How do I raise good kids? What is good parenting? Should I smack my child? What do children need? Am I doing the right thing? Will my kids love me?
These are some of the vital questions people ask once they have children. Biology turns people into parents before they are fully prepared for the task. And a Birth Certificate is not a qualification of good parenting. Child raising involves skills and attitudes that may not come naturally to many. Discipline is always a challenge. Parenting is a minefield for those who lack confidence.
So, How can you be a “Good Parent”? Here are some practical tips from my observations around the world.
As a seminar speaker on the topics of Marriage, Family and Parenting, I have had to think through the issues and also answer questions that have been posed to me across the globe. What I have found is that the issues which challenge western parents in the USA or Australia are the same ones that test parents in African townships, Greek cities, Fijian villages and Asian jungles.
Firstly let me suggest that personal confidence suits parenting better than insecurity. While we should be thoughtful and teachable about what we are doing as parents, it is always best to come to a place of confidence and security, than to be forever uncertain. If you are indecisive and insecure take time to find a simple set of guidelines which you can follow with confidence. I have written Parenting Horizons – Empowering Parents to Build Generations, specifically to give guidance to parents who are uncertain how to proceed.
Another important aspect of parenting is to know where you are going. It could be put like this, “Start with the end in mind”. Your role as parent involves caring for the child and helping them grow into adulthood. The more specifically you focus on an outcome the more effectively you will achieve it. If all you want your child to do is “survive” into adulthood, then they may grow to be an adult criminal or an adult fool. I am sure you would prefer that they grew to be a model citizen with wisdom, compassion, discipline, self-control, grace, etc.
So, where are you going as a parent? Where do you want your child to end up? If you want your child to have good morals, then you need to think about how to achieve that. If you want your child to be compassionate then you will have to promote that in them. If you want your child to be responsible then you will need to cultivate that in them over their growing years.
Successful parenting not only involves intelligent vision for where you are going and where you want your child to end up, but it requires an understanding of the tools. Parents have an amazing “tool box” of effective strategies which help mould their child’s life. Some of the tools are in the home, while others involve the extended family, church and community groups, and social influences.
A parent’s example is a powerful tool in the child’s life. If you are grumpy and selfish, you will very likely raise children who are the same. If you are thoughtful and forgiving you will likely raise children who display those same things.
Another powerful tool involves the words parents speak to their children. Words can be creative and inspirational or discouraging and destructive. The way you talk to your child and about the child to others will create an inner vision within the child. Your words will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Parents can create a whole world of expectation within a child, simply through their words.
Imagine a parent talking with their young child about how wonderful it will be for that child to bring their children along in years to come, so the grandchildren can play on the same rocking horse that the child now plays on. An image of generational continuity is built up in the child’s mind.
Compare that with a statement such as, “I can’t wait for you to grow up and get off my hands so I can finally enjoy myself.”
The creative use of words can inspire wonderful outcomes for the future. The unwise use of words can destroy the future long before it arrives.
Role Models are another powerful tool that parents can bring into their child’s life. Most children today are given their role models by the popular culture. Sadly many of those role models are unworthy of directing the future of your child. By carefully selecting people of character as role models a parent can read books, tell stories and even personally introduce their children to inspiring exemplars.
My own children have been inspired over the years by the example of people from the past. Biographies about people of courage, persistence and grace have been a great resource in our home.
Another interesting tool in the parent’s tool-box is what I call “normalising”. When you feed certain foods to your child you make that flavour and texture normal for your child. Mexican children think that spicy food is normal, while native children in Papua New Guinea think that cold sweet potato is normal.
The example you set and the things you engage your children with become normal for them. In some homes argument is normal. In other homes being industrious is normal. Others make study, music or sport normal. To some being greedy and competitive is normal, while for others sharing is normal.
The pattern you establish creates the context in which your child will feel comfortable for the rest of their life. Obviously, then, it is best to make the best things normal.
THE GREATEST TOOL OF ALL
What is the greatest tool of all? Your unconditional love for the child has to be one of the most powerful tools you have as a parent. The bond of affection that you establish with your child will cause them to be fulfilled and set you both up for the kind of relationship that can work through any difficulties.
Whatever else you do, love your child. And if you are not sure how to do that, let me give you a non-emotional definition of love. You love someone when you want what is best for them, despite the cost to yourself.
Note that wanting what is best does not mean you must make that person “happy”. Pulling a splinter, cleaning a wound or making them take horrible medicine may be what is “best” even though it brings pain or is unpleasant. You love your child when you will give them what is truly going to be best for them in the long run. The child may be angry with you, or may not like your decisions at times. But as you determine to want what is best for them they will come to realise and appreciate what you have done for them.
WHERE DO YOU GET MORE HELP?
Learning to be a Good Parent is not something that will happen by accident. The fact that you are reading this article is a good sign. It shows that you are interested in finding out more and are open to learning things that you might not have known. Congratulations. Now I encourage you to keep on learning.
If you would like more advice to help you parent your children then you will find my book, Parenting Horizons, to be a valuable handbook.
A FINAL QUESTION FOR YOU
Have you considered your options? You most likely have a large range of support mechanisms around you that you may not have fully accessed. Let me suggest some of them for you. You have your parents and extended family members. Those who have raised children will be able to give you advice and support. You have neighbours and friends. You have churches and caring citizens in your community. You have social organisations and government bodies. You most likely have a local library with books and resources. There is the telephone, internet, and snail mail for you to contact people and ask for help. You may have an employer and fellow employees. Don’t underestimate the good will of your community, shop-keepers, elected officials, and so many more people around you.
And, you can always take time to pray. Ask God for His help, wisdom and support. Many have done it before you and attest to amazing answers to such prayers.
I wish you every success as a parent. May you and your children be blessed.