10 Parenting Tips for the Firefighter Family, Part 2

By Anne Gagliano

The firefighter family has unique challenges.  These challenges present themselves in a chaotic schedule; the danger of the job; and often tight finances, for firefighters aren’t exactly rich.  These aspects aren’t necessarily negative; in fact, quite the opposite is true: They can be a positive.  Time together is more sacred and also much more flexible than the typical 9 to 5 routine.  Life is precious, and this is made evident by the firefighter’s role in society.  And because of limited finances, firefighter children can grow up with a strong work ethic if they are shown the way.  These are the issues I addressed in Part 1 of this column; now I’ll continue with more tips for the firefighter family on how to raise solid children in this shaky world.

4. Create a good student.  I believe this begins pretty much from day one.  Children who are held close, talked to, and sung to have been proven to develop better speaking skills at an earlier age.  This is just the beginning; it doesn’t end there!  My husband Mike and I are both avid readers, and we wanted our children to be so as well, for we’ve always believed that readers are leaders and better students.  I began reading to my boys when they were babies, starting with colorful picture books.  I taught them their letters, colors, numbers, and shapes.  During their primary school years, I read novels to them at bedtime, one chapter a night.  They grew to love books and became avid readers on their own; Rick (my law student) even had to be told to “put the book down”; otherwise, he’d read right through dinnertime.  Reading is foundational to being a good student, and it should be introduced by parents: Try reading to them instead of letting them fall asleep to television. Encourage study habits as well.  My boys did their homework before they were allowed to play video games or watch TV.  They were given as much help as they wanted.  I was heavily involved in their studies and monitored their work very closely to make sure they were on track and had strong skills, all the way up to middle school, and then I stepped back a bit.  I wanted to see how they’d do without me in their face all the time.  They began to falter a little, and I let them, for middle school grades don’t impact their high school transcripts.  I allowed them to experience what it was like to get a lower grade so they’d learn responsibility in time for high school–when it matters most.  By high school, I was not involved at all with their studies; my only role was to make sure they did their homework before they did anything else.  To promote their desire to get high grades, we richly rewarded good report cards.  My boys both received several academic and leadership scholarships for college.

5. If you want your kids to have positive peers, get involved in the classroom.  Here lies one of the major pros to the firefighter schedule: Dad is available during the day to be a “room mom”!  Mike and I both volunteered at our boys’ school on a weekly basis; we either fulfilled our commitment together or, if he worked that day, then just I would be there.  Our boys loved having their dad in the classroom, and so did the kids!  Having a man around was a nice change of pace, plus it gave our boys a leg up with the other boys because they admired their father.  We wanted to be in the classroom for two reasons: one, to see how our children were faring, and two, to see what their peers were like.  We got to know the other “room moms,” and this helped us pick friends for our kids, for they would be going to these homes to play without us and we needed to trust the parents.  My boys’ friends and their families were an amazing addition to our lives; we even took trips together!  These kids all turned out strong and close and were a positive impact on our children.  If you want good influences from a young age, you have to monitor what’s going on, for children aren’t always the best judge of character, and teenagers can be even worse.  During the high school years, we were no longer allowed in the classroom, so we became the “hang-out” house after school instead.  We didn’t want our kids going to homes where there was no parental supervision, so we encouraged our boys to bring their friends here.  This took extra work on our part, for teenage boys eat a lot and can be quite destructive (unintentionally usually, but sometimes intentionally!).  Having a houseful of raucous, smelly teenage boys was worth the sacrifice because we knew what they were up to; and besides, they kept us laughing with their crazy antics!  And trust me, you’ll miss those days when they’re gone; my house seems so very quiet now.

 6. Help your child have high self-esteem and stay out of trouble by finding their hidden talents and interests.  Everyone has a talent, a gift, something that makes them unique and special.  Being a good student is beneficial, but it isn’t everything.  During the teen years especially, kids’ confidence begins to wane; that’s why it’s so important to have hobbies well established by that age, so begin finding them early.  Little kids are a blank slate, a bundle of potential; it’s hard to know just what they’ll be good at til you have them try.  We tried just about everything, from sports, to music, to art, and they were just as excited as we were to do it all.  If they showed potential, we pursued it; if they didn’t, we let that area slide without telling them they were no good at that.  When one musical instrument proved to be too hard, we tried another til we got a good fit. (FYI: Studying music is proven to improve math skills.)  Son Michael excelled at piano and guitar, son Rick at trumpet and drums.  The boys were good at basketball and swimming, but not so good at other sports, so we let them drop.  Talents can include interests and hobbies, such as collecting baseball cards, paintball guns and airsoft guns, fishing and hunting, and youth group or charity involvements.  (I raised boys, as you can tell, not girls.)  Keep your kids involved in as many areas as possible, especially during the teen years; otherwise, they can begin to get bored or impatient with life.  This boredom or dissatisfaction can result in either social withdrawal into the “lone wolf” mentality or getting into trouble with drugs and even crime.  Talent wants to be used, and if it’s not used for good, it will be used for bad.

In my next column, I’ll conclude my 10 Parenting Tips with such topics as family time, keeping your kids fit, raising your child to be a good spouse, and respect.



Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 27 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.

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