April 1, 2010
When you focus on the basics of raising kids—showing love, using discipline, fostering independence and a life purpose—parenting becomes clearer and more satisfying.
Everyone has basic needs, like food, shelter, and clothing. Everyone needs to feel safe, get an education, and find work. All crucial, all important. People don’t need i-pods, Blackberries, sports cars and other toys. Here is what kids really need: to feel loved, to learn and accept discipline, to become independent, and to find a life purpose. Your basic mission as a parent is right there.
We know that showing love vetoes criticism, contempt, belittling, and neglect. Love shows kids that they belong and that they are needed, as their unique selves. Love shows kids that they are valued, mostly for who they are, and also for what they do, accomplish, and contribute. Showing love means you are close, even with cranky kids and rebellious teens. You are close-by and close-knit, showing positive attention and giving lots of praise.
Love is to children as rain is to flowers. Love for your kids is unconditional. Real love never depends on what they do or don’t do, whether they make you proud or disappoint you. Love is always there to get them to bloom sooner or later.
Life without discipline is chaos. Lack of personal discipline has been the cause of countless human heartaches and failures, as well as physical and psychological harm to others. It is painfully difficult for humans to become self-disciplined without being trained and disciplined as young children. On the other hand, it is never too late to begin, no matter what age.
The mantra of good discipline is “kind and firm.” As a parent or parental figure, you are a force to be reckoned with, and you are also respectful. Parental discipline includes rules, guidelines, and consequences (negative and positive). Kids don’t need you to be their buddy. Your mission is not to become a popular parent, but a principled parent.
We are not talking about isolation and disconnection, or the special needs of
those who are mentally or physically challenged (who can also become independent to their ability). For most of us, healthy independence means you are not an unnecessary burden to family or society, but are competent and self-sufficient. You are trained and apprenticed to be “on your own,” and productively interconnected with other people, You contribute to your community and society both by your profession and as a volunteer in the service of others. Independence enhances self-confidence. As parents, your goal here is to help your kids become people who are good to have around on this planet.
Finding a Purpose
Most adults don’t get this, so their kids surely won’t. This idea stems from the belief or philosophy that each one of us has at least one gift or talent that the world needs. It is something you love to do, have a passion for. You are happy about it, and the world benefits. The best way to help your kids find a purpose that resonates with their deep desire is to find your own purpose. Earlier is better, but in the long run it doesn’t matter if you are 30 or 60. If you are looking for your purpose or mission, your journey alone will be an invaluable lesson for your kids.
It All Falls Into Place
Great parents are sweet and loving, and also tough and persistent. Raised in the right interpersonal atmosphere, most kids—even real tough ones—come out of their insight stupor at some point. It’s great when it happens sooner. But one of the most rewarding things to experience is when your adult child has achieved wonderful things or becomes a terrific person. Imagine hearing, “Mom/Dad, I don’t know how you put up with me. Now I know what you went through and how much you loved me. I owe an awful lot to you. Thank you. I love you.”
No matter what, an embedded theme in all of this is to enjoy yourself along the way. You’ll need to be creative sometimes. And no matter what you hear or see, know that when you follow these basics, you are an awesome parent!
Try these practical steps right away to become an awesome, or even more awesome, parent.
1st Although you love your kids to death, check in to see if you can show more love by standing your ground or confronting their behavior when needed. Check in with your partner, and get some feedback from a good friend.
2nd Look for more and more strengths and abilities in your children. Write them down in a special notebook. Find one or two more ways to elevate their independence and competence.
3rd Have some “deep” discussions with your kids about their mission or purpose. This is a work in progress. Remember that a good question is better than a good directive.