This past week, I wrote a letter to the New York Times in response to an op-ed by David Brooks titled “How People Change.” Brooks’ piece is about how a parent dealt with his adult children, who have disappointed him and his wife over the years.
My letter briefly discusses how parents should interact with older children, and that values and character are things best passed on to children when they are young (click here to read my letter to the editor, which was published on Friday).
Letters to the Times must be very short, and I was unable to discuss all the issues on my mind relating to child rearing. So, I’ve created a fairly comprehensive list of recommendations new parents should consider as they navigate through their child rearing years.
During the next decade, many millenials will get married and have children. The group will be caring for, nurturing, and teaching the next generation of Americans, a very important task that will have a huge impact on the future of the country.
There is an old saying: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” In other words, children emulate their parents. If you are a caring and thoughtful person, your children will likely be the same. If you are a bigot and condescending towards others, your children will similarly follow your lead.
I’ve been at the parenting game for quite some time. I’ve done some things well, but I certainly made my share of mistakes. As a parent, you will experience many bumps in the road. No parent has ever raised a child flawlessly. Here is a list of things you should keep in mind before you begin parenthood that may make your odyssey more enjoyable and a little less stressful.
Raising a child is the most awesome experience you will ever have. It is rewarding most of the time, but challenging as well. Relish the experience. Act like every aspect of your child’s life is the most interesting thing in your life. Every second you spend with your child should be quality time. Conversation is educational and good for a child’s psyche. Kiss your child as often as you can because as he gets older, kisses are harder to come by.
Setting a Good Example:
A child will emulate his parents so you must try to hide your faults and control your emotions when he is present. Your relationship with your spouse is important to your child. It will have a dramatic impact on the way he interrelates with his immediate family members as an adult. Establish rules that keep your child’s life orderly and safe. Bedtimes and meal times should not vary, except as he gets older. Routine is important and will have a great effect on the stability of your child.
Physical and Verbal Reactions to Your Child:
Never physically harm your child. If you do, you can be sure that he will strike his children when he becomes a parent. Do not yell or scream at your child. This requires a great deal of maturity and self control on your part. Yelling is yet another form of abuse that often creates fear and anxiety. Use carrots, not sticks, to reinforce values, character, and socially acceptable behavior.
Mistakes and Danger:
When your child misbehaves, make it a learning experience. Berating him with a spanking and/or screaming will only encourage him to avoid telling you about his problems prospectively. Never assume a young child is going to do the right thing in a dangerous situation. Always play defense and protect him. A swimming pool is the most dangerous place for child. More children die in pools than with guns each year. Never leave your child unattended at or near a pool for any reason. Every day hundreds of children are treated for poisoning. The list of poisons includes medications, cleaning materials, coins, pesticides, alcohol, etc. These materials should be carefully controlled and kept away from young ones. Baby/child proof your home.
Intra-family and External Relationships:
Love your children equally. Do not play favorites, even if one child is more accomplished than another. This is also relevant when your children are adults. It is beneficial for a child to be exposed to some form of religious training. Every faith espouses qualities that are important to a child and will make him a better adult. Later, as a teenager, he can decide for himself whether organized religion is something to pursue. Family and friends will influence your child. You should ensure others behave appropriately around your child. Never trust anyone, and I mean anyone including babysitters, friends, and especially strangers with your child. You should carefully instruct anyone who cares for him, about what you expect. Leave nothing to interpretation relating to food, toys, personal care, sleep, eating, etc., etc. Physical retaliation towards others should be strongly discouraged. Working out problems must be done peacefully.
Education is a child’s most important activity. Your child should want to go to school each day. It must be a fun experience, and teachers should make it be so. You must emphasize the importance of school at a very early age. Insist on exceptionalism. If you set high standards by example and in private conversations, you will be surprised how accomplished your child can be. Downplay materialism.
You are the parent, and he is the child. Kindness should never be interpreted by your child as equality or democracy. He must listen to you and obey you. Your child should always be respectful to you, as a parent. He should also be respectful to all other adults. Your child should be empathetic towards those that have less than him.
Raising a child is a daunting task that will require your undivided attention every day. The investment you make in your child will afford you tremendous joy and a great sense of accomplishment. Be prepared for unexpected surprises and frustration. Most of all, enjoy every second of this wonderful experience.