There Is No Parenting Handbook

I recently had a conversation with my friend Megan about parenting. Honestly, I’m never sure how much input I have a right to give in regards to parenting, seeing as how I have zero children myself. But the background I’ve had in school counseling and children’s ministry gives me something of a unique perspective on raising kids.

I don’t remember how we came around to the topic of parenting. Really, we could have been talking about anything that could have just eventually come around to the topic at hand. Funny how conversations go.

I do remember saying, at one point, that there’s no handbook for parenting, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a list with a few basic bullet points for parents to follow. Megan may or may not have encouraged me to write a blog post including some of those bullet points. That was over a week ago (I think), so I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the good ones that I was planning to include.

So to the parents out there who find their way to this blog, take the following the a grain of salt. Nothing written here is meant to offend or judge anyone’s particular parenting style. Also, none of this is meant to come across as some kind of parent-shaming. It bothers me when a parent thinks he or she has all the answers and makes other parents feel horrible because they do it differently.

  • Let your kid be who he or she is going to be.
    • What I mean by this is, simply, don’t force your child to be something that he or she is not. Your child will develop his or her own personality early on in life. That personality may strongly reflect yours or your significant other’s. That personality may be the complete opposite of what you’re expecting. Whatever the case, allow them to be the person that they are growing to be. Allow them to explore. Allow them to make choices. Whatever you do, don’t expect them to be you. It’s natural to desire that your children have a better life than the one you had. But that doesn’t mean you should dictate the kind of person they become. Your purpose for having a child was not to create a clone of yourself with whom you could correct past mistakes.
  • Let your kid make mistakes.
    • Parents, this is so important! Our mistakes, our failures, are the most important learning tools that we could ever possibly have. I’m not saying you let your kids play in traffic so that they’ll learn not to get hit by a car. But when a toddler is learning to walk, do you walk alongside them, guiding them forever? No… eventually, you let go. Sure, they’re going to fall. And that’s fine. Because that’s how they learn to pick themselves back up and take their next step. Part of letting your child learn who he or she is involves letting them make choices that won’t work out in the long run.
    • Along with this, when it comes to a child choosing to take piano lessons or play soccer, make sure that they are willing to follow through with their commitment. If they get two games into a season and decide they don’t like soccer, or two weeks into practicing the piano that they don’t like the instrument, let them know that there’s nothing wrong with trying something and not liking it, but that they need to follow through on the commitment that they made. That means that, at the end of the season, they never have to kick a soccer ball again. When the piano lessons that you, the parent, have paid for are completed, that’s when they can move on.
  • Set boundaries.
    • I know I said that you need to let your kids explore. But they also need to know that there are limits to that exploration. A parent who allows their child to do whatever they want whenever they want is not doing their child any favors. While kids will complain when they’re told that they are not allowed to do something, the truth is they crave boundaries. Children who grow up never hearing the word, “no,” grow up with a sense of entitlement that really won’t serve them when they reach the real world. Do not be afraid to tell your child no.
  • No matter what, it’s your fault.
    • Maybe this is just Freud’s idea. But there’s a certain amount of truth to it. No matter how your kid’s life turns out, for better or worse, the easiest people to blame for their lot in life is their parents. No, that isn’t fair, but that’s usually how it is. Which makes instilling in your children a sense of responsibility all the more important.
    • Don’t second guess yourself as a parent. Maybe you’ll hug your kid too much. Maybe you won’t hug them enough. Be the best parent you know how to be while letting your kid be the person that he or she is growing up to be. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from other parents. But don’t let other parents tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Unless you’re abusive. Then you’re doing it wrong. And there’s a special kind of prison for that kind of behavior.
  • Love.
    • I shouldn’t have to expand on that. And yet, maybe it’s necessary. In loving your children, remember that love is not simply a feeling. Love is an action. Show your children your love for them. Show them your love come hell or high water. Show them your love through their successes and their failures. As they grow up, they are likely to find themselves in moments when they just don’t feel loved. When a child is unable to find the love they seek from friends and peer relationships, you make sure that they can always, unequivocally and without question, find love from you.

I’m sure that there were more of these bullet points in my mind after that conversation last week. If I think of more, I’ll do another post.

If you’re a parent out there who’s reading this, let me know what you think. I’m definitely open to hearing the opinions that come from experience. Mine come only from observation.

6 thoughts on “There Is No Parenting Handbook

  1. Hey, you!

    It’s been a while, I was gone and then changed blog sites (actually paid for a blog), but I wanted to state about the “Commitments” part, I totally agree. The personal experience I have, though, are getting them to follow-through will something we helped pick for them.

    I don’t want to say “force,” but in a way, it is… because we found out “early on” that our kids would “choose” to stay at home and do nothing but watch t.v. and play video games. So they got “options” from us – Do you want to play soccer or baseball this Spring (or we might swing both) or try something new?- sports wasn’t an option of not playing, they needed to learn some skills so they aren’t the kid on the playground who doesn’t know how to throw a ball, etc. Plus, I struggle with my weight and my husband grew up athletic because his dad was a PE Coach. It was a health thing too, and learning to be part of a team environment. We would ask if anything else interested them – but they had to be involved in something. And we encouraged NEW things for new experiences, and if they didn’t like that season, they wouldn’t have to do “that” again but would have to choose something else.

    So my son is now 14 and has done soccer, baseball, swimming (no option, here, both kids needed to learn swimming as in Southern CA, everyone has a pool, lakes, and beach – that was a safety thing) This was the first summer they weren’t on a team. Oh, and that lead to trying water polo, then football, and volleyball. We almost talked him into trying LaCrosse this Spring, but he wasn’t comfortable, so we didn’t sign him up because he’s going to be trying Track. (he couldn’t get on a soccer team right now- rec/school is out of season, and club already has full teams from the summer that go for a year)

    Dad gave the kids the cardio option – You’re either swimming or running – because sadly sports practices no longer include cardio. Even soccer practices – there’s no conditioning of running! Both our kids die in a game that is a RACE to the ball. They need to be fit cardiovascular wise. Hence, “You’re either doing LaCrosse or track and field, with an event in running or you’re going back to swimming.”

    So, Yes the commitment thing is important, but sometimes…you do have to kind of “force” the commitment to something or they will do nothing. They get an option or guidance on what that something might be…but it has to be something exercise wise and it’s up to them about music/arts and they must be reliable to their team/teacher.

    If you don’t get them trying new things, how are they to grow as an individual? I don’t want my son looking back sadly, in his last 2 years of high school wondering “I should have tried Lacrosse. And now can’t get on the team because I have no skills.” – He always wanted to try football – did- and liked okay, but quickly realized it hurt to get hit by big guys – and so now… he knows that’s not his sport. He won’t look back and “wonder.” He knows, nope, no football team for him. He starts high school next year and has a pretty good knowledge about what sports he wants to play. We’re going to test out this track and field thing in Middle school.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Mandatory Commitment – Humble, but Humorous

  3. Like your blog peckapalooza, the advice is sound. Your might also like to read my blog – which covers aspects of decision-makingt you raise and beyond, all contained in my book, Becoming: the ordinary person’s road map to life’s big decisions


  4. Pingback: There Is No Parenting Handbook — The Confusing Middle – elunarcom

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