Rearing children has never been an easy task. Children are human beings in an underdeveloped state and just like their adult counterparts; they exhibit personality traits that can be challenging. Unfortunately, more and more parents are opting for the easy way out and not promoting healthy development in their children. More and more parents are focusing on the intellectual and athletic development of the child ignoring the psychological and sociological development. What is a parent to do? Are there enough words to help develop a truly well rounded adult? Below you will find the best four letter words every parent should use to rear healthy, competent, loving, and happy children.
“Quality Time vs. Quantity Time” has been kicked around for two decades as a way of absolving parents from their key responsibility: rearing their children. Bussing children around from one sporting event to another is not quality time. Only one in 16,000 children will grow up to be a professional athlete. How many “Hall of Famers” have you heard thank their little league coaches? Unless that person was a parent, the answer is none. How many wealthy men have left their fortune to any of these groups? However, wealthy men who left vast amounts of money to the Boy Scouts of America for the same reason: promotion of values, family involvement, and civic involvement. A parent must ask the following questions: Why am I carting my children off to all these events? Is it truly for the child or are you living vicariously through the child? Are you using your child as a status symbol? When we are together, are we talking about the child, or the activity? One last question, ask your child what the child would love to do if the child could choose the activity. If your child truly thinks of you as a parent and not a dictator (one who dictates activities) then the answer might surprise you.
Playing is a child’s work. It is through play that a child discovers and develops certain skills. A two-year-old needs to learn how to roll a ball back and forth, and preliminary social skills not the alphabet. A parrot can memorize the alphabet, and a chimpanzee can learn sign language. There is no great skill or higher intelligence in that. Playing is a child’s version of stress release. It seems odd that someone who in 1968 could enter first grade without knowing how to read, attend a school day that included two fifteen minute recesses and an hour lunch, during a school year that began the day after Labor Day and concluded before Memorial Day and still grow-up to graduate college and end up a CEO of a major company. Why do we think that play is a waste of time? Play is fun. It makes you laugh thus lowering blood pressure, includes using various muscle groups through activity which keeps weight down, and is multi-dynamic: teaches life lessons, sharing, patience, reading, problem solving, arithmetic, rhythm, strategy, cause and effect, decision making, honor, self-worth, dignity, self-esteem, etc. Anytime a child plays any game, even if alone, a valuable lesson is learned. Just because a self-absorbed workaholic parent cannot see that does not make it less true. It is even more important for children to have parents play with them. Educational television is the poorest substitute for parental involvement, the parent is the primary educator in a child’s life. Do you really want your child to talk about playtime with an animated character as the happiest childhood memory?
Video games only count if they last for an hour or less, and the whole family is actively involved. A child that spends more than an hour, and worse, alone playing video game does not gain any tangible intellectual, physiological, psychological, or sociological reward. Bill Gates does not own a video game system.
Children want parents to talk with them, even when they say, “Nothing” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” How will a child know what is important in life if the parent will not talk to the child? One of the best times to talk with your child is at the dinner table, not in some restaurant, fast or five stars, but in the safety and quiet of home. Home is safe base; it is a time for the child to have the parent alone. Practice rephrasing questions so that they are open-ended, cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” Parents need to listen to their children and talking with them about their day even if the events may not seem important or educationally sound to you. It does not matter the child’s nationality, creed, race, or favorite team most of them will answer this question the same way:
PARENT: “What did you do in school today?”
CHILD: “Nothin’ “
It is surprising how many parents accept that answer carte blanche. Many adults answer that question the same way when “work” is substituted for “school.” The reason is simple, school is repetitive, the same subjects everyday. The child is just regurgitating an auto response. The teacher or teachers are teaching and the child is learning. Try reframing: “Did anything new, exciting, interesting, insane happen today?” The humor of the question will flip the auto switch off, and the choices will hit upon a memory. Unfortunately, parents want to hear about the joys of arithmetic, writing, reading a classic. If parents will honestly recall their own childhood, they will remember that PE, art, recess, etc. were their favorite times, too. The object is to accept this answer, expound upon it and lead the child toward the academics. Share some of your own experiences, good and bad.
Let your children know what you value and why. Why must the child make all As? Is it for a better future for them, or parental bragging rights at work? Studies have shown repeatedly that the B-C student is the most successful in life because the student understand failure is transitory and the student has the power, ability, to effect change upon the grade; the student is not the grade.
It is not the fact that God has been removed from schools but that parents have removed Him from the home. A child who is given a spiritual support system tends to handle the difficult moments in life. The world is not worse, contrary to popular belief; however, the coping skills are nonexistent. Everyone needs to know that there is a Higher Force in control when they have lost control. It does not matter how this Higher Force manifests itself as long as it is positive. A centering prayer is a good way to help a child refocus when Life throws a curve ball. Prayer can give a parent the needed time to rephrase before reacting in a harmful manner, whether physically or verbally.
Pray with your child, for your child, for yourself, for others who encounter your child.
Children need to learn that money, privileges, items, grades, etc. are earned not owed. Children get a true feeling of accomplishment when they work and earn something. A parent does not help a child by giving the child everything the child wants without earning it. A baby chick that is helped out of the shell instead of pecking its way out is not strong enough to survive. It is true with children who never learn the value and accomplishment of earning something through work. A parent who completes a child’s homework because the child says it is too difficult sends one of two messages: the child is not capable of completing the work, or the parent is a tool to be manipulated. Work with the child, reframe for the child, teach the child to ask the teacher for help, but do not complete the assignment for the child. Often a child is frightened of failure, or the unknown outcome and is looking for reassurance from the parent. When a parent gives in the child’s unspoken fear is now validated: I’m not smart/strong/good enough.
You may not always like your children but you must always love them. It is important that parents tell children often that they love them. All children go through periods of doubt, especially when they have committed some offense. Children do not always “know” that parents love them. If a parent cannot say the words, “I love you,” to a child something is wrong and the child will interpret it as rejection. Things are not love, love belongs to people not to things. It is not money that is the root of all evil but the love of money. A child will reciprocate to the world the love received at home.
Lust is not love. Children need to learn that sexual desire does not equate love. If a child is not shown love at home, hugs for example, then the child will seek that physical connection somewhere else. Children need to be loved in a safe and accepting environment in order to grow into loving adults.
Love carries an obligation to be good, kind, and gentle to those who are weaker. Love means that, though someone makes you angry you have no right to harm them or hate them. As a parent, you need to teach your child to let go of the hate and anger created by the child’s actions or the actions of others. Love does conquer all but you have to let go of hurt feelings to experience that caused the anger.
Children need to know that “the sun will come out tomorrow.” Children need to know that no matter how hard a situation becomes it will get better, it might take some time, but it will get better. Children need to know that they are a parent’s hope for the future. The parent knows the world will be better because they are in it. The truth is because of hope the world will get better.
Life is not fair. Life is not easy. Life happens. Life is disappointing. Life is boring. Starting in the mid-70s parents decided they needed to protect children from Life. You cannot. Children need to experience life in order to learn how to navigate past the difficult parts. Children who are taught they can say or do anything they wish without consequences fail in life. Life means “no” more times than “yes.” The work force has taken a serious turn toward the worst because children have not learn the meaning of “no,” discipline, responsibility, honor, pride, or love.
Life is beautiful because other people share in it. Life offers many fulfilling opportunities the most important of which is the number of diverse people in it. Life is rewarding because of the beauty it holds through Nature. Life is worth living because of every single life each person touches whether the other person realizes it at the time or not. Every child’s life has a purpose and it is the obligation of every parent to encourage every child to seek and fulfill that purpose.
Aging teaches children the difference between reality and fantasy as long as the parent guides the child through the process. It is not reality to give children everything they want because that is not Life. Children who do not learn that there is a hierarchy will fail to become productive in the business world. The real world teaches everyone that there will always be someone else to whom they answer. Even someone who owns a business is accountable to suppliers and customers. The real world proves every day that an adult who throws a tantrum is either mentally ill or immature and not to be taken seriously.
In the real world, there are consequences for actions. Physics, every action has an opposite and equal reaction, cannot be denied forever even if it seems a person has gotten away with an illegal or unethical activity. Every Holy Book has some equivalent of “what goes around comes around.” Children need to know that a parent cannot always rescue them from problems of their creation.
There is a huge difference between want and need. Children, by their egocentric nature, want everything. However, if a parent provides too many material things to a child at an early age then how does the child learn appreciation or gratitude? If a child needs the latest style in clothes in order to express individuality, or an item because everyone else has one, or a high tag item to fit in and the parent gives in without explanation, then parent has proven to the child material possessions are more important than personal growth.
A prime example of this is the perceived need for portable media devices. There was a time when a family trip afforded the perfect opportunity for families to reconnect. Only family members were allowed because the point was family togetherness. The long drive’s entertainment included talking, singing (either to the radio or family songs when the airwaves were not available), arguing, reading, crossword puzzles, or travel size version of board games. Now, however, cars are equipped, or can be equipped with DVD players, each child has an individual handheld video game, several members may have MP3 players, or a member is on the cell phone all this going on in place of true communication. Children literally tuning out the world with their parents on the outside. Even when the family shops children and their parents can be seen ear plugged into MP3 players, and cell phones. It is interesting to note that more and more youth retreats and school field trips no longer allow children to bring their electronic devices. One reason is a security issue; however, behind that is an issue that schools are finally starting to address: personal communication between students.
Children’s worlds are by nature egocentric, it is a parent’s job to help them ascertain between want and need. Take an inventory of a child’s room and see how many wanted items have been set aside and neglected for the latest fad.
What is a list of four-letter word without the “F” word? The entire list if items are free to every individual and maybe that is the problem. In today’s society, most individuals are wary of anything that is free. People have been trained to believe that the most expensive is the best, the most exclusive the ultimate. It is important to understand the essence of the human being: to be love, understood, wanted, and productive. All unhappiness can be found in a shortage in one, or all, of those four. Fortunately, all can be attained and parents are the most important supplier.
All parents want the best for their children. However, the past thirty years have placed modern parenting on shifting sand and maintained this precarious foundation through psuedo-educational-psychological smoke and mirrors. Professional educators, child psychologists, and toy manufacturers have made millions on the backs of well meaning but ill- prepared parents. Stop the decline by introducing four letter words into your child rearing vocabulary.