Parenting is a tough job. All too often we do not come to appreciate just how rough our parents had it until we become parents ourselves. While parenting has always been challenging, it seems that parenting today is even tougher than it was for the generations before ours. I believe that is is more difficult because we are raising our children in a far different world than our parents raised us. For the most part, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had a pretty good parenting guide set out for them by watching the other members of their family and the world did not change the greatly from one generation to the next.
In addition, previous generations of parents had a strong support system of not only examples but helping hands. Today, our mobile society and high rate of single parenthood (through divorce or from the beginning) have not only destroyed the support system of yesteryear but also created a lot more challenging childhood to parent. In our electronic age we do not lack for parenting advice and parenting tips, but it is so hard to pick and choose from the myriad of “helpful hints” to know just what will work for you and your child. However, just like so many other problems in life we are often our own worst enemies. Whenever the parenting choices get too tough then boil it down in importance by asking yourself one of these three key parenting questions.
First, are you a good role model for your child? You know right from wrong. You know what it means to be an adult. You know what kind of man or woman you hope your child to be when he or she grows up. If you want your child to grow up a certain way then try to give them a role model to follow. Children do as you do, not as you say, my mother always says, and I know this is true from watching my own child as well as my students.
If you want your child to be kind then you need to demonstrate kindness. If you want your child to be a good student then model scholarship and demonstrate that you value education. If you want your child to have strong work ethic that show them what it means. You can tell your children you want them to stay in school but if you are a dropout who never pursued a G.E.D. then what message does that send? Our children can learn from our mistakes but too often they simply repeat them unless we show them how to change their life.
Second, are you preparing your child for life and adulthood? Don’t get me wrong. I think children should be allowed to be children. They should have fun and play. All too often today’s child grows up far too soon. I am not talking about talking about sex with your 6-year-old or forcing your 12-year-old to get a job. I mean simply starting when your child is young to teach responsibility, decision-making, and consequences. Start them small with little jobs and little decisions and then as they grow older you can increase the level. If you do too much for your child then they will not be able to do for themselves when they grow older. Also, if you teach your child that life is all fun and games then they are going to be really upset when they discover it is not. I don’t allow my 6-year-old to operate any kitchen equipment without supervision but he can make himself a peanut butter sandwich and pour a glass of milk. He can’t unload the entire dishwasher (and I shudder to think about him putting glassware in a cupboard over his head) but he can put the silverware away.
Finally, are you providing a solid emotional, physical and educational foundation for your child? Remember, your child may well be in charge of your life some day or maybe even in charge of all of our lives (hey somebody’s kid has to be President, why not mine or yours?). Many people with tremendously flawed beginnings grow up to be good people, but why handicap your child that way? No matter how many challenges you face personally it is your job as a parent to provide security and comfort for your child.
I believe that one of the keys to being a good parent is keeping your eyes on the prize. Focus on one universal rule or measuring stick and everything else will get much easier. What measuring stick should you use? That is up to you as this is your life and your child, but the measuring stick my husband and I use is a simple one. We think about what kind of man we want our son to be and apply that goal to the situation at hand. If you focus on being a good role model, preparing your child for life and adulthood, and providing a solid foundation then you are a good parent. Don’t sweat the small stuff if the big stuff is taken care of.