Ok, it’s true. Parenting is a lot of work and a never ending job. I know. I am one. However, it is one of the most important jobs we will ever have. How the next generation turns out depends on how well we perform the tasks at hand.
But, there is no manual; no ring of flashcards to refer to when needed. Often, parenting is accomplished using a working model we learned from our own parents, either straight on, tweaked to make it more palatable, or completely changed around.
Parenting information abounds, with row upon row in the bookstore to peruse and hundreds of thousands more online. It is frankly overwhelming… not like my mother’s day, when Dr. Spock was pretty much it.
Some of the advice expounds a tight ship, while others implore parents to be liberal and free-wheeling. You close your eyes, choose a course, throw in some trial and error, and hope for the best. Fortunately, most of the time, using common sense, our children turn out pretty darn good, in spite of it all. But we do need to remember the generous dose of common sense.
I think many times parents forget their role. It may result from being short on time, or perhaps a sense of guilt for having to leave children in child care for long hours... the list goes on. The end result is a parent trying to become a child's friend, instead of his parent.
No one wants to be the "bad guy" after a long day at work, but parents are not doing their children any good by being their pal instead of their role model and safe boundary. I like to use the term "safe boundary" because that is what children look for... limits to their behaviors and a need to feel safe. If they can't find these things in their parents, they will feel at loose ends and have a poor sense of security.
Good parenting provides children with a working model for self-regulation and proper behaviors. This is the same working model they take with them into their lives, as they interact with peers, authority figures, and, someday, their own children.
Parenting is NOT just about getting through that trip to the grocery store at whatever cost in the moment. It is one of an endless number of experiences a child will have to watch you and learn from you and become who he will be.