Parenting is a tough job, without a doubt--the greatest experience I have ever had, but still, parts of parenting are really tough.
While parenting has always been challenging, it seems that parenting today is tougher. There are so many influences flooding the hearts and minds of our children from very early ages. I believe parenting is more difficult because we are raising our kids in a far different world than our parents raised us, or their parents raised them. For the most part, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had a pretty good parenting guide set out for them simply because of what a family needed to do to survive. Children helped with farms, and worked hard from an early age. We didn’t have to teach contribution, responsibility, teamwork because life insisted them if families were to survive.
In addition, previous generations of parents parented as family units and communities. It was not uncommon for Mrs. Brady, Mrs. Craddock or Mrs. Spencer, or any mother down the street to have their watchful eyes on any inappropriate action. Every parent felt a responsibility for the children on their block and all eyes were watching all children.
Today, we are more isolated in our neighborhoods. Many people do not know their neighbors. Our mobile society and high rate of single parenthood have destroyed the support system of yesteryear. In our electronic age we do not lack for parenting advice and parenting tips, but it is confusing to pick and choose from the myriad of “helpful hints”. What works and what doesn’t? How can you know what is best for your child? Whenever the parenting choices get too tough then boil it down in importance by asking yourself one of these three key parenting questions.
Question 1: Are you parenting with the end goal in mind? What is the end goal for parenting your child? Many parents simply want to love their children. They live in a “Beetles” world of yesteryear, and abide by the popular song “All you need is love.” While love is extremely important for all children, we might need to gain a deeper understanding of what loving your child really means. Love is not simply an emotion. It is not simply that wonderful, drug-like feeling you get when you hold your child and whisper that you love them.
Question 2: What is Love? Love is preparing your child for adulthood in the very best way you can. Are you preparing your child for life as a competent, happy, responsible contributing adult? Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not saying that children should not be allowed to be children. But childhood is the time we need to be developing and strengthening our life skills. These critical life skills are the foundation of who we will be as adults. All too often today’s child grows up far too soon with regards to learning about gratuitous violence and sex. But are quite sheltered from adversity and challenges that help them develop internal fortitude and the ability to persevere.
Question 3: What am I teaching my child today that will serve them in becoming happy, resourceful, responsible, competent and capable human beings? This question should be your daily benchmark. Children need to learn responsibility, decision-making, and consequences. They need to learn that failure is a necessary stepping-stone to success. They need to learn how to delay gratification, strive for excellence and how to serve a cause greater than themselves. Start them small with little jobs and little decisions and then as they grow older increase the level of challenges you expect them to handle.
If you teach your child that life is all fun and games then they are going to be really upset when they discover it is not. Don’t allow your 6-year-old to operate dangerous kitchen equipment without supervision but do expect them to serve their family by making dinner every couple of weeks, even if it means they make everyone a peanut butter sandwiches in the beginning and develop their culinary skills from there. He can put the silverware away, begin to learn how to fold towels, and vacuum. You actually serve your child as you teach them to serve you.
Question 4: What are your children seeing? Children learn by watching YOU. Are you a good role model for your child? Parents must show that they know right from wrong. You know what it means to be an adult. You know what kind of man or woman you hope your child to be when he or she grows up. Simply put, be the miracle you want for your child. If you want your child to grow up a certain way then try to give them a role model to follow. If you want your child to be kind or generous then you need to demonstrate kindness and generosity. If you want your child to be a good student then you must value excellence and model scholarship. If you want your child to have strong work ethic live an ethical life. Teach your children to emulate greatness and then do everything is your power to live the greatness within you so they can emulate you.
Question 5: What are you feeding your children? You have heard many times, we are what we eat. That is true. If we are feeding our bodies junk, our children cannot feel the vibrant health they need to grow strong. No parent would feed their children trash out of the trash can, and yet, when it comes to our children’s minds, they are exposed to garbage everyday. Garbage in – Garbage out; Greatness in – greatness out. Be as careful about what you feed the hearts and minds of your children, as you are about what you feed their bodies for dinner. Monitor the kind of television programs your children watch. Even those you think are fine, might be feeding your children messages that you do not want them to have.
Question 6: What does your family stand for? Are the values that you hold dear crystal clear to every member of your family? Have you written them down, discussed them, agreed upon them and then signed a contract that states clearly the values your family believes in and upholds. If children understand clearly what values their family stands for, if they have been a part of the process in determining those values, if they have promised to fight to uphold those values, the chances that they become the values that sustain them as adults are great.
As I stated earlier, I believe that one of the keys to being a great parent is keeping your eyes on the prize. Know what the end goal for your child is. Think about what kind of man or woman you want your son or daughter to become, and with that goal in the forefront of your mind, make your parenting decisions. If you focus on being a good role model, preparing your child for adulthood by teaching them critical life skills, and providing a solid foundation of values on which they can stand then chances are excellent that they will grow up to live the greatest dreams they can dream for themselves and in doing so, they will fulfill your greatest dreams for them as well.
In 2008 Dawn was selected by Oprah Magazine and The White House project as one of 80 emerging women leaders in the nation.
Dawn is the CEO and Founder of The Heart Link Women’s Network, with locations in US, Canada and Australia. She is also the architect of the Primary Colors Personality Test and Insight Tools, founder of OverJOYed Life and creator of the Happiness Curriculum. She also serves as executive director of the Executive Training Resort in Arizona.