Being a responsible parent has always been one of the most difficult and challenging tasks that an adult can take on in life, perhaps only second to maintaining a healthy and contented relationship with a long term partner. Aside from the challenges presented by the responsibility of shepherding another human being from childhood to adulthood that has always been present for parents, today’s world presents even greater challenges to those who seek to raise healthy, well rounded, thinking, responsible, and contented adults.
First, there is an array of information, that can be confusing, about what it takes to guide a child into adulthood. What seems popular or is touted by “experts” today is old hat tomorrow. This can be confusing to parents and lead one to believe that there is no solid foundation upon which to build your skills as a parent. Second, children are exposed or can be exposed to more information, that is not what a parent might choose to convey to them, than at any time in human history. Third, kids are using technology in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of even ten years ago and that process will only accelerate in the future, hence, there are many more factors affecting and influencing children, outside of the family’s immediate environment, than at any time in the past. Next but certainly not last, the pace of life has quickened, as well as the demands on one’s time that can become overwhelming to a parent, child, and family. Despite all of this there are some simple things you can keep in mind to help you along your journey as a parent. First, one of my favorite authors, Stephen Covey, had a saying, when one embarked on a journey as daunting as parenting a child, which was. . . “Begin with the End in Mind.” So, you might ask yourself first, what is it that I are trying to accomplish and who would I like this child to become as I parent my child or children.
Second, there are three principles I have learned that might provide you with something to think about as you travel your journey. These principles are not new but likely to be as old as human kind. I learned them from working with kids, adults, couples, and families, as they struggled to make their way through this crazy experience we call life. My experience with these folks has informed me that violating any of these three principles does not end well. I call them Rule # 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rule # 1. Every human being born on to this planet is given a gift of “free will.” If you are spiritually inclined it comes from your Creator, if not then we are endowed with it by mother nature. I believe recognizing this frees parents up from seeing themselves as 100% responsible for their child’s behaviors, thoughts, or emotions as well as prevents parents from engaging in needless struggle for power with their child. Really grasping and then accepting this concept has the potential to empower you as a parent. Remember, you already own your own power, whether your child recognizes it or not is another matter.
Rule #2. The law of Consequences. For every thought, feeling, and action there is a consequence. Some are small and accumulate over time, some are immediate and alter one’s life in an instant, and everything in between. Some consequences are seen, some are not resulting in changes to our physiology in ways we are just beginning to understand. You might recognize this as “every action has an equal but opposite reaction:” a basic principle of science. If this law is understood, this rule allows parents to exert their power in ways that can have positive life long effects on their children. Of course the outcomes will depend upon how you use your understanding of this law to teach and coach your child or children.
Rule #3. The relationship is everything. Being a therapist has taught me the importance of this one. If you have any hope of influencing other individuals thinking, feelings, and/or behavior, it is important to establish a strong safe, and trusting relationship with that person. No where is this more important than between parents and their children. We often forget the importance of this and that our kids are just as sensitive to this law as are we in our relationship with others. I often wonder why on earth people step outside of their comfort zones to think, feel, and behave differently as a result of the suggestions, new behavior, new ways of thinking, or strategies that I might have them consider implementing in their lives. It occurred to me, it is based on the solid foundation of the relationship. Without a solid relationship, all of the knowledge, experience, science, and information that I can and do offer to someone seeking to live a more contented life is useless. You will find this applies to all human interactions
Rule #4. Our behavior, thinking and feelings are created by or arise from our brains. Each of us is born with brains that are more similar than not, but for those who are born with a brain outside of “the norm” life can be full of challenges that are not experienced by those whose brains are more similar. It is extraordinarily important for parents to remember that often a child cannot meet their or other’s expectations in the way that they would like, not because the child doesn’t want to but because of the way in which their brain is formed that doesn’t allow the child to do so. Understanding this about your child will help you to be a more effective parent and keep you traveling along the path to the “land of contentment.”
I will be writing more about these ideas, principles, rules as well as what the science of psychology and the experience of working with people and families in the trenches has taught me about the many routes to success that parents travel in life. My hope is that you will find this information useful to you in your life. If you have a comment, please feel free to make it. I hope to see you soon.