Being a good parent is the most challenging task ever set upon humankind. Parenting is not an instinctive act, like breathing. It’s not something we’re given time to learn, like driving. Parents are put on the spot, expected to have the answers and do the “right thing” for their kids at all times. It’s tough to raise a child to be a decent person, but it is possible when parents use their common sense and make responsible choices for their children.
We parent on our toes, in the moment. We try everything to figure out how to quiet the screaming baby. We change the diaper, give a bottle, try to get a burp out, rock the baby, hold the baby, drive the baby around the block. Eventually that baby falls asleep. We hold our breath and sit on the edge of the sofa, resting in silent victory over this win. We’ve figured this one out. Problem is, the challenges keep coming, and get different as the child grows.
As our children get older, they are able to tell us what they want and need. Then the task of parenting becomes more difficult because we have to decipher between the wants and the needs. Food, shelter, love are all automatic. Electronic games, jazzy shoes, a new car are not. The child hollering in the cart at the store who demands every gadget they go by is letting the parent know what he thinks he needs, absolutely HAS TO HAVE. Sometimes that weary parent caves, setting up a dangerous precedent. This is a parenting moment…does that parent act in the best interest of the child by caving? That parent is teaching the child that pitching a fit is the proper way to get what he wants. The easy action is not always the right one. It would be very hard to tell that hollering child no, to let that child keep hollering for stuff, to leave a loaded cart in the store and remove the hollering child from the situation. It would also teach the child that hollering is not acceptable, that no means no, and that the parent is in charge. Lesson taught, will have to be reinforced, but the foundation is set.
Children need to be taken care of. They need to know that their parents are always there for them, no matter what. We parents, though, need to make choices for our children that they are not going to like. Parents have to expect kids to clean their rooms, to work hard at school, to get along with other children, to live a healthy lifestyle, to follow the curfew. Spoiling our kids is nice to do once in a while, but if children grow up expecting always to get what they want, to have mom and dad take care of every problem, then they’re not being raised to live in the real world.
So…how do parents know how to raise a child? Go with the gut feelings. Use your common sense. Lay down ground rules early, set out the expectations. Be reasonable, be firm, be fair. Even toddlers and young children respond well when they know the guidelines. Kids will whine, they’ll throw fits, they’ll stomp and be disrespectful and slam doors. When parents stand firm, kids will eventually respond. The kids won’t necessarily like it, but they will know that their parents loved them enough to make tough decisions for them, and to defend those decisions. The old saying “good kids have mean parents” is more often true than not. It’s tough to be a good parent these days, but well worth the effort.