Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Be a Good Parent

I'm twenty-two years old, I realize. I've never been a parent and I don't plan on becoming a parent until some significant life events happen- namely a decent job and... oh- a husband.

However, I have worked with children for a very long time- really since I was on the older edge of that vague age span myself. I then went to school and learned to be a teacher. I've worked summer jobs with parent involvement (both good and bad) galore. The amount of parents I have encountered in my life is really disproportionate to my years of work experience... and unfortunately the number of sub-par parents I've worked with is disproportionate to the number of children I've cared for or taught.

So from the humble perspective of a very young teacher, here is a list of tips on how to be a good parent to a school-aged child.

1. Be realistic. There is a vast world of understanding that accompanies any training in child development, and the more I learn the stronger I support proposals that people need a license to procreate. I have seen so many adults treat children as if they have no idea how they are supposed to behave because... they really don't know! This can go either way, really- and neither option does your child any good. You have parents who are still tying the shoelaces of their nine year old and packing lunch for their high schooler, or you have parents screaming at their two year old to clean up the toys or punishing their seven year old for taking too long to finish their homework. Regardless... if you cannot accurately identify where your child should developmentally "be" emotionally, physically, socially, and academically- please defer to people who know. Believe the teacher when they tell you that your son shouldn't be speaking that way at his age, or that it really is okay that your daughter isn't reading chapter books yet.

2. Believe in your child. This should be a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, there are way too many children walking around with self-images crumbling around them because mom or dad can't get it together enough to dream big. Allow your child to imagine and create and wonder, and let them dream. Your short chubby little son probably isn't going to make it in the NBA, but why on earth would you tell an eight year old to stop playing basketball? Your daughter with the average grades and a mess of social skills is most likely not going to be president someday, but you need to shut up about finding a suitable career when you are talking to an eleven year old. The absolute best thing you can do for your kid is have their back so they are free to dream.

3. Be there. It doesn't matter what it is, you need to show up. Conferences, school plays, sporting events, birthday parties, musical performances, classroom open houses, family dinner- these things matter to the little guys. They don't know it yet, but again back to that child development thing. At a certain age, children don't understand the abstract concept of love. They do understand when you make time for the things that are important to them. It is going to be boring at that swim meet, and sitting through the excrutiating student-run play might drive you crazy, but you had better show up. And do it with a smile, because your child can tell when you aren't enjoying yourself. You created that little person- enjoy what they do.

4. Be authentic. Kids are born with an inate sense about people- they read right through words and can truly assess what it at the core. Don't play fake around your kids. Be real and open and honest and genuine about your emotions. This in turn teaches them to be real and open and honest and genuine about their emotions... and the world could use more of those people. Be tactful about it, of course.

5. You are being watched. Ever wonder how the little guys learn? By watching, and copying. A child's brain is set up to learn by modeling- and every thing you do, they will learn from. Every single moment from the time you bring baby home is an opportunity to teach- about life, or character, or disappointment, or success, or eating habits or acadmic discipline or how to treat other people. EVERY moment- it's a big responsibility, I know.

I'm not entirely sure where I started with this post, and it really isn't directed at anyone specifically, or even a circumstance or situation. I could keep going for ages, but maybe I'll just revisit the topic at another time.

The long and short of it- most people love their children and want the best for them. This is good. The problem is that most people don't know how to parent. This is bad.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a wonderful article - I have 3 children and my own experience totally confirms what you wrote!