A Few Words of Parenting Wisdom (and A Happy Father’s Day!)
Today is Father’s Day, a day to remember and honor your father and all the great male role models in your life, but it is also a day to honor and thank all those single moms out there who, by choice or circumstance, have had to play both parenting roles in their children’s lives. So, to all of you dads and single moms out there I wish you a Father’s Day filled with love, laughter, and happy children!
As you know, there is nothing that you will ever do or accomplish in your life that will be more important than being a great parent to your children… Not only for your children’s sake, but for society’s sake; for the sake of the people they will marry and the children they will have; for the sake of their older relatives and all the older people they will care for, if only through the government for which they will vote and perhaps someday run.
Unfortunately, many parents don’t know how to be great parents, sometimes bribing their children for love or compliance. A great parent is not one who buys their children everything they want or gives in to their every demand. That’s the easy way out. Being a great parent is hard, quite often requiring the courage to be unpopular with your children by saying no.
As parents we need to teach our children that the pride and the confidence they will develop by working hard, saving their money, and earning the things they get is ultimately far more valuable than the things they get. We need to show our children how to find happiness within themselves, in their relationships with others, and in their own accomplishments.
But there is so much more to parenting than that. I believe great parenting begins with loving and liking your children; truly listening to them and respectfully speaking to them; getting to know them as individuals; identifying their strengths and weaknesses to help them better develop their full potential; and customizing your parenting style to meet their needs – because when it comes to children, one size does not fit all, although there are guiding principles that do.
With all children, you have to set expectations, be fair, and be consistent; explain the why’s of the rules you have; encourage them to develop their own moral compass and a strong sense of ethics; role-model kindness, generosity, and service to others; give them shared and growing responsibility in the family; nurture their development of a strong work ethic; show them how humor can get you through life’s rusty situations and how important it is to not take yourself too seriously; develop in them a curiosity for learning and a proclivity for growing from failures; offer the perspective of embracing opportunities and exciting challenges where others only see obstacles; and help them learn how to make and trust their own sound decisions, while accepting responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
And spend time with them. You don’t need to go on an expensive vacation to the other side of the world to bond with your children or to spend quality time together. In fact, I believe the bonding and the quality time unexpectedly come in those quiet moments when you are cooking or gardening together; or when you are fixing the car or the washer; when you are walking the dog or taking bike rides together; when you go in search of beauty on a nature hike or on a beach-combing adventure together; when you volunteer as a family on Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen or collect toys for homeless children at Christmas; when you ask them about their day at school and show them you are sincerely interested in their response; when you attend their extra-curricular activities, like baseball practices and games, and talk about it on the way home in the car; and bonding and quality time also come when you incorporate your children into your world by bringing them to work, to gallery openings, to museums and concerts, to fundraisers and charity events, to the things you like to do and must do.
Say I love you and hug them a lot. Really listen to them when they talk or ask you questions, look them in the eye, let the phone ring, and show them the respect you would show other adults. Let them know they are important and important to you by asking them about their day, their friends, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their lives. You have them for such a short time before they grow up and move away, cherish each moment you get to have with them. Show them how to be better parents to their children some day, and we might just change the world.
Happy Father’s Day!