by Ronnie Spangler
No matter what the experts say raising our children is strictly a matter for the parents and there are a few simple basic rules that have applied throughout history.
We can learn more from our parents and grandparents than we can ever learn from books on parenting and the so called parenting experts. Somehow young parents in our society have come to depend on books and the internet for advice instead of asking their parents for their advice. Some of it is the natural belief that everything changes from one generation to another. While there may be more technology and more avenues for information some things in human nature never change.
Children of all ages need love, discipline, security and know they will always have someone they can rely on. Younger children prior to teenage years need the security only a close knit family, including the grandparents, can give them. The memories and lessons they learn at this age will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Having good memories of our childhood leads to a more positive and optimistic outlook on the future throughout our lives. If children learn early in life to remember only the bad times then as teens and adults they will be pessimistic and only expect the least out of life. We have to remember that children from the time they take their first step and speak their first word are always looking for more knowledge. They want to be just like the big people that are hovering above them. They want to someday be able to do the same things these people are doing. What we do or say in front of children will be the things they do and say as teens and adults. Deep inside of us is the natural instinct to emulate our parents or an adult that we remember from our childhood. It may not be a conscious memory, one that we dwell on everyday, but it is there influencing us in everything we do.
Have you ever had someone say to you, “You sound (or act) just like ____.” We may not realize it but what they are saying is we are emulating someone from our past that had a profound effect on the way we think. The person may have disappeared from our life and we probably don’t even think of them very often but the memories are still there. For this reason this is the time parents must teach their children what’s right and what’s wrong. This is the time to teach their children to have respect for their elders because these are the people that have experienced life, both the good and the bad. This is the time to teach them that nothing is free, if they do good things then life will reward
them but if they do bad they will be punished. This is also the time to teach them to believe there is always something more to life than just living day to day. Now is the time for them to understand the meaning of life and death. If you believe in god then it is your responsibility to teach them that there is something better waiting for them in the afterlife. This is the time to let them know the world does not have to be a scary place and life can be a wonderful and rewarding thing.
As our children turn into teenagers we tend to think it is time to treat them more like friends than our kids. For too many kids this is a mistake. Teenagers like adults are individuals and we all have our own way of thinking and we all want to show our individualism. Teens are striving to show they are grown up and able to think for themselves and we have to respect them for it. Part of growing up is having your own friends and getting out from under the tight control of the parents. We as parents have to understand and accept their growing up even if they stumble and fall along the way. We have to understand that their friends belong to them and most teens resent sharing friends, especially with parents. We have to understand that teens do not want to be our friends. While they are going through a period of challenging our authority over them, they know and deep down in their heart they expect us to remain the authority figure in the family. Even teens understand we must all have certain rules to follow or the world would end up in total chaos.
Think back to the first time you as a young boy or girl challenged your dad or mom. Did you do it because deep down in you thought what you were about to do was a mistake or was it because you thought mom or dad was just an old foggy that wasn’t hip with today’s generation? More likely than not you were about to do something that you thought may be a mistake and you wanted someone to say stop.
As parents we must be vigilant during every phase of our children’s lives. We must always be the adult, the one they turn to when they need an answer or a helping hand. After they are adults and have made much of the same mistakes in life that we made, then and only then will they accept us as friends. Until this time what teens and young adults expect most from their parents is act like parents. Show the discipline when discipline is needed. Show the love, respect, encouragement and understanding when it is needed. Above all else do not be afraid to act like an adult and say no when it is appropriate.
The last basic rule in life is simple, as teenagers boys interact better with fathers and girls interact better with girls. It is a right of passage for boys to challenge their fathers and girls to challenge their mothers. It is how we as parents handle the challenge that will determine the rest of the relationship for years to come. If we understand the challenge for what it is and remind ourselves we went through the same thing, then we can act like adults and withstand the challenge. If we do not fall short in the eyes of our kids than I can guarantee that later on you will find that you are not only parents but you have gained new friends.