isn’t the truth. Kids don’t have a sense of relative morality. They assume that if it was OK for you, it’s OK for them. Once they turn 18–21 if they’re late bloomers–tell them the truth, whatever it is. Explain that they simply weren’t mature enough to handle the truth the first time they asked. They may be mad at you for a minute, but they’ll get over it.
A few days ago, I had a long discussion with both my kids. We talked about “family secrets”–how much should kids know? Now that they’re in college, my kids understand that my little white lies helped to make things simple, rather than confusing, as they faced their own life changing decisions over the course of growing up.
Bottom line is, we all do the best we can and we can’t always be right. I’m here to say that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Enjoy this age because it really does go by “in a flash.”
P.S. Both my kids approved this article!