Parenting Advice from Missy Robertson
Interview by Dena Ross Higgins
Missy Robertson talks about how she and husband Jase encourage their three children, celebrate family traditions, and the surprising lesson she's learned as a parent.
How do you encourage your children?
Each of our three children, Reed, 18, Cole, 15, and Mia, 10, have very different personalities and they are each accomplished in a variety of things. Reed is a great athlete and succeeds in practically every sport he attempts. He also has a great musical ability and a beautiful singing voice. His gift of drawing and art has won him several awards at school and on the internet. You'd think that a kid like this wouldn't need much encouragement, but he seems to need it more than our other two kids. Personality has much to do with a need for encouragement.
Cole, on the other hand, is a more laid-back child and has never asked for much attention. He likes his comfort zones and has found one in baseball, where he has become quite the successful pitcher. He's also picked up the piano, guitar and ukulele quite easily. He does very well in school and makes straight A's, including honors classes. Mia is also very musical, takes piano, loves to sing and does well at school.
It's easy to encourage your children when it comes to their accomplishments. It's not so easy but is far more important to encourage them when it comes to their failures or challenges. Since we spend many summer days and nights at the baseball fields, when Mia became old enough to join a softball league, she told us she really wanted to play. So Jase got her out in the yard and practiced with her for a few days. It didn't take him long to realize that softball was not her sport. She is very tiny for her age, and we were both concerned that she would get killed on the field. However, he did notice that she was a very fast runner, so we introduced her to soccer where she succeeded quickly and was on two consecutive championship teams.
Encouragement and praise are two different things. It is important for kids to know that they are not great at everything they do. If they find they are good at something or have a special gift, we encourage them to work really hard at it and give it their best efforts. God gave us each certain gifts and abilities that he expects us to use for him. Telling kids they are great at everything they do gives them a false sense of security. Then when they enter the real world and have to accomplish things on their own, it will be very difficult for them to grasp the fact that they aren't as talented in that field as they were lead to believe.
Little league baseball teams are full of these kids...and their parents. Jase and I try to encourage our kids to find their talents. We tell them to try everything they want to try but to know that they aren't going to be the best at every one of them. We tell them to understand that other people may be better than they are and to be supportive of them. Trying to dominate every field only leads to prideful and selfish behavior. The world does not revolve around our kids, and I hope they never think otherwise.
How important are hobbies and extra circular activities in your family?
Being a part of our kids' lives is extremely important to both Jase and me. I was never a big fan of football or baseball until my boys started playing. We've made it clear that we won't be filming for Duck Dynasty on Friday nights during the fall months because we will be at Reed's football games. The boys' baseball schedule is a little more extensive, but at least one of us tries to be there at everyone that we can. There is nowhere I would rather be than sitting in those stands cheering for my son and his teammates. Mia takes piano and gymnastics but has always been her brothers' biggest fan. During football and baseball games, she is usually flipping on the grass with her friends but will stop to cheer for them when either is up to bat, pitching or catching a pass. In return, the boys will endure her piano recital.
We all love to sing and play the piano, guitar or ukulele, so we spend a lot of time at home messing around with new tunes, working on something for our next performance, or just being silly. Music is a big part of our lives, and we love praising God together at church on Sundays. I have sung on our praise team for about 22 years, and Reed has been joining me lately. Singing with my family makes me happy happy happy!
Jase likes to play golf and has most of our marriage. Now that the boys are older, he has been taking them along. I love to hear the same stories from three different perspectives about how they all played. It's funny how they differ greatly from each other!
Do you struggle with getting your children to do chores? How do you get them to listen and participate?
My kids have never had weekly chores. They are responsible for keeping their area clean (their room and bathroom), keeping living areas cleared of their things, and expected to have a good attitude when asked to help me or Jase in the yard, kitchen, or with a special project. We have had weekly Bible groups in our house since before they were born, so it's all hands on deck when that night arrives. It's not always easy to motivate kids to help around the house. However, Jase and I have never been ones to reward or pay our kids for household chores. Everyone lives here, so everyone participates in keeping it clean and livable. When I tell my kids to take care of something around the house, they are expected to do it. If they "forget," they are responsible for the original duty plus an added one. (There are always weeds that need pulling or trash cans that need scrubbing.) Because of this, they don't "forget" very often.
Do your children have any bad habits that you're trying to help them break? How do you help them?
Our kids have a tough time with time management. Since they are all involved in extra-curricular activities and all have lots of friends, their social lives seem to take precedence over more important things, like school work. It's hard when you're a kid, but it's also hard when you're an adult. If you don't learn how to keep priorities in line at a young age, it will be much more difficult when you're grown.
When the boys were in elementary school, I would let them play from the time they got home from school until supper time. After supper, it was time for homework. Sometimes this lasted up until bed time, and sometimes there would be time left for a family card game, board game, or a television show. Many times they would beg for more play time after supper, but Jase and I knew that if we let them skip homework once, it could quickly become a bad habit. Jase and I don't micro-manage the boys' schoolwork now like we still do with Mia. Since the boys are older, they can learn on their own the consequences of not getting their assignments done. Those consequences usually involve running while a coach is yelling. I'm pretty secure in knowing it's being taken care of.
Mia has a bigger challenge. Since a lot of our nights are spent watching her brothers' ball games, some of Mia's homework is done sitting in the stands or even in the car. Filming for Duck Dynasty has brought on new time management issues for all of us that were never there before, so we have all had to make adjustments and put more emphasis on keeping our priorities in line.
What have you told your children about avoiding peer pressure? Does it work?
Peer pressure is not easy. That's why it's called "pressure." I have two kids who do not much care about what people think. They are very self-assured and, for the most part, are secure in their choices. I have one who is much more prone to giving into this pressure. A lot of this comes from an "act now, think later" mentality. All my kids know what Jase and I expect of them. They also know what God expects of them. Unless you are prepared in advance for potential scenarios, you will most likely fall for the best argument given at the time.
We talk a lot at our house about choosing good friends, friends that want what's best for our kids, not what's the most fun for them. We are very blessed for our kids to have many of these good friends. Jase and I mostly encourage our boys to stay away from bad behavior, but try to let them choose this on their own. However, there have been times when we have had to intervene and refuse to let them continue bad relationships. Every time this has happened, it was extremely difficult, but the rewards were far greater than any of us expected. If we choose people in our lives who help us become better people, who truly love us for who we are and not what we can offer them, we will be blessed and so will they.
How important are traditions in your family? What kind of traditions do you have? Why do you think they are important?
Most of our family traditions, like a lot of people's, revolve around holidays. Easter is a big holiday for us. After a wonderful Sunday service at church full of singing and encouragement, we head over to Korie's mom's house for lunch and an Easter egg hunt. There are always four generations of family gathered together for a large spread of food, games, and Easter eggs. The two older generations insist on taking care of all the food, while my generation is responsible for the hundreds of filled Easter eggs that are needed for all of our kids to find. And since there is always money in lots of the eggs, even our teenagers haven't given up the hunt.
Our most recent tradition is what is affectionately called, "Mrs. Missy's Wednesday Night Supper Club". Three years ago, Reed started bringing a few of his football teammates over for supper after practice on Wednesday nights. This is a great way of getting to know your kids' friends. They all come in starving, like all teenage boys do, and gather in the kitchen while I finish cooking. It is always quite enlightening to hear about who is dating who, what teacher did the most awful thing to their class that day, or how unfair the new history assignment is. Jase usually gives them a little life lesson while everyone is eating, and then we all go to church together. This group has grown from four or five to about 20 and includes lots of girls now, too. I look forward to this time each week and hope it continues until Mia graduates from high school.
Do your three children always get along? Is there any sibling rivalry? If so, how do you handle?
My kids have definitely gone through periods of sibling rivalry, the boys far more than with Mia. Since the boys are only 2 1/2 years apart, they played hard together and fought hard together. I tried my best to keep them from fighting, but Jase would tell me, "That's just the way brothers are. I should know. I had three of them. Just let them fight it out." But I couldn't stand it. Since Reed was older, he did a lot of the initiation when it came to fighting. I would tell Reed that one day, Cole would get back at him.
Once, when Reed was about 4, he kept picking on Cole, taking his toys from him, getting into his play space, just bugging him. Finally, without saying a word, Cole reached over and grabbed a large portion of Reed's hair and pulled. Reed started screaming but couldn't release himself from Cole's grasp. I rescued Reed but reminded him of my earlier prophecy. Both Jase and I drew the line when it came to talking mean. There is never any excuse to call anyone a bad name or insult them. Fortunately, now that they are older, they get along well. The boys are so different from each other but have learned how to make it work.
Mia holds her own when it comes to her brothers. They are much older than her but love her dearly. They love carrying her around and think she is hysterically funny. However, since she's younger than her brothers, she can definitely get on their last nerve. I still have to remind them to not talk mean to each other. Just because we are family doesn't mean we can say things to each other that we wouldn't say to someone else. They will be siblings for the rest of their lives. I try to help them nourish that relationship. They won't be living together for much longer and one day, they will miss the time they had together.
How do you instill confidence and self-esteem in your children?
The best advice I ever received on this subject was simply, "The best gift you can give your children is to love your husband." I first heard this when I was pregnant with Reed but have kept it close to my heart for the past 18 years. My kids are confident in the fact that their mom and dad are completely committed to each other and to God, no matter what circumstances we face. Being on Duck Dynasty, many women have approached Jase in person and on social media. However, because of his commitment to his Creator and to me, our family has become even stronger. Jase tells me almost every day how beautiful I am. He tells our teenage boys in front of me, "Your mama is one hot-lookin' woman!" They just laugh. No matter how difficult a situation may become, neither one of us is going anywhere. Our kids are also confident in the fact that their parents try to make decisions from a spiritual point of view. This doesn't mean we succeed every time, but our kids know, without a doubt, that we love God more than anything else in the world. When we fail, we have a Savior who forgives us and encourages us to try again. We try to do this same thing with our kids. When they fail, we are disappointed, but we try to show them that they are forgiven, to get back up and keep going. We love our kids no matter what, and they know it.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned as a parent?
The biggest lesson I've learned as a parent is that I will fail. When your first child is born, you think you have it all under control, planned out and that it will be perfect. One problem: your child will have a different personality from you, a different opinion on almost everything you discuss, and different likes and dislikes from you. I've learned that I can't control everything my child does, that I have to let him/her make mistakes on their own and learn from them on their own. I so want to protect them from everything but have learned that I just can't, that I shouldn't. If they don't start learning to protect themselves and deal with their own consequences, who will do it for them when they grow up? I've always known I was raising them to leave my house. I take the Bill Cosby approach on that: once you leave, you're not coming back. My dad told me that the day I married Jase. He said, "Whatever problems you have with your husband, you better work them out." It was some of the best advice he ever gave me.
Reed is not the best when it comes to being tidy. Okay, honestly, his room is usually a disaster area. It is one of our biggest conflicts. His definition of "clean" and mine don't quite meet. I told him once that I had completely failed and that his wife was going to hate me one day. She is going to look at me and wonder why I didn't train him to clean up after himself. So if his future wife is reading this right now, please don't hate me. I tried my very best, but I believe I've failed.
Is there anything you swore you'd never do as a parent that you now do regularly?
There is one phrase that my mom and dad used to say to me when I would ask over and over why I couldn't do something: "Because I said so." I promised I would never do that to my kids and that I would always give them a respectful answer to every question they asked me. Ha! That didn't last long. And honestly? I don't feel that's a bad answer. A child doesn't need to know the explanation of every decision a parent makes for them. That's why we're the parent. They should just trust that we are doing what we think is best for them. To them, it's definitely not the answer they want to hear, but to me, "Because I said so" seems to fit perfectly. Thanks, Mom and Dad for giving me that one.