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On Being a Parent: A First Lady’s Parenting Tip

On Being a Parent: A First Lady’s Parenting Tip

My husband and I pulled up at a local restaurant, where there’s no shortage of tacos, salads and sombreros for birthday gatherings. It was my sister’s husband’s birthday. We thought it would be a foursome, but neighbors, a couple with four children, wanted to celebrate this kind man as well. We listened as they shared family stories and life experiences. It was quite a celebration, with photos of the birthday guy wearing his big, colorful hat. 

As we got acquainted, it was easy to see these children were well-taught at home. They presented politeness and good table manners, speaking only when spoken to, sitting quietly as we adults interacted. What a picture of good parenting! 

Many of us have been glued to our television the last few weeks, as we‘ve watched the workings of our government and transition of a new president. Our encounter with young parents reminded me of a statement made by our once first lady, Barbara Bush, and reported in the Washington Post a few years back: 

“Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.” 

Profound words, indeed. 

If I could go back to my parenting days, there are changes I would make. There would be more options instead of demands. 

“Eat your veggies” would become, “Which do you prefer, peas or carrots?” 

To our teen, instead of “How many times do I have to tell you to take the trash out?” it would be, “Take the trash out tonight or in the morning, whichever works for you!” 

By changing the way things are said, kids get to make decisions, which gives a sense of power and helps them feel good about themselves. Of course, not following through with their decisions would mean consequences, which would not be the parent’s fault, but would help the child to understand choices are important. 

I would have read more books to our children. There would have been more family meetings. Not for lectures, but for planning what the family would do on long weekends or holidays 

I would have stuffed more funny notes inside my sons’ school books and drawn more smiley faces on their bathroom mirror in the morning. 

Knowing now how much my sons enjoy the outdoors, I would have planned more woodsy outings. Instead of taking them for swimming lessons, I would have learned to swim, too! That would have caused lots of laughing! 

I would have spent less time keeping a tidy house with everything in its place, and I’d have listened more to their heart thoughts and life problems. 

We would have had a lot more sleepovers instead of my sons having staying at friends’ homes. I’d have had lots of guy foods and would have let them stay up all night if they wished. Our home would have had a reputation for being the greatest place to stay overnight, even with house rules. 

Most of all, we would have laughed more. 

Bottom line for parents: When the worst thing happening is your teenager’s bad mood or the house is a mess and you have company coming for dinner, remember it will pass … just as your parenting years will soon pass. Smile a lot, laugh a lot, and remember you are the main character in the biggest part you will ever play: role modeling. Your smiles and show of strength will be a sweet memory in years to come. 

Barbara Bush had it right. What happens inside the home really matters, even to society. 


“If parenthood came with a GPS, it would mostly just say: RECALCULATING.” 

— Simon Holland, writer


By Antje Hill 

About The Author

Antje Hill

Antje Hill spends time between Mississippi and Michigan and loves writing and speaking at various events.

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