Good Parenting Tips
Parenting! If there is a tougher job in this lifetime I’d sure like to know what that is. I was a single parent for fourteen years….hell, I’m still a parent although now I have Bev to bounce my thoughts off of when the going gets tough and the tough is frozen with indecision. My son is now twenty-seven and let me tell you, the fairy tales we heard when we were young about the kids leaving the nest at eighteen were grossly over-exaggerated. One’s child never really leaves home as long as home is where the heart is.
So, how does one parent? There are no cheat notes for this job! It’s not like college where you can skim the chapters and then get a C on the exam. Whenever I think about parenting I think about studying to be a teacher. You take all of these classes about teaching methods and you graduate and you’re feeling pretty good about your preparation and then you walk into your first classroom and you freeze. OMG! What do I do now? No amount of college courses can prepare you for the first day of teaching and in many ways that’s how parenting is.
With that in mind I have decided to help out all of you would-be parents with a little guide to parenting. Of course there are endless books out there that will tell you the latest theories on parenting and they will provide study results detailing why you should do this and why you should do that. You can also pay through the nose for parenting classes but seriously, why bother? I’m offering this primer for free!
So pull up a chair and I’ll highlight the important points to focus on when your child enters your life and turns your world upside down. Oh, one note: The title of this article in no way implies that you are actually an idiot! I just wanted to get your attention.
Make No Mistake About It….you Are a Role Model
Kids are like sponges and the liquid they are absorbing is you. Until they get old enough to care about what their peers are doing, kids will watch you, their parent, and file your every move into their memory bank. The old saying, “Do as I say and not as I do,” is about as worthless as an extra appendix. Kids will copy your mannerisms, your speech patterns and your decision-making process. They will watch how you tackle problems, process the way you interact with others and internalize every single word that you say to them.
Parents are the single greatest influence on their child’s life. I present an interesting case study since I am adopted. The old “nurture vs nature” discussion gets a big vote for nurture when talking about this author. Now at the ripe old age of sixty-three, I can easily see the influence of my parents on my life today. I was raised to be compassionate and loving; I was raised to work hard and not make excuses. I was raised to be polite and to keep moving forward through adversity. I adored my parents and in many ways I mirror them even though their DNA cannot be found in me.
One of the greatest things you can do for your child is to live a life that you can be proud of. Do not teach them lessons through words but rather teach them through your actions. You can bet that if you cuss around the house they will parrot that behavior. If you show fits of temper and rage they will parrot that behavior. Conversely, if you show signs of caring for others they will follow suit. Do not underestimate the amount of influence you have; it could very well be the biggest mistake you ever make.
Discipline Is Necessary
I am not into this New Age crap that says discipline is evil and not necessary. Kids need to know boundaries and they need to understand that unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated. No, I am not talking about hitting your child; I can see no circumstance that justifies a 150 pound adult hitting a 50 pound child. However, there must be established guidelines that detail what is expected as a member of the household and as a member of society.
If I was given a curfew of ten p.m. then 10:01 was not acceptable or tolerated. If I was expected to take out the garbage every day by bedtime then the garbage better be out on the curb by bedtime. I knew there would be immediate action if those things were not done. There was not a moment of doubt in my mind and that’s as it should be.
Children need structure and children need a sense of right and wrong. It is the job of the parent to provide both; that is one of our primary jobs as a parent. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just be best friends to our kids and never discipline? Well, that’s not reality and it isn’t helpful in any way, shape or form. Discipline can be handled in a loving manner and still be discipline. My parents made it known that they loved me but that did not mean that I could get away with anything I felt like doing. I did not have an oppressed childhood; I had a loving childhood and that included a code of behavior that was expected and reinforced.
Take all of those New Age parenting books and use them as fire-starters. I’m giving you the basics so take notes and don’t try to thank me.
Expose Your Kids to the World Around Them
If I had my way every television set and game console in America would be banned and confiscated. Sadly, for many parents, television has become the babysitter of the 21st Century. I know, you are tired from working all day and you just need a little break. What’s wrong with that? Turn on the boob tube, stick a movie in and you have a two-hour R&R session. And in truth there is nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t become a habit. All parents need a rest and there were times when a two-minute rest sounded just perfect to me; a two-hour rest was heaven.
However, another aspect of parenting is to help kids become active and grow in a healthy manner; healthy mentally and physically. Kids want to learn and you are their teacher early on. Go for nature walks AND let them see how excited those walks are for you. Take them to the lake, take them to the zoo, take them just about anywhere that will stimulate their mind and body.
Give them an appreciation for reading and read to them every single chance you get. Give them an appreciation for sports and play with them often. Do science experiments with them and have them grow a garden. When they are old enough teach them about service to others and then model that service.
What? You say that sounds exhausting? Well, tough! You chose to be a parent so get out there and be a parent. My biological mother gave birth to me but she was not my parent. My mother was Evelyn J. Holland and she was there each and every day raising me with love and enthusiasm. My father was Dale L. Holland and he never missed one of my ballgames, played catch with me every night and taught me to fish and ride a bicycle. Parenting is a commitment and it does not come with time off because you are tired.
What? You work too hard and too long to always be there for your kids? Well then it might be time to reconsider your priorities. Your most important job is raising your child as an active parent. The job buys your child things; that is not parenting. Is there wiggle room in this viewpoint? No!
The Greatest Parenting Tip of Them All
Are you ready? This is the single most important piece of advice that I can give to new parents. Are you listening?
Do all things with love! You have accepted the responsibility of raising a child and there is no greater responsibility in this lifetime. It is your job to model loving behavior. Your child should see love between his/her parents in every single action. Your child should see love in your interaction with other people and most importantly they should see love in your eyes every single time you look at them.
My dad did not raise me to be a wimp. I was expected to fight when threatened or disrespect. I was also raised to respect other people and I was raised to understand the meaning of love. He showed it to me every day of his life, as did my mother. I saw how they were loved and respected by friends and family. I saw in their actions that love is not a spectator sport, that when you say “I love you” it is meaningless unless you show it in your actions. Their love was without a doubt the greatest gift they gave me and I, in turn, have given it to my son. That, my friends, is a legacy to be proud of, much more so than the amount of money you made last year or the number of possessions you own.
There are going to be some tough times. Your child will eventually rebel against you. Count on it! That does not mean they are any less worthy of love. Through the good times and the bad they must always know that they have a safe haven with their parents, a place where love can always be found.
Did you learn how to parent from your parents?
I know for a fact my parents never read a parenting book before they adopted me. I know this because I asked them if they had. Their answer is as true today as it was forty-five years ago when I asked the question. They said they didn’t need any damn book; they simply used common sense, compassion and love.
I remembered that when it was my turn to be a parent. It was not easy and there were times I wanted to pull my hair out and scream for help, but I kept reminding myself of the words of my parents. It was the “wing and a prayer” system of parenting but it was grounded in some very solid principles. I looked at how I had turned out as an adult and decided that the results were pretty darn good. Thus, if the system ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.
My wish for all of you out there about to embark on this parenting journey is that you find as much joy as I did during my journey. It is the trip of a lifetime and it is a job that continues to pay back dividends long after your child has left home.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)