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.
- 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.