I had a professor in college tell my class that being a parent is simple. It’s about making wise choices in order to prepare young men and women to be released into the wild world and survive as responsible adults. He made it sound much easier than it is. Being a successful parent is also a means to encourage the growth of healthy families, healthy neighborhoods, and healthy communities. No pressure there! It’s so much more than raising our kids and sending them out into the world. It’s also our part in helping to make that world healthy.
There is no one right answer to successful parenting. It can and will look different for different families. I do believe that there are some basics, universals if you will, that are of value for each of us. They are enough to encourage parents, challenge parents, and send them down the road to develop successful parenting habits in their lives.
#1 Successful parents love their spouse or significant other. Healthy relationships form the foundation on which children will draw upon later in their own lives. They foster the stability needed for young children to grow, thrive and experiment. It’s important that the home is a safe place that models and shows selfless love. Successful adults are faithful to each other. They certainly do not take for granted the commitments made to one another. Sometimes it’s hard work to show selfless love, but they do it none the less. Successful parents take pride in teaching their children the importance of what one can give to a relationship, not what they can take from it.
#2 Successful parents will correct harmful behaviors, beliefs and attitudes. The old proverb, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” holds true. The old proverb, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” holds true. Even though discipline can come in many forms, it’s good to remember that one size does not fit all. Adapt discipline to each child. The children need to learn everything from the adults including good behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results and how to reach their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided. It should never be motivated by anger, pride, or selfish reasons because then it causes harm rather than resulting in benefits. Instead, discipline should be motivated by love for the child and a desire to see your child become the best they can be.
#3 Successful parents encourage, maybe even demand, healthy behaviors, attitudes and beliefs. To parent, you need to be able to think. It takes incredible energy, strategy and intentionality. Even so, many parents are unwilling to give it the attention it deserves. Consequently, their children become shaped by the world around them rather than by the parents or caregivers that love them. Successful parents do not simply discourage unhealthy habits; they also intentionally encourage positive ones. Successful parents can envision the type of person they want their children to become. They consistently model that behavior for them. It’s good to bring lofty expectations into their lives and of course think the best of their children. Successful parents provide opportunities for their children to learn valuable life lessons and they praise positive habits in private as well as in public.
#4 Successful parents encourage spirituality. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but spirituality is bigger than just “church.” It’s good to instill a sense that there is more to this world than meets the eye. Some of the greatest things in this world are not things at all, but are invisible and even indescribable. There are things that can make you feel good like helping your neighbor, giving to a relief effort or knowing there is a moral compass that guides life. Wise parents encourage and provide chances for their children to find it. To find their own spirituality whether that be sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan or taking a walk in the woods. Maybe it’s time with the grandparents or that feeling of security and peace during the bedtime story. Talk about spirituality with your kids and let them discover what it means to them.
#5 The hardest one of all. Successful parents know when to let go. Parenting is 100% parents trying to shape lives and 100% children choosing their own life. There is no doubt that parenting demands time, energy, love, sweat, and tears, it also requires freedom to allow our children to make their own choices, walk their own paths. Sometimes even when we know they may stumble, or it’s not the best choice. This is hard, I know having done this with four children of my own, especially because it varies from child to child. Parents that neglect to let go cause harm. When they do this, they never accomplish the very goal of parenting itself: Making wise choices in order to prepare young men and women to be released into the world as responsible adults.
~ Chad Welch, Door County Partnership for Children and Families