A Plea for Parenting
The prompt for this week's edition of Write A Letter Wednesday is to write a letter of advice to someone. Here's mine...
To Whom It May Concern,
While I realize we all have to learn most of life's lessons on our own and the great majority of advice people bestow on us falls by the wayside, the situation is such that I feel I must speak up, at least a little, and share my thoughts on parenting with you...
From the moment you give a child life, either by planning or the lack of it, you are responsible for that child's well being. You are responsible for providing not only the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, but also important necessities like love, support, encouragement, guidance, discipline, and protection. I can't begin to emphasize how important these things are!
Becoming a parent means putting your child's needs first... always! It means putting away your own childish desires and learning the difference between wants and needs in your own life so you can teach it to them for theirs. You do not need fancy nails or a new purse if you can't really afford them, even though you may want them - your child needs healthy food, adequate clothing, and quality daycare. Their needs come before yours, they are totally dependent upon your providing for their needs.
In the same manner, if you can scrounge up money for cigarettes, alcohol, or high dollar cellphones and service, you should be able to scrounge up money for your child's shoes, clothing, school supplies, and hot lunches. Don't beg for help in feeding your child if you are managing to feed your bad habits. Again, their needs come before yours!
Children need affection, encouragement, praise, guidance, and plenty of one-on-one time with you. They are not an inconvenience to be sent off to a bedroom full of electronic gadgetry, or shuttled off to a friend or relative's house frequently so you can have your time to yourself. While it is important for you to have a little down time and some breaks now and then, you are a parent first and foremost. Your children need you and they need to know that you enjoy their company and miss them when they're gone. Children are smart, and can tell when you are eager to get rid of them!
Guidance is every bit as important as discipline. Children need limits, they need to learn right from wrong and the consequences of making poor choices. They also need to be shown how to recover from bad experiences, how to learn from mistakes, and how to dust themselves off and try again. They need encouragement, they need praise and to see that you are proud of them. They do not need to be berated, shouted at, cursed at, or told that you wish they weren't there!
Children need guidance on grooming skills and clothing choices. While you can't always ensure your child will conform to your tastes and rules about appropriate appearance, you can help them select clothing, etc. that is reasonable, not sexually explicit, and doesn't promote alienation. Once again, you have the right and the obligation to set reasonable limits on what is acceptable in your house.
You have the right and the obligation to insist on manners, treating others with respect, and helping out with household chores. Life is not a free ride! Additionally, you are not a limitless supply of cash... set rules and stick to them on what funds will be available. Teach your children to handle cash responsibly, and teach them the dangers of indebtedness. Insist they honor contracts they make with you and with others. Be open and honest with your children, encourage them to be honest and open with you. Teach them that dishonesty has consequences.
Teach your children to love books by reading to them and by letting them read to you. Make time to experience fun things that don't cost a bundle. Make time to play together with each child individually and as a family. Show them the beauties of nature, and teach them to welcome adventure and new experiences. Teach them to think situations thru before they react, and to make smart choices when faced with tough decisions.
Start every single morning with greetings of affection, and end every day with expressions of love and appreciation. Teach your children to be grateful, caring, compassionate, and helpful. These are lessons that will serve them a lifetime!
Lastly, and maybe most important of all... be a role model to your children! Don't just preach at them ("do as I say, not as I do") show them! Be reasonable, don't respond out of anger and emotional extremes, but rather from a calm place of wanting them to learn. If you're not in control of your own emotions, how can you teach them to be in control of theirs? Take a time out (for everyone including you) to restore calm before you try to discuss difficult situations.
Please, please, don't become so consumed in the drama, excitement or business of your own life that you fail to notice that your children are drifting away from you into scary places... be an aware, interactive parent... BE THERE FOR THEM, they need you! You are the adult, you are the parent, it's a powerful role - you can and will shape the life of your child in ways that will affect them forever!
(Who knows it isn't easy, but hates to see children being neglected by uncaring, self-consumed parents)