I am a father first! It is the greatest responsibility bestowed upon man (big picture here) to be parents. I often ask my three children, “Kids, what is my number one job?” By now, they have the answer down to a science. “To make us good grown-ups.” This is not a charge I take lightly. The failure of modern day parents has led to a drastic change in the personalities, attitudes, and actions in the subsequent generations. These changes have had an unfortunate effect on society in general. Bad grades—blame parents! Obese children—blame parents! High crime rates—blame parents! Not only are the issues in schools and neighborhoods a result of poor parenting, most of the societal problems that we are dealing with today can be directly associated with it. Don’t get me wrong, it is quite similar to “six degrees to Kevin Bacon” but, it can all be traced back to the highest calling in the animal kingdom, mom and dad. Albeit, homosapiens have a bit more complex set of circumstances to navigate their children through; however, it all amounts to the same thing. Will your children succeed as adults who are productive to society and their families? At a bare minimum, will they become good people?
I consider myself a successful parent. My children are well behaved, smart, with a prospective future regardless of my income, while still loving and respecting their parents. As such, in my personal opinion, there are three secrets to success to assemble good grown-ups. I do not mean, “do these things and your kids will be perfect.” I simply mean that perhaps establishing a strategy which is surrounded by principles could only be beneficial and plant morals and values that can be passed on generation to generation. Perhaps enough to reverse what has been taught to the last few. First remember, it’s not a choice or a burden, so don’t be lazy. Second, treat them as you would expect to be treated, reasonably. Third, you are not their friend and they are not yours…yet.
It’s Not a Choice, or a Burden…Don’t Be Lazy
In the months preceding the birth of my first child, I was continuously warned and teased by co-workers, family, and friends about the long sleepless nights and the loss of my personal freedom. I was berated with this so much, that I grew weary of it and I allowed it to ruin the final stages of the pregnancy, which can be joyful if allowed. Little did I know, all of this irritation would be gone the second I saw my son. All of those voices, which were ringing and echoing between my ears for weeks and months faded away as soon as I saw his little face, all covered in blood and birthing guck. I can’t count the times over the subsequent months that I was up all night, helping his mother take care of him. Even when I didn’t need to be, I needed to make sure he was okay. I couldn’t sleep unless I knew he was fed, clean, warm, and comfortable. It was never a burden. Why should this change as the child grows? There are parents out there who overwhelm their kids with things like soccer and ballet, or gymnastics and the piano. Then they have the nerve to treat their kids like it’s getting in the way. You signed them up for it! Be enthusiastic not resentful. Notice I didn’t say ACT enthusiastic—BE enthusiastic. Did you even ask if that’s what the kid wanted to do? Remember your parents saying, “If you don’t want to be treated like a child, don’t act like one.” Maybe parents should give kids a little more credit and treat them, not quite like adults, but slightly older than their apparent capacity. For example, my mother never shied from using vocabulary beyond my years; as such, I grew up understanding the importance of speaking eloquently and intelligently because I learned to understand my mother’s chosen terminology. Kids will adapt and overcome—they learn so fast!
With children comes more responsibility, if you weren’t ready to take that on without taking out your frustrations on your kids or significant others, then what are you doing having kids? Condoms are cheap. Wait a few years until you are ready. It’s not mandatory that every woman/man/family reproduces. Have kids for the right reasons. They aren’t pets, and they aren’t there for YOUR happiness.
The Golden Rule
The wide spread explanation of the “Golden Rule” is, do onto others as you would have done onto yourself. I am sure that there are many other values that could fit under this expression; however, I am pretty sure this is the mainstream definition. Have you ever had a discussion or argument with someone who is just unreachable? Have you ever been in a situation where, regardless of what you say, the other half of the argument will not listen to reason or see beyond themselves and/or their pride? Do you know someone who will never see the forest through the trees because they are blinded by the fact that they cannot accept there is a chance, however small, that they MAY BE wrong? This is because as children and young adults, they are not faced with reason and are therefore left with doubt.
How can parents expect to raise reasonable children without showing them reason? “Because I said so,” isn’t cutting it these days even though, in my generation, it used to. The reason for that is trust. When my father hit me with, “because I said so,” I didn’t like it, but I knew if I pushed, there would be consequences. In the long run, I figured out that my father loved me and if there was no reason to say no, he wouldn’t. That, and if I argued with him about it, I would face worse repercussions. Unfortunately, that is not good enough these days. It is clear to me, particularly being a step-parent, I have to earn trust and that is done by showing reason and sincere consideration. Once this is accomplished, “because I said so” might stand a chance. The trust has to be established first. Here is an example:
Daughter: Dad, may I play with your iPad?
Daughter: Ugh! I’m bored!
Me: Sorry, you can find something to do. Read, draw, watch a show, go outside, or play with any of your hundreds of toys.
Daughter: (walks off moping because she didn’t get her way)
Now, she isn’t happy because she didn’t get her way. Yes, she is moping around looking for things to do, but the situation didn’t exasperate into an all out discussion that would eventually lead right back to the same result. Now, I bet you are saying, “wait, where was the reasoning?” Well, for the most part, I don’t need to do that because my daughter has learned that she can trust that when I say no, I have a good reason. This is only because over the past few years I have dealt with the situation by saying things like, “No, you cannot play with the iPad because I think you have played enough video games the past couple of days and I think you need to explore more creative ways to spend your free time.” This method of treating a child with reason will rub off and they will do the same with their peers, co-workers, and eventually their children. It will even come back and bite you when they reason you out of your reasoning sometimes. You will be frustrated; however, it’s likely you will also see the humor in the whole situation which will reasonably result in a proud chuckle. Children understand compromise, they call it bargaining.
On the same token, speaking down to your children is a good way to lose their respect and trust. They will not feel loved if you take a resentful, annoyed, or otherwise negative tone with them when they haven’t earned it. I’m not saying not to scold children, they often need it but, you should choose your battles. You can do that. If you are getting angry and the situation seems a bit petty (often outside of your control) and feel like you are going to explode on the child (completely within your control), tell them to go somewhere else until you can get a quick calm grip on the situation. Then simply tell them, you aren’t going to “bargain” with them and that they are going to have to trust that you are doing what’s best. Children are smarter than you think, but there are some things they just aren’t going to understand.
Mostly, as grown-ups, we expect honesty and respect. Treat your children the same way and that is the way they will treat you and others as they become adults.
You Are Not Friends
This one makes me the most upset. I will start with my good friend, Webster:
: a person who you like and enjoy being with
: a person who helps or supports someone or something (such as cause or charity)
: a favored companion
: a person who is a father or a mother
: a person who has a child
: one that begets or brings forth offspring
: a person who brings up and cares for another
So, you can see the obvious differences, right? There are similarities too. That would be why parenting is difficult. The “friend” role lacks responsibility, making it relatively clear that the position is choice based. The definition of the word, “parent,” suggests responsibility and, outside of the choice of having the child, dictates the requirements to “bring forth,” and “care for” either, “offspring,” or “another.” Now this is not to say that there can’t be some mixing and matching; however, there are clear lines that have been drawn even at this elementary level.
Now, the angry rant! If you are reading this, you are likely an adult—act like one! When you put your child on the same ground as you, you teach them to be as foul-mouthed, ill tempered, bad mannered and criminally negligent as you turned out to be. Or, on the other side, you teach your children that they are equal to adults. If that were the case, crimes against children would not be considered any more egregious than crimes against adults. Children would be able to get jobs, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and even vote. Now that’s scary isn’t it? When children are placed on a level playing field with their parents, the ones they are supposed to revere the most, they feel that they are capable of gaining leverage that they have no right or capacity to manage. Now what happens when you put them in school around strangers? They are bratty, rude, and mean little boys and girls that lack the capacity for social growth, or the desire to seek and explore the unknown. Why? Because, according to them, they know it all already.
Most people will now turn their defenses on and shift their pride into high gear. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” “I’m not doing that!” Bullshit! Look inside yourself. Look at the four walls you are surrounded in. Has the bad attitude you have rested your reputation on gotten you anywhere? Doubtful. Has the fact that your child knows you by your first name and not, Mom or Dad, developed into anything other than resentful competition? If not, just wait! I know a lot of parents who would say, “My kids like me.” Good for you. My kids trust, respect, and love me—moreover, they know that they need me. That need is more multi-faceted than I can even attempt to illustrate with examples, but I’m going to anyways. “Wait, one more kiss goodnight,” “Can I sleep with you guys, I had a bad dream,” “I made a mess,” “I did something I shouldn’t have done,” “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” and, “I love you, Dad.” These are all examples that clearly say, “Dad, I need you in my life,” “Dad, I need you to love and care for me.”
My kids don’t always like me, sometimes they flat out hate me, but they know where they stand with me and that I only want what is best for them. Many will be angry about this because, who the hell am I to tell other people how to parent? I’m no one. No one is making you read this or try to take something away from it. I’m just a parent whose children are as well behaved as I expect children to be, and who live for those moments when I tell them how proud of them I am, and what a good job they did.
As an adult, I now consider my parents to be my greatest friends. I trust them completely. To this day I know that they only want what is best for me and I understand that as an adult, I am responsible for my own actions. Yet, I still heed their warnings and worries as trusted advice. This is the relationship that is created by waiting for the right time to befriend your children. Be a parent first and you will be friends forever.
To Prevent Further Digressing Into Anger, I Must Conclude
My wife and I are parents who understand that it is our responsibility to “assemble” hard-working, honest, kind, productive adults who will become valued members of a future that, in my opinion is looking bleak. This dark path that the human race, particularly in the USA, has put us on is a path caused by laziness and indifference. Is it so hard to care for the ones you love? Animals, for the most part, instinctively care for their offspring. It seems to me that humans are so far behind in the evolutionary curve. We appear to be one of the only species that do not instinctively love our children. This is impossible for me to understand. I must not be human; or maybe, there are less human homosapiens than I thought. I love my children and that is why, I do it the hard way—and it’s easy, because I love them so much. How’s that for a paradox?
Treat your children like children without patronizing them. Over-entitled mentalities, selfishness, laziness, indifference, and incompetence are all traits people develop as children and often times maintain throughout their lives. We all see families that are full of deviants, criminals, thieves and degenerates. It’s not genetics, it’s the manner in which they were raised, or the lack of any significant raising, which has created a culture with these symptoms. This brings me to my final point, which memorializes the expression, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Look at yourself, honestly look. Do you like what you see? If not, there is hope. Change that part of yourself and be aware that your children are on the same path unless you do something about it.