Before you have children, it’s common for many to have high ideals of what kind of parent you want to be, how you want to raise your children, and what goals you want to shoot for. It isn’t long, though, before these expectations are popped by reality. You realize pretty quickly that you can’t be everything for your child, that it’s impossible to be perfect and live up to all the expectations you’d laid out for yourself, that it’s unrealistic to think you’re never going to fail.
Forget about perfection. You’re never going to attain it. “Perfect” doesn’t factor into parenthood. So instead of striving to be a perfect parent, which you’ll never be, enjoy being a parent who’s loving, fun, happy, humble, concerned, prayerful, and human.
You can love your children to pieces, even if your room is untidy. You can have fun, even if you have baskets of laundry to put away. You can be happy, even if your child is having behavioral problems. You can be humble enough to ask for the help of others, and humble enough to admit that you can’t do everything.
Kids love parents who are natural. No child wants a parent who is stuffy, rigid, and a perfectionist. Children enjoy being with those who are fun, and who do interesting stuff with them—and, of course, with those who love them. So be that type of parent.
Make your child’s life full of interest, variety, and fun. Everything you will ever teach your child will be better and more easily learned when you have forsaken unrealistic expectations—both for yourself and for your child.
Teach your children the thrill of learning. Allow them the rush of exploration. Make room for them to experiment, even if it means that they will sometimes fail. That’s part of growing up. Your job as a parent is to be a guide, mentor, and counselor, and also to lead and help guide and direct them within the choices that they make.
Enjoy being a parent. Enjoy your children. Laugh when they laugh. Sing when they sing. Feel their hurts and sorrows with them. Your children will learn to love life if you show them how to. They will learn motivation rather than perfection, if that’s the quality you manifest. This is not something that can be learned in a textbook. If they see it in you, they will want what you have.
§ Successful parents strive to be the person they want their children to become. There are no formulas for parents. You can’t “program” children like a computer and be guaranteed of the result. But children are great observers and imitators. They watch, listen, and absorb values and habits from the people who have the greatest influence on them—their parents. So successful parents resolve that they will set the best example they can for their children.
§ Successful parents enjoy being parents. They enjoy parenting not because it’s easy or instantly rewarding, but because of the sheer joy and privilege of cooperating with God in shaping another unique and precious life. Any parent of grown children will tell you “they grow up so quickly.” Successful parents remind themselves of that and try to savor every day with their children. They immerse themselves in their children as much as possible and just enjoy them—even the days of dirty diapers, illness, and disappointments. They don’t just love their children, they like them and look forward to spending time with them.
§ Successful parents don’t expect perfection, either from themselves or their children. Parenting is an art, not a science. Successful parents understand that, like themselves, their children aren’t perfect either. This frees them to love their children unreservedly.
§ Successful parents don’t fear occasional failures. They understand that mistakes are a normal, even healthy, part of parenting. They make the best decisions they can, and when they’re wrong, they learn from their mistakes and try to do better the next time.
§ Successful parents don’t expect to have smooth sailing. Children have their own opinions, personalities, and preferences. Inevitably, they cause us to say, “Where did that come from?” or “What were you thinking?” Our responsibility to provide them with limits and guidance will sometimes clash with their growing desire for independence. Successful parents aren’t surprised by difficulties and conflicts; they expect them. But successful parents understand that their responsibility to their children is not to always please them or make them happy—it’s to make the hard decisions that will be for their best in the long run.
§ Successful parents don’t go it alone. No one has the experience or answers to every parenting challenge. Successful parents aren’t reluctant to seek out the wisdom of others. They know that, at the end of the day, the decision is theirs, but before they get there, there is plenty of wisdom along the way waiting to help them.
§ Successful parents try harder. They face the same pressures we all do—demanding jobs, spouses, and children who need them. But they live by this rule: “You get back what you put in.” They have a clear sense of priority for their family and are willing to put in the time to achieve it. They give more than the “average parent” so their children will be more than just “average children.” These parents work at nurturing and developing themselves to be the best parents they can be.
(Richard Patterson, Jr. Confident Parenting in Challenging Times. Tekna Books. 1999)
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