Now that our kids are grown we look back and think of what we wish we had known before raising them. It's not that we made huge mistakes, but we see in retrospect some things that took center stage when they should not have even been on the stage. Perhaps our looking back can help young parents avoid these mistakes.

What we wish we had known and done better:

1. Look for the good in each child and be less focused on his failings

A pat on the back with a sincere, "Good job, son," can mean the world to a child. We wish we would have done more of this. It's good to realize that a bad grade isn't a tragedy. They don't have to learn everything in the first 16 years of their lives. Of course, doing well in school matters, but expecting perfection is unrealistic. They do have a lifetime to learn. Enjoy the early years more without so much academic pressure to achieve. We know that academics matter, but that's not all that matters. Putting this into proper perspective will create happier, more successful children.

2. Spend more time reading to and with your child

Not only does this help him grow up enjoying reading, but it gives you a chance to expose him to literature you love and you to books he loves. This is a fun way to help him achieve at a higher level without feeling pushed or prodded. Curling up with your child and a good book is soothing and comforting for both parent and child.

3. Worry less about trivial things,

such as clean bedrooms, coats on the floor, mud on the carpet and spilled milk. Of course, there are times to teach cleanliness, but when it become our overriding goal to have everything absolutely neat and clean, it can be oppressive to a child. It can help if you make a game of cleaning up a mess or even laughing about spilled milk as you help your child clean it up. We just wish we would have lightened up a bit more.

4. Have more fun with your children

We recently read an article about how important 15 minutes of a mother's time was to a child. Writer Nicholeen Peck told of a time when she was lonely with no one to play with, and how her busy mother poked her head in her room and asked if she could come in and play dolls with her. She said, "Then for fifteen glorious minutes we imagined together and talked together. She sat down on the floor beside me and we dressed the dolls and had child-like conversation. At that moment, my mother was my friend and teacher. I was connected to her in a way I will always remember. I could feel her love. I could feel her wanting to bond with me. I could feel her enjoying that time with me too." That's how important 15 minutes of play time with you can be to a child.

5. Help your children discover their talents

Kids don't always want to take lessons, or sometimes they do want to but when they get started they don't want to practice. The key board player for the country group Diamond Rio, Dan Truman, told us the thing that really helped him develop the talent he earns his living at now. His mother saw his musical talent, but when he wanted to quit she said he had to keep taking lessons until he was fourteen. She said he could stop then if he still wanted to. Then she proceeded to take him to concerts where he saw talented key board players and pianists in action. He was inspired by them to the point that when he turned fourteen he didn't want to quit.

We found another way to help our grandkids learn to play the piano. We held out a carrot: if they could play 3 songs from our church hymn book, without a flaw, by the time they turned fourteen, we would give them $100. Two have reached that goal so far and others are busy practicing. Bribery works when it produces a good outcome. Whatever your child's talents may be, help him enjoy and develop them and do it in a fun way. We wish we'd done a better job at that with our kids. Thank goodness for second chances with grandkids.

In conclusion, we simply urge you to take the time to enjoy your children. We're always being reminded of how short life is and that we need to make the most of it. That's especially true with raising children. They grow up fast, so make the time you have with them a joyful time. It will help them and your grandchildren have a more fulfilling and happy life.

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