One thing that many, many people don’t understand is that parenting is the single hardest and most rewarding job there is. Even fewer realize that good parenting is one of the most important reasons that humans have done all the things that we have done throughout history.
The job of a parent is not to have fun with their offspring and it is not to be the child’s friend.
A parent is a combination of teacher, mentor, drill sergeant, judge and jury, moral compass, role model, and source of wisdom. One who is a child’s best friend cannot fulfill many of those functions. A parent who solely wants a child to have fun with is not fulfilling other obligations. In both cases, I would suggest a dog, even though that requires leadership and the retention of authority.
It is truly amazing to me how many parents don’t get this. You can’t be playing water gun fights with your kid one second, then yell at them not to hit you with water the next, then threaten to dunk them the next. The child is getting mixed messages and those children tend to have difficulty in later life understanding things like ‘no’ and ‘don’t do x’.
To be a parent, you must be CONSISTENT. The rules apply all the time and things like ‘kidding’ should not be done. Children, especially toddlers cannot understand kidding. They quickly figure out that sometimes you don’t mean what you say and will use that to their every advantage.
Parenting is like teaching. If you say it, you better bloody well be prepared to do it. And never, ever say anything that you won’t or can’t do.
If a child understands what the rules are and they are applied all the time, rain or shine, then that child is more self confident. He knows what the limits are. There will be times (it seems like daily) that children push the limits. They really, really want cookies and they will do anything to get that cookie.
If you say, “no cookies until after supper”, then you must stick to your guns. The second you give in, then you will hear no end of the whining, cajoling, and bargaining. Even worse, if you give in after a long period of this, then the child gets the message that they must be persistent, which, honestly, is the most annoying thing ever. It would have been better for you to give the child that cookie the first time he asked instead of waiting until an hour of whining has occurred.
Children, even toddlers, are extremely intelligent. I don’t mean they can do integral calculus. I mean that they are very good at recognizing patterns and their memory is pretty phenomenal. If the parent isn’t strong, then they will get their way and they will either always get their way or they will become seriously confused about reality.
I honestly don’t care whether your kid has a cookie before supper. It probably won’t kill them. It probably won’t make them diabetic by the age of four. It probably won’t make them into serial killers. But whatever you do, be consistent.
I’ll say this. It’s freaking hard to be a parent. It’s stunningly painful to look at something that you love more than life itself who is screaming in pain and know that you have to cause them more pain. We, as adults, can conceptualize (if not like) the fact that sometimes we have to hurt worse to make the pain go away. All a child knows is that it hurts and they don’t like it and why isn’t daddy making it stop hurting.
That kind of thing is almost a bit of broken trust between the child and the parent. It hurt and daddy didn’t make it better. In fact, he hurt more. But a true parent has to understand things like this for the child and do what has to be done. It’s not pleasant, it’s not fun, but it is being a parent.
The parent’s job is not to protect the child from every single thing that happens, but to help them understand reality. Understand that shit happens and sometimes you just have to take it. There are times to protect the child, but there are times (and they generally suck) when you just have to let the child go and say, “I’ll be here for you always, but you have to experience this on your own.”
There are times when, if I could have taken my child’s pain upon myself, I would have in a heartbeat. But it would have been the wrong thing to do. Life is full of pain, physical, mental, emotional and a child who grows up without being to deal with pain is going to quickly find themselves on antidepressants. I’m certainly not saying to torture the child, but you do what you have to do. If that splinter needs to come out, then dig it out. Then give hugs and maybe a popsicle (’cause that makes everything better).
Children are the future of our planet, our species, and our lives. The old joke goes “Be nice to your children for they will choose your nursing home” is true, but a properly raised child, who knows love and respect, and is taught to think, and ethics, and morality will help the parent when the time comes. They will also be able to take care of themselves and be a productive member of society and not a burden on it.