Being a parent is the most important thing you will ever do in your life. This article may shock you. I’m going to ask you, as a parent, to take a good look at how much you are doing for your children. I know, you want to be a good parent. But, what’s the end goal here? Raising a happy, decent, and independent human being—right?
I’m a parent of an adult child. Wow, I feel old saying that right now. I’ve done these things and will share what worked. (I realize not every person can parent this way—nor should every child be parented in this fashion. There are exceptions to every rule. But, even if you have a special-needs child, think about utilizing a few of these tips.)
- Don’t do your child’s homework. I know this sounds awful, but if your child didn’t write down what they had for homework, or if they need to research something, they really need to figure out how to do this on their own. They never forget what they learn on their own.
- Let your child walk to school with a group of other children, this is age-appropriate, but by age 10 they can do this, especially if in a group and you live close by the school. If you use bus services, let your child ride the bus.
- Let your child pick out the clothing they want to wear. They might put on colors that do not match or something you might not like, but it’s important for them to express themselves. I do not condone T-shirts that have inappropriate words or images, nor do I approve of jeans torn in strategic places. There’s a dress code, you make that clear—but within that realm, let your child chose.
- At a very early age, involve children in household chores. Children derive a sense of satisfaction from helping you. Praise them lavishly, even if they didn’t do it exactly as you’d do. At least they tried. Very young children are capable of picking up toys, making their bed, helping with kitchen clean-up. And, this is very important—don’t make a list of these things to do and check them off. This needs to be innate, natural, seamless. No reward systems. This is part of family life. We all help.
- Don’t automatically rescue your child. This is a tough one. If your child forgets to pack their lunch, do not rush to the school later and deliver lunch to them. I know this sounds cruel. However, if they go without lunch that day or someone shares a bit of their lunch with them—they won’t forget it again.
- Let your child pack their own lunch every day if they don’t want to eat the food at school. You will need to agree on what’s healthy and what’s not—then provide those items in the fridge. Children are very good at putting lunch items together.
- Show your child how to do laundry and have them do their own laundry once a week. If they want a certain piece of clothing and it’s in the hamper, allow them to do their laundry early that week. The point being—the child does the laundry, not you.
- When children get home at end of school day—listen to their chatter. They might call you at work or a sitter or relative may pick them up—but, it’s important that they have someone to process their day with. It takes about 20 minutes at most. This is a good time to just listen and not interject.
- Outside chores should be part of your child’s routine. Shoveling snow, mowing lawns, preparing garden beds, all these things should be taught early and expected to be done.
- You, as a parent, need to be the one who talks about God to your child. This is too important to leave to other people. Spiritual beliefs range from atheist to devout born-again Christians, to Catholic and Jewish faith. And, there are other faiths that should be learned about too; Hindu, Islamic, etc. Your child should have a working knowledge of each major faith—no matter which one you embrace (or even if you do not embrace any) cultural knowledge is important.
- You, as a parent, need to talk about sex with your child. You don’t want to leave sex education up to the school. There are so many reasons for this, I’d have to write a separate article. Suffice to say, morality should be discussed at an early age with your child. Don’t make sex a taboo topic. It should be talked about matter-of-factly as a part of life—because it is. Not talking about this can be detrimental to your child. You need to arm them with knowledge and a good sense of morality.
- Your child is different than you. Last, but not least, this is the most important tip of all. Don’t try to make your child into you. Yes, you’re a parent. Your child will look up to you. But, always remember that little human being you held in your arms as an infant is a separate person—with their own strengths and weaknesses. Give them your undivided attention and honest opinion, while utilizing words of kindness.
The goal is to raise an independent child who will become a self-reliant adult. One who does not expect others to wait on them. One who understands the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. One who pitches in without being asked—no matter where they are—at work, at school, or helping friends and neighbors.
And, oddly enough, all this self-reliance builds a child’s self-esteem. Yes. It’s the strangest and most beautiful thing to watch. As a child helps others, they become happier! And, once you witness this child blossoming before your eyes—being kind—working diligently—it will make you smile. There, standing before you is a marvelous little human being—loving life, facing challenges, overcoming them all on their own—and sharing their joy with you! Trust me when I say, that’s the best feeling a parent can ever experience.
It may sound old-fashioned, but this is how I was parented. I left home at age eighteen, fully functional, to live on my own. My relationship with both parents has always remained strong. Some of my greatest memories are those with my father washing the car in the driveway with a hose, engrossed in conversation. Some of my best memories of my mother involved kitchen work, peeling carrots, and talking while working. I learned about life at that kitchen sink.
I’m not a child expert, nor a psychologist. But, I raised a child in this manner. But, even if I hadn’t, I know happy, well-adjusted people when I meet them. They look you in the eye, shake your hand, smile—and you immediately know—this kid had good parents. Something went right.