by Colleen Langenfeld
As parents, we all want to grow happy, healthy children. Unfortunately, parenting does not come with a guarantee, but there are some practical guidelines we can follow that will point our children in the right direction. Here are the suggestions our family has used in our continuing goal of raising six confident, competent adults (four children and two parents!).
We’re in this for the long haul.
As a parent, we are given a long-time perspective just by giving birth. The future stretches out l-o-n-g and fearful in front of us. But kids have no such perspective. Teaching them about cause and effect, in other words, consequences, can help them understand that their thoughts, words and actions, big and small, have meaning and future impact.
We’re in this together.
Children are astonishingly selfish, but often not intentionally so. It’s just the human condition. Part of parenting is to provide them with opportunities to be around others who are different than they are. Encouraging them (and participating with them) to help others will show them that we all must get along with each other and it’s not necessary for us all to be the same. The ability to make and maintain friendships is not just fun, it’s vital.
Everyone needs stability…not to be confused with a rut! Stability means you can generally count on the people and situations around you, while understanding that life doesn’t hand out guarantees. Stability usually comes from the parents, who can only provide as much stability as they currently have themselves. In other words, if your marriage is on shaky ground, it’s going to be very difficult to provide the stability your children need. That is why it’s often said that the best thing a man can do for his kids is to love their mother. And vice versa.
Life is hard.
This is a fact and our children need to hear it from us first. However, it’s a difficult fact and if we as adults are struggling with this reality, we’re going to find it impossible to share it with our kids. The funny thing is, though, that children can often receive difficult facts easier than we can. All of our children are bright and observant in their own ways, so the truth is that they already know a lot about how life works; they just need help articulating and integrating it. That’s where we come in as parents. Provide your children with fascinating stories of inspiring people who have overcome great obstacles and made a difference in our world. After all, it’s easy to FEEL life is bad; the challenge is to DECIDE that life is good!
Once we get hold of the truth that life is difficult, the issue of control takes on new meaning. How much control do we really have over our lives? What does that control look like? Often, these are personal questions to be wrestled with, but psychiatrists generally tell us that an internal locus of control is necessary for healthy mental and emotional development. That means that we need to believe we are able to exert a certain amount of control over our lives. This leads us to….
As parents, we can introduce a variety of tools to our children as they grow. We exercise control over our lives and build a bright future for ourselves to the extent that we believe such a thing is possible. A strong grounding in the tools available to do that will take our children a long way. Goal-setting, life planning, self-discipline, high expectations, and spiritual development are all effective tools that require practice and guidance to be the life-long habits that will benefit our children the most.
The Five R’s.
We all know about the importance of academics in our children’s future. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic (math) along with other academics will give our children a strong foundation for the future. However, if we stop there we’ve only developed part of a human being. Respect and responsibility go hand in hand with academics to raise a child who is not only smart, but also able to work productively and happily with the people around him and honestly like himself, too.
Ideally, life shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. Ideally. As parents, we can sometimes structure the microcosm of our homes to fill out those places our children need to work on. Appropriate challenges are vital to growing in maturity, but the overwhelmed child stops growing and quits. As long as your children know you are watching over them constantly and that you genuinely care for them, they will usually handle life’s jostling amazingly well. Teach them to study hard, work hard, play hard and rest hard. Raising our children will always have its share of frustrating obstacles and exhilarating peaks. It’s the one job that we cannot go back and do over, so the stakes are high. And the rewards…fantastic!Colleen Langenfeld delivers deals, tips and creative resources to working moms who want the most out of their homes, families and careers at http://www.paintedgold.com . Sign up for our free newsletter and get an online Creativity Toolkit as our gift to you!