Parents need to invest time and effort into child rearing. In the past, with large extended families living in close proximity, child rearing didn’t require as much effort because children had many models to observe and learn from. These days parents are the only source children have to learn proper behavior. So young parents need to make a conscientious effort to learn about parenting, for example by reading books or taking parenting classes.
If I had to list the two most important words for parenting, they would be love and responsibility. I think all good parenting principles hinge upon these two things. Most parents know how to love reasonably well. What many don’t know is how to teach children responsibility.
Parents should teach their children to take responsibility for their own actions very early on. If an infant is about to touch a hot stove, for example, instead of pushing his hand away from stove, parents might want to let the baby feel the heat of the stove. That way, he learns to not touch the stove because it would hurt, and not just because his parents prohibit it. Of course, there must be some discernment in regards to when to do this and when a child needs to be protected from undue harm. However, there must be a place for a child, even a young child, to learn lessons on his or her own.
Parents should also allow children to get what he wants only if they ask politely. They should learn that courteous behavior, not whining, is the right way to ask for what they want.
Parents should teach their children to follow rules. When parents make rules it works best if they do it with consultation with the children. The rules must be explained carefully so that children understand why they are necessary. Parents and children must agree on penalties as well. Penalties might include no TV, spanking, or withholding allowance. Making them do household chores such as washing dishes is not a good idea because it makes children see chores as penalties, as opposed to being responsibilities. When parents penalize children they must do it consistently. Otherwise, if it is dependent on how the parent feels at the moment, it can confuse children and not produce desirable results in children’s behavior.
When children become teenagers parents should allow them more freedom. At times, they may push the envelope with outrageous behavior in the process of finding their identity apart from their parents. Parents should not overreact to this as long as their behavior is not destructive. Do not criticize their hairstyle or dress. You can express your opinion, but leave it at that. Do not ever criticize their friends, because children take this as criticism against themselves.
Along with giving them freedom, parents need to make their children take a proportional amount of responsibility. If, in their freedom, they make bad decisions, they must learn to assume responsibility for the consequences. For example, if they are arrested for possessing or using drugs, parents should not bail them out immediately. They should wait until their children taste some of the real consequences of their actions so they can learn, repent and resolve not to do it again.
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