The Golden Rules of Parenting
(from a Parent Who Has Been There, Done That, and Survived)
1. Prepare your kids to enter the world. You aren’t doing them any favors by insulating them against its harsh realities. Kids must have some knowledge and understanding of the world before they venture into it, or they will be confused and overwhelmed when they ultimately meet life on its own terms. Let your kids know how to behave, and especially, how to be morally responsible. Instill in them the confidence they’ll need to face the world. Anchor them firmly in the Faith so that they will be ready to defend it.
2. Remember that your kids are not your equals. You have the God-given commission to guide and manage your family and your household; your kids do not. You and your spouse must be careful to maintain your primary roles as mother and father, even while fulfilling lesser duties like cooking or coaching. You are not the chauffeur or the cleaning lady. Dad is not the scoutmaster or the live-in handyman. Don’t be afraid to exercise parental authority, but do so gently and with love. Tailor your parenting to your child, keeping in mind that the right method of guidance and discipline will vary according to the child’s age and character.
3. Consistency and fairness are crucial. Children become bewildered when things don’t work out the way there’re supposed to. Set a pattern of consistency and stick with it. Don’t say one thing and do another, or let your whims determine your expectations for your kids on any given day. When it comes to enforcing rules or granting privileges, make sure that you and your spouse show your children a united front. Human nature is what it is, and most kids are not above playing one parent against the other to get what they want.
4. Don’t draw comparisons between siblings or between your kids and kids from other families. Just because your children are, well, YOUR children doesn’t mean that they aren’t individuals with varying capabilities and talents. Encourage your kids to appreciate the differences that distinguish them. Remind them that God has great plans for them, and has provided each of them with the very gifts he needs to fulfill his role in those plans. Help your kids to develop what they have, and to become who they were meant to be.
5. Recognize that your kids have their own lives to lead. Be aware of their limitations, and don’t expect them to excel at everything. Don’t try to make them relive your childhood or attain the dreams that eluded you. It’s one thing for Dad to perch a teeny baseball cap on baby Junior’s bald head and daydream about Junior’s future success in the big leagues. It’s quite another thing for Dad to force ten-year-old Junior to play baseball when the kid has no interest whatsoever in the sport. Teach your kids to be modest winners and gracious losers; to always do their best, and not to be afraid of failure. When your kids are still young, encourage them to discern their vocation through prayer. And when they are old enough to choose their own paths, let them do just that.
6. Teach your children the facts of life. Your children will inevitably learn about sex; let them do so in the right environment and with the proper perspective. When to introduce the topic to a child, how much information to give, and how to present the material are matters to be decided by the children’s own parents, and not by teachers, friends, the internet, or the media. Teach your children that sex is a creation of God, and that He made it as a means of creating new life and expressing human love. Impress upon your children the fact that sex is reserved for use within the sacrament of matrimony. Preserve the purity of your children by educating them in chastity, entrusting them to Our Lady, praying to their guardian angels, and asking the intercession of Sts. Aloysius Gonzaga and Maria Goretti.
7. Foster responsibility in your children. Your kids need to know that you trust them and will stand by them. But they can’t expect you to protect them from the consequences of their wrong decisions or blameworthy actions. Let your kids know that, if they are accused of wrongdoing, you will not assume that they are guiltless, or chalk up the incident to an innocent misunderstanding. Be loyal to your kids, but hold them accountable for what they do.
8. Teach your children the Ten Commandments not just by word, but by example. Let your kids see you living on the correct moral terms. Help them to understand that a well-ordered life is a happy life. Words can instruct, but it takes action to convince.
Copyright 2013 Celeste Behe