So I haven’t decided my exact feelings on the movie “Frozen”, which is apparently some form of child cocaine that my three boys are currently addicted to…. but constant learner that I am, I decided that there are some nuggets of golden parenting wisdom lodged in this funny, musical, over-dramatic, animation sensation that’s sweeping the nation. So – I’m sharing them… on the internet… cuz that’s original. Mostly, I am talking to me… not judging anyone. But my counselor and parent instincts are going crazy so here goes nothin’.
1) Parent with discernment, not in fear and paranoia.
(Frozen translation: Don’t lock your kid in her room, fire your servants, and tell her not to feel anything)
Yes, this is an obvious theme of the film, not living in fear, but moms especially need the reminder. There are plenty of terrifying things in this world of ours and I hate it. I hate that my little babies have to know about it. But as parents, our job is to give our kids the skills to see the world for what it is and courageously face it, and even work to make it better. Yes we must work to protect our kids, but not overprotect to the point that they don’t know how to cope with life. There’s the terrible possibility that they won’t always have us protecting them. You know… teach a kid to fish so that if you die in a shipwreck they know how to find dinner.
2) Don’t parentify your oldest kid.
(Frozen translation: Don’t make your oldest protect her sister by withholding truth)
This is also hard. Our oldest child is naturally more responsible and level headed than our #2 and he is very helpful… so it’s hard not to over-rely on him as almost a 3rd parent. Yes the oldest has responsibilities and sometimes privileges that the others may not, but we can’t sacrifice the childhood of your numero uno because it makes your life easier.
3) Always encourage siblings to be best buddies.
(Frozen translation: Teach your kids the response to “Do you want to build a snowman?” is always “Yes!”)
Our two oldest kids are very different, however, we are constantly working to get them to appreciate each other, and, come to think of it, brainwashing them to always think of one another as their best friend. This takes a lot of annoying, repetitive conversations with my kiddos trying to help them see each other’s perspective, a lot of “Say, ‘I’m sorry,'” and “Say, ‘I forgive you,'” and of course “Aren’t you so lucky to have such a fun brother to play with?”.
4) Know and celebrate each child’s awesomeness.
(Frozen translation: “Let it go!” ha.)
I know, another super obvious theme, but still a valid conversation piece. Kids are amazing and unique from the second they are conceived and you notice it from the first moment they put the tiny, wet squishy mess of them in your arms. Personality development occurs early and rapidly, and a good parent, or even 3rd party nurturer (it takes a village!), spots areas of strength, weakness, and just plain originality in kids, and works to nurture, correct, redirect, strengthen, reassure, build confidence in those things. There are things that I wouldn’t be as good at if my parents hadn’t noticed and encouraged me to pursue. Conversely, there are areas of my personality that are dark and nasty that I wouldn’t have grown out of or been directed away from without their intentional, personalized, guidance. I hope to do the same for my kids. Again, it takes time, attention, and many conversations.
5) Avoid unnecessary family secrets.
(Frozen translation: “Conceal it, don’t feel it” is a bad plan and too hard for a little girl.)
Kids obviously must learn that there are certain topics that aren’t safe to discuss just anywhere, and the family is a place of trust and knowing one another that is different than any other place. But teaching kids to keep unsavory secrets I think could set them up to be exploited by someone outside your family. If your family is facing something difficult that you want to keep private, then definitely talk to your kids about privacy, boundaries, and discretion… but the burden of family secret guarding sets kids up to be a cog in the gears of family dysfunction.
The lighter version of this is, don’t be embarrassed by your kids. If they are a little weird, or forget their manners in public, or you realize in public that you forgot to teach them about a particular social more`… don’t let it embarrass you. Children have to know they have the support of their parents, especially while they are learning how to navigate society, so be a big enough person not to feel embarrassed by them. News flash – people are going to judge you even if you manage to be the most perfect parent ever and your child is a saint… so don’t worry if people judge you when you find your kids falling short of perfection– no one hits that mark.
6) Teach your kids about love.
(Frozen translation: Teach them to know true love when it rescues them on the North Mountain.)
There’s a lot of sex ed out there, and a lot of shows about confusion in dating and relationships, but I don’t think there are quite enough good and thorough conversations between kids and parents about love. Lasting love is not about butterflies in your stomach, or sheer sensual attraction, or even having similar hobbies. Love is self-sacrificing. Love requires two people deciding to put one another’s needs and desires before their own. This is a beautiful thing and worth waiting to find, or even intentionally pursuing. Kids will learn to think about relationships and love by the observing their parents model adult relationships, and by the conversations you have about them. Obviously not everyone has the opportunity to parent from a two-person relationship, but even single parents or caretakers can teach kids to value themselves and value others. Love is so much bigger than temporary happiness. Urge your kiddos to take delight in patience, caring, and self-sacrifice.
The long and short of it: know, listen to, and talk to your kids…. always, about everything. There are days of course where you need a parenting break, which sometimes looks like them watching Frozen 5 times in a week…. but more than anything, I encourage all the parents out there just to be physically, emotionally, and mentally present with your kids at least for a little while each day, or whenever you are able to be with them. They need you, and in a way you don’t realize, you need them. 🙂