When I was in my early twenties, there wasn’t a parenting situation that I came across in which I didn’t have a solution. Parenting seemed so easy and I had it all figured out… at least until I had children. When I became a parent I came to an epiphany. I was an idiot for thinking I had all the answers. Now that there was a real baby in my arms, I came to a new conclusion… I didn’t know shit about parenting.
I quickly learned being a parent is undoubtedly the hardest and most important job ever. Why? We are influencing, shaping and molding the lives of others; our children. We are putting them on a particular path in life. When we become a parent, it’s no longer just about us. It’s now about creating value and instilling values in the lives of our children. Sounds so simple…
Fast forward…today I am forty-three years old and I have grown immensely as a parent. I often wonder what type of people my boys are going to become. What are their strengths and weaknesses going to be? Who and what are they going to develop in to?
Our life experiences form us into the people we become. Our drive, our determination, our desires, our coping skills and our ability to maintain relationships are all predicated by our earlier experiences. So the question is raised. What experiences are you providing for your children? What environmental factors are they being subjected to that will dictate who they become in life?
In addition to the problems society is creating, we as parents tend to muddy the waters by creating environments not healthy for our children. I see domestic disputes and it’s the same story each time. Mother and father screaming at each other and often there is violence. The children are always left crying after having witnessed these events. They are confused and scared and then the police arrive to potentially haul someone off to jail. The impact this has on children is devastating.
The parents recover from the fight soon thereafter, however children respond differently. When children see this type of behavior routinely, they begin to normalize it. They learn that this is what a relationship is supposed to look like. Children develop a sense of the world through watching us – the parents. We are teaching our children what kind of adults to become. We set the example for them to follow.
What is the solution? We can’t change the world we live in (outside influences) and we can’t raise our children in a bottle. Society is just different today and we have to adapt. We can however control what we teach our children and the values we instill in them. We can teach them to be independent and give them problem solving skills. We have control over the environment we create for our children and we certainly have control over the model we provide them.
This is where life comes full circle. Our parents created a particular environment and model for us. They taught us what a relationship is supposed to look like and how to deal with life. They may have done this consciously or subconsciously, but either way we have used our parents as the example; good or bad. Now we as parents are creating a model for our children to emulate.
We all have adult issues we deal with on a daily basis. We all have our ups and downs in life, good points and bad. Life constantly throws new challenges at us to cope with; divorce, job loss, adultery, injuries, financial hardship, depression and so on. Some of us have better coping skills than others. But we must remember, while we are dealing with our own life issues, we are still creating the model. We don’t have the ability to take a time out from being the example. Our children are watching us and they will emulate us.
How can we teach our children to have good coping skills if we don’t? How can we teach them what a healthy relationship looks like if we are not in one? How can we teach them that alcohol or drug use is bad if we have dependency issues? How can we teach them to be a strong, independent man or woman if we are not? And how can we teach them to be self-confident and happy if we are sad and depressed?
We have the ability to put our children on the path to success or the path to failure. We may have never thought of ourselves as role models, but when we became parents we inherited that responsibility.
We can put our children on a successful path by instilling good values in them and teaching them how to deal with life. Our children need to know the difference between right and wrong and that there are consequences for wrong. Our children need to learn that being last is not alright and that next time they need to try harder. Mere participation is not good enough and we expect their full effort.
It’s healthy to have expectations of our children. It’s the way life works. Children need to learn the concept of hard work and applying themselves and they need to be praised when they accomplish it.
We need to teach our children that they will get knocked down at some point in life and that they need to get right back up and face another day. Teach them there are winners and losers and they can be either if they choose to be. Let them know they can accomplish anything they want but only if they put forth the effort. Nothing will be handed to them.
Life is about choices. We must encourage our children to make good choices. There are no excuses in life and wherever our children end up will be by their choice.
The greatest success we can achieve as a parent is to develop our children into good adults. Adults that are respectful, loving, healthy, productive, well-adapted, self-sufficient, confident and happy. That is a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders but it’s also the greatest gift we could ever give another person. We accomplish this by creating healthy environments that allow our children to grow into well-adjusted adults and by being good role models.