Guidelines for raising children

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 24, 2016

t.j. ray 12cA redeeming value of free advice is its price.

The negative face of free advice is that it is easy to ignore. Accepting advice may depend upon the adviser. Someone who has taken his or her own advice may be more credible than the person who regrets not having followed it. The parent of an honor student may be listened to more closely than the sad parent whose offspring came afoul of the world.

That being said, allow me to offer some advice, which I’ll grandly label Guidelines for Raising Kids. They are in no particular ranking.

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Guideline 1: Teach your young one to say “Thank you” and “Yes, ma’am or sir” and “Please.” Basic courtesy is almost a lost practice. This courtesy ought to apply to everyone, including other young ones. Addressing a man as “Dude” is nearly the antithesis of this premise.

Guideline 2: Leave the television turned off one night each week. The deafening silence might well be filled with playing music or talking or game playing or reading or quietly sitting together.

Guideline 3: Leave the cellphone on a shelf when at home, perhaps allowing a 30-minute use of it. Thus the child may come to shift focus to the family for communication. The outside world will still be waiting in the morning.

Guideline 4: Spend at least two hours each week in a natural setting (park, lake, yard) with no electronic or digital devices. The closest many kids come to nature is lectures in school. One of their favorite TV series is probably not “National Geographic Explorer.”

Guideline 5: Have your child sit with the family at least one meal per day. Of course, this entails arranging schedules and errands so that all the family can actually be around a table at the same time.

Guideline 6: When the television is on, do not allow violence-filled shows to be the far.

It would probably be shocking to know the number of killings, shootings and explosions a young person witnesses in a day of TV watching and game playing. And it likely has an impact, a dulling of surprise or fear or anger. Remember the 12-year-old recently who shot a good friend because he just wanted to see what it felt like?

Guideline 7: Require that his or her room have a clean floor free of clutter whenever he or she leaves the house. I don’t care if a parent is willing to pick up a pigsty. I don’t care if the family can afford a housecleaner. The kid should learn to pick up after himself so that it becomes a habit.

Guideline 8: Find games that the whole family can enjoy, and play one at least an hour a week. And this doesn’t included digital maelstrom games.

Guideline 9: Find a Scout troop to get him or her in. Having children grow up learning laws about being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, clean and reverent won’t hurt them a bit. Who knows, it might take!

Guideline 10: The last one in this little catalogue will disturb some parents, many of whom spend hours each day shuttling kids from one activity to another. The rule is to not allow active involvement in more than one after-school activity: a sport, a musical group, skateboarding, etc. Check the grades of kids who focus on one activity versus the ones who are always into one involvement after another.

This probably isn’t the only list that could turn children into capable adults, but I can’t imagine an effective list that includes nothing but TV, video games and social media.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at Ole Miss, can be reached at