Parenting guidelines for dummies – just kidding!
This is tricky territory. The topic of parenting is complex, to put it mildly. There are things that factor into it like, genetics, family histories, luck, and individual experiences that run hot and cold from one end of the continuum to the other. Two people come together with their generous bags bursting at the seams and decide, more or less, to pro-create. The outcome is usually a box of chocolates – “You never know what you’re gonna get.” Yes, if you’re wondering, I’m comparing children to chocolates. Family making is a chocolate roulette wheel. Some children are soft and sweet and delicious and some are unrecognizable as your off-spring — hard and unpleasant. Some you want to spit out, or, return to the box half eaten, but instead you’re forced to make a very unpleasant face while you try to swallow. (This is an example of why I have never, and will never, get Freshly Pressed. What the good people of Freshly Pressed don’t know is how incredibly difficult it is to sound this moronic.)
I’ve compiled a simple list of parenting guidelines that will take you from the “Bad Parent” zone and place you safely in the acceptable parenting range. No one will give you an award, but your kids will not need therapy later when they’re adults, I use the term “need” loosely, and they, your children, will not despise you . That’s my guarantee.
As illustrated in this picture to the right, do not clip your children’s wings. I repeat, Do Not clip their wings or their hair, for that matter. Leave it to the professionals. Seriously, let your children be themselves. Don’t try to make them into a mini-me. They’ll have enough of your example without you even trying. Don’t let your triggers, insecurities, and low self-esteem issues become theirs. Accept and encourage individuality. They’ll thank you later. Vive la difference!
Never destroy their trust- EVER. A good parent will always try to keep their children feeling physically and emotionally safe. That requires that you keep your word, that your actions are predictable and that your intentions are clear. Don’t make promises you won’t keep. Don’t be false in any way. Don’t lie or keep secrets. Kids want and need parents with integrity. Children can process very difficult and unpleasant information if it’s presented in an honest and loving way.
Grow Up! That’s right. GROW. UP. I don’t know a single child who wants to share their childhood or adolescence with their parent. This is a big red flag that sits at the entrance to the bad parent zone. To be clear, children love parents who know how to have a good time, who enjoy being playful and can act silly, etc. It’s when the parent puts their needs ahead of their children’s needs that the trouble begins. If you’ve decided to have children, that would indicate that you’ve ALREADY HAD YOUR CHILDHOOD. If this is an issue for you, and you still want to be the child, believing that your emotional needs take priority over your own children’s needs, may I suggest therapy?
Love your spouse, and love yourself. This is one of the best gifts you can give your child. Little girls need to see that their father’s adore their mothers. And little boys need to see that their mothers adore their fathers. Any which way you slice it, you are creating a template for their future relationships. I know, some of you might poo poo this. But from my experience it’s true. As children we identify with our parents, so when we see that they are loved and adored we feel secure and will look for someone later who will recreate that same feeling with us. Does it always work this way? No, not always, but it helps a great deal.
Be present in your child’s life. Put in the time. There have been studies that now show it’s not quality, it’s quantity that counts! Yup. Your kids need to see you, A LOT. Your presence is very important to their sense of security. (Don’t skimp on the quality either, if possible.) They’ll remember who drove them to their sports games, who was in attendance, who sat with them in the Dr.’s waiting room, who showed them how to navigate the grocery store, who watched their favorite show with them or read their favorite book, who took the time to teach them life lessons, etc. Let them guide you as to how much time they require. Some need more than others. Know your children, their hearts and minds. This will pay off in spades down the road – not that you’re looking for a pay off, okay, so maybe you are a little bit.
Be open, loving, kind, sensitive and patient. I know, these are so obvious. You’d be surprised how many parents get caught up in the busyness of life and forget these things. (Also, it’s hard to provide these things if drawing from an empty well.) Be the parent you always wanted – not the fantasy one who served up ice cream for every meal, but the real one. The parent who loved you unconditionally and helped you meet your best potential.