Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world and no User’s Guide or operating manual accompanies it. There’s no way to be a perfect parent but there’s a million ways to be a good one. This article is for dads, too, for they are increasingly taking on more essential child-raising responsibilities
Nevertheless, studies show dad’s place in the modern parenting landscape remains a smaller one than mom’s, particularly if he plays golf (Excuse me while I duck).
In my book, “Finding Happiness in America,” I mention how parenting effectiveness can be enhanced if four basic tenets are honored. After 34 years of counseling parents and children, I noted four child-rearing themes that cropped up over and again among parents of happy and confident kids. Regardless if their children ranged in physical qualities from homely to comely or chubby to svelte, were smart to empty-headed, or clumsy to athletic, these parents respected them for who they were and allowed them to be themselves. I'd like to share them with you:
- They allowed their children to develop at their own pace and appreciated them for who they were. The children weren’t the best at all things but they had a spirit that made them unafraid to try and make the best of their capacities and opportunities. Although Dr. Benjamin Spock’s “Bible” on parenting, “Baby and Child Care” is somewhat outdated, I continue to enjoy his words. Spock wrote, “Love and enjoy your children for what they are, for what they look like, for what they do, and forget about the qualities they do not have.”
2. I noticed these parents enjoyed all of their children unconditionally. Sensing they would grow up quickly and be gone too soon, they kept diaries, took pictures, compiled photo albums, and filmed videos of events and moments which they knew would soon fade into memories.
3. They seemed relaxed, regardless of their children’s shortcomings, and didn’t pressure their kids to be the best athlete, smartest classmate, or the most musically talented. Instead of pushing or forcing their kids into things, they seemed to always “be” with them… not “at” them.
4. Lastly, these parents naturally set good examples and unknowingly earned their children’s respect and admiration. They earned my admiration, too.
Yes, parenting being equally fair, solid and consistent with children is hard to do, but these 4 tenets make the task less-daunting. Regardless of the varying traits and abilities among their children, they remained impartial in dispensing encouragement to all.
They knew how difficult it was to be evenhanded because their children differed so widely in interests, attention spans, abilities and talents. When one complained that something was too difficult and hesitated to begin trying, they imparted a fair-mindedness by judging if their expectations were aligned with the child’s ability and maturity level.
I also noticed their impartiality shined when they reacted uniformly to each child’s defeats. Their children learned that, regardless if they try something and fail, mom and dad steadfastly admired their courage to give it their all…win, lose, or draw.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. He authored the book “Finding Happiness in America.” Contact him at the Family Journal: www.familyjournal1.blogspot.com