Raising Successful Children
Raising healthy, well-adjusted, respectful, and ultimately successful children is hard work. Unfortunately, it seems that many parents are either unwilling to put in the time and effort or, more likely, they do not know how to parent effectively. What do most people whose family lives are "out of control" prefer to do? They convince themselves that having well-behaved children and a stable, loving family is not possible. It's an unobtainable goal, so why even try? In fact, these days it is vogue to mock "functional families."
The media regularly reiterates this "out of control" theme. For example, the recent television commercial for Florida orange juice opens with an idyllic family getting ready to start their day. It looks like a scene out of the 1950s. Then the voice over says "Get real," and the commercial shows the supposed modern family of the 21st Century having a totally chaotic morning. There's mom frazzled and talking on the phone. Her teenage daughter comes down for breakfast looking like she's off to be in a Marilyn Manson video. Her appearance is not as troublesome as her behavior as she rolls her eyes and speaks with disgust towards her parents. Then the "youngster" of the family runs around half-dressed, uncontrolled, and devoid of the most basic human civilities. Meanwhile, "Dad" has his nose buried in his paper oblivious to the storm around him. We repeatedly witness "new" television shows using the same "old" stories that feature "out of control," insolent teenagers and their parents who struggle to raise them. The constant bombardment of this theme reinforces the impression that teenagers should behave disrespectfully and be unrestrained. The message is clear: Welcome to family life in the year 2003 - complete chaos! In fact, it's "normal" to be "dysfunctional."
On TV, the adolescents eventually "see the error of their ways" but, in reality, it is immeasurably harder to redirect children of teenage years. The most important time in developing your child's character starts at the young ages. Raising respectful, responsible, reliable children starts from DAY 1. Quality parenting takes effort and consistency. You must be willing to patiently and repeatedly guide your child. You must teach your child what is and what is not acceptable behavior; so simple, yet so challenging for many parents today. We risk angering our children by setting boundaries or telling them "no." They might not like it. What if they dislike me? What if they tantrum? It takes strength to bear your child's manipulative "anger" towards you, yet it is your responsibility to do so. As long as your discipline is conveyed with love and understanding, your children will grow up and realize you took certain actions because you love them.
Effective parenting begins by modeling simple character-building principles. Years ago, as our children were beginning elementary school, my wife taped the following list of ideals to our refrigerator:
- Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong
- Don't whine or make excuses
- Do your best no matter how trivial the task
- Look out for the group before you look out for yourself
- Judge others by their actions not their race
Everyone in the family has become all too familiar with "Mom's List." I can not count the number of times my wife marched our kids over to refrigerator and made them read an entry. She is trying, right from an early age, to develop character, decency, and honor in our children by holding them to these standards and by consistently demonstrating their usage.
The first item, for example, must be taught - children, like most of us, do not instinctively choose the "difficult right" over the "easy wrong." Get them to do "the right thing" habitually and you have set a foundation for excellence and future success. Living by high standards and modeling the behavior you expect from your children may be challenging in today's world. Between influences in the entertainment industry, materialistic desires, and declining public decency standards, nowadays the rare individual displays unwavering ethical tendencies.
Ever try being the parent who says "no" while it seems as though all of your children's friends are being given too much freedom? Are you competing with people who want to be friends with their children rather than parents to them? Never justify what you will and will not accept with the logic that "everybody's doing it" or "that's how kids are today," and do not accept this excuse from your children. Parenting is a full-time job and we need to commit to it.
Raising children takes patience, skill, and involvement. They do not need another friend; they need guidance, structure, and, yes, sometimes discipline. The following list contains suggestions that, implemented regularly, provide a firm foundation for quality parenting:
- Let your children benefit from your experience and knowledge. Talk with them!
- Set reasonable boundaries and enforce them with consistency.
- Discipline fairly. Be ready to follow through if you threaten to punish. Otherwise, children quickly learn that there is no consequence for inappropriate actions.
- Instill ethics in your children by modeling noble values.
- Have family dinners often. It is not impossible, it is essential. This time can be a family's most memorable period of the day.
- Do not accept what seems to be true or conventional wisdom. All teenagers are not brats. All families are not in chaos - and if yours is, it does not need to be -starting this minute!
- Raise your standards of behavior and your children will pattern themselves after the person they most respect: you.
- Let your kids be kids; they will grow up fast enough. Eight year-old girls, for example, do not need to wear lipstick and eye shadow!
- Most importantly, give them unconditional love and support.
Finally, acknowledge that your children live up to your expectations. Mention that "my son always forgets to tell me things" and he will. Call your daughter "lazy" and laziness will become her trademark. Expect them to be troublesome, in fact, make light of it to friends, and guess what? Your kids will behave as you predict. Contrarily, treat your children with respect, and they will behave respectfully. Eventually, they will grow up and once they are adults, you will have not only a friend you respect, but also someone who respects you.