Parenting, in many regards, is difficult. It requires work, persistence, and patience. The very word parenthood is synonymous with challenges, frustrations, and responsibility. However, parents everywhere will also collectively agree that parenthood is also the source of the greatest joy, satisfaction, happiness that life has to offer. All the work, responsibility, and even challenges are worth every effort and sacrifice. In fact, perhaps the reason why we experience so much happiness through parenthood is because we develop the most important attribute of life – that of unselfishness. Ironic that we actually find our lives through the losing of them!
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have two incredible parents – a father and mother who loved me, cared for me, taught me, disciplined me, and truly epitomized what successful parenthood is all about. While they were not perfect (although close), they did certain things that I feel every parent would benefit from knowing, and especially emulating. Below are listed several things they did on a consistent basis that have made all the difference in mine and my siblings lives; as well as now the lives of my own children as I seek to implement what they taught and exemplified. (Only 15 are listed in this article; however, to view the other 15, please see part 2 in the Parenthood article series):
1) Power of Example: First and foremost, they lived what they taught! My siblings and I learned how to work hard, serve others, be disciplined, show respect, and act kindly not so much because it was expected of us, but because it was emulated in everything my parents did and were.
2) They Made Mistakes… and Changed: There never has been a perfect pair of parents, and everyone certainly makes mistakes. However, I noticed growing up that when my parents did make mistakes, they learned from them, apologized, and then most importantly – changed.
3) Children Always Came First: There was absolutely no question in my mind growing up that my siblings and I were the highest priority to my parents. I can not recall ever feeling that their careers, hobbies, friends, or entertainment was more important than family, or making time for and raising their children. We spent a lot of time as a family, and just as significantly, my parents made regular time to just have one-on-one time with each child.
4) Limited Electronic Drugs: Although as a child I may not have thanked my parents, I certainly thank them now for being extremely proactive in monitoring the shows, entertainment, and time I spent watching TV, movies, video games, or computer time. In fact, often was the case that we as a family would just spend the night together playing games rather than letting the TV or computer entertain or babysit us kids.
5) My Mother Stayed Home: I was extremely fortunate to have a mother who chose and was able to stay at home and be a mom. I recognize, however, that many other families do not have this great privilege, for a variety of reasons (often uncontrollable life circumstances that force a mother to have to work). Now, my siblings and I certainly did not have all the latest toys, clothes, cars, or vacations growing up – but we each would collectively agree that having a mother in the home to be a mom was perhaps the greatest difference, influence, and blessing in our lives.
6) We Occasionally Went Without: As mentioned in the point above, my siblings and I often went without. We of course had everything we ‘needed,’ but we certainly were not given everything we ‘wanted.’ This was in part because of our financial situation. And yet, even when my father got into a position to be able to buy us children what we ‘wanted,’ thankfully, he still chose to occasionally allow us to go without. He did this of course not to deprive us, but to teach us to appreciate what we had, work for what we ‘wanted,’ and develop attributes such as sacrifice, patience, sharing, and unselfishness. Simply put – we were not spoiled in any sense of the word!
7) We Had to Work: Every day my siblings and I had a chore – anything from making our bed, to sweeping the floor, vacuuming, taking the garbage out, to doing dishes. Also, I remember every Saturday morning, our entire family would go out into the yard to do yard work together. Let’s be honest – what kid enjoys doing this stuff? But, as with everything, my siblings and I look back with gratitude that my parents taught us the importance of work.
8) Fun Family Time… Often: The last two points would make it seem that my siblings and I were deprived children who were worked to death. Quite the contrary! We had a ton of fun together as a family growing up. My childhood is filled with wonderful memories of countless family nights of just playing games, drives up the canyon together, BBQ’s in the back yard, yearly vacations, weekend outings, camp-outs on the trampoline outside, and very frequent family nights. As already mentioned, my parents made their children their top priority, and thankfully rather than having the TV be our only entertainment (and babysitter), we often just spent the nights together playing games, laughing, talking, and having fun.
9) My Father Loved My Mother: Never once do I remember my father yelling at my mother. There was always sincere and appropriate affection shown to her verbally, emotionally, and physically – and thankfully, it was often in front of us kids so we knew our dad loved and was committed to our mother. I specifically remember having this enforced to me every meal when my dad would give my mom a kiss after we had a prayer over the meal – a small thing that had a huge impact.
10) They Loved Me Enough to Discipline Me: My parents disciplined me growing up, and I am forever grateful for that. Did I at times resent it growing up? Of course! Did my parents make mistakes in their disciplining efforts? Of course; but as already mentioned, they learned from that and changed. And, did I envy many of my friends who had, what I thought at the time, ‘freedom’ because their parents did not discipline them like mine? Yes. But, these friends’ choices during their supposed years of ‘freedom’ led to consequences that resulted in the exact opposite of what ‘freedom’ truly is. Perhaps most importantly, I never doubted that whenever my parents disciplined me that it was out of love and a desire to help, teach, or protect – and never simply out of anger.
11) Mom & Dad Were Equal: Of course my parents had different roles and responsibilities within our family and around the house, as every mother and father does. However, one thing was always certain – they were equal partners. In no way was my father domineering, condescending, or treated as the superior in any way. He was the man of the house and certainly fulfilled his role; but right by his side (not behind him) was my mother who was thought of, spoken to, involved in, and treated like an equal.
12) Cleanliness Was Demanded: My siblings and I still tease our mother for engraining into our minds an attribute we got so frustrated with growing up, but are ever so grateful for now. She demanded cleanliness… in every aspect of our lives! We always had to have a clean room, house, yard, car, appearance, and most importantly – thoughts!
13) Certain Attributes Were Taught, Exemplified, and Expected: Thankfully my parents did not just ‘talk the talk’ – they literally lived what they taught and expected. A few of the many attributes my parents both taught and helped us develop were: integrity, honesty, unselfishness, hard work, modesty and virtue, tolerance, respect, discipline, patience, persistence, assertiveness, independence, responsibility, prayerfulness, obedience, friendliness and kindness.
14) Throwing Fits Was Never Allowed: This may seem like a small thing, but I remember us siblings were never allowed to throw fits (and thus, I am sure I was not allowed either). Certainly, I am sure my parents were trying to teach us to understand that we can’t always get what we want, to learn to share, to be patient, to occasionally ‘go without,’ and to develop very early in life a healthy respect for adults and the ability to listen, respect, and obey.
15) Be a Friend To Everyone: My parents went to great efforts to teach us kids to love, respect, be educated about and tolerant towards, and kind to everyone. I distinctly remember them teaching me in high school to be friends with those that don’t have friends and those I normally would not be friends with. In my ignorance, I thought ‘clicks’ would somehow disappear after high school; unfortunately for us all, they still exist. Thankfully, my parents helped us kids learn early on how to be friends with, reach out to, and love and appreciate everyone regardless of our differences.
16) We Ate Together as a Family… Daily: Eating dinner together as a family each night was not so much expected of us as it was a daily tradition we all looked forward to. Dinner time was a chance to be together as a family – to talk, laugh, teach, cry, ask questions, express concerns, have family counsels or planning time, and to love.
17) Fidelity & Commitment Were Foundational: Perhaps one of the greatest reasons that marriages and families fail or fall apart is due to the fact that parents become selfish, allow the immoral influences of the media to shape their decisions, and eventually disregard virtue, responsibilities, and commitments. Thankfully, I was raised in a home where I knew and saw and never questioned my parent’s commitment to each other. In thought, word, and action – they were completely true to each other. Does that mean they never faced trials, frustrations, challenges, or temptations? Of course not! What it means is they remained true to the commitments of marriage and the responsibilities of parenthood – despite what life challenged or tempted them with. And for that, my siblings and I will forever be grateful that our parents were true to each other, and to us as a family.
18) My Mother Read to Us Kids… Every Night: I honestly don’t remember too many books or stories, nor do I really remember learning anything significant (although I am sure I did) – what I do remember was being with and feeling loved by my mother on a daily basis.
19) We Were Involved & Balanced: Our parents went to great lengths to ensure that us kids were well-rounded, balanced, cultured, and involved. Each of us learned instruments, were involved in sports, were required to get good grades in school, participated in scouting, volunteered in community and church service, and got involved in extracurricular activities. Now, don’t think for a moment that I enjoyed practicing the piano every day, doing my homework before playing with friends, or always having to do the service projects for scouting or with church groups. (In fact, I am sure my mom hated listening to my piano practicing as much as I hated doing it). But like anything in life, we look back and express gratitude that our parents loved us enough to do the little things to teach us, ensure we were not culturally or racially ignorant, and ensure we were well-rounded and involved individuals.
20) There Was Daily Attention & Affection: I remember with fondness my mother simply playing with us kids. Rather than using the TV to babysit us, she would simply play with us, read to us, or just talk with us. She was there every day when we arrived home from school to hug us and ask how our day went. At night, and every night, our parents prayed with and for us – and sent us off to bed with a hug and a kiss. These are small things that made all the difference, because my siblings and I always felt loved, wanted, and appreciated.
21) My Parents Didn’t Live Their Dreams Through Us Kids: It is unfortunate how often I have seen a father, for example, live their boyhood dreams through their son. Failing to accomplish a dream is not shameful if you tried, and it certainly is no justification to demand and do everything to ensure a child accomplishes what you did not. How selfish and damaging to every child’s unique individual potential and desires is this all too common scenario. I personally am grateful that my parents did not live their dreams through me, and allowed me to pursue and excel at things that I found interesting, fun, and exciting.
22) Eat Everything On Your Plate: First of all, let me tell you how much I hated beets, yams, squash, and granola… but believe me when I say that I ate them (had to) every time they were served to me. My parents didn’t do this to torture me (although I felt otherwise as a child), but they obviously did it to teach me an important lesson – to not be picky. I think my parents knew that if I got my way early in life with simple things like not eating what was served to me – that most likely would translate into much larger and more worrisome things later in life.
23) My Parents Were Involved in My Social Life: What that means is that my parents cared and were concerned with what I was doing and who I was with. They talked to me often, creating an environment where I felt comfortable to come to them with questions, concerns, or when faced with peer pressure. Our home had an ‘open home’ policy where we were encouraged and felt comfortable inviting friends over. Thus, I not only felt my parents cared, but my parents knew my friends and could thus encourage or warn me against anything they saw or sensed. Was I always receptive to their counsel as a teenager? Of course not – what teenager is? But again, I am extremely grateful that they were involved and proactive enough that rules were set, discipline happened, and consequences were enforced. Likewise, love was shown, teaching happened, warnings were given, and praise and rewards always followed.
24) Proper Respect & Social Skills Were Taught: I remember my parents teaching me to look adults in the eye when I spoke with them, answer their questions, learn how to ask questions and hold a conversation, and to show adults proper respect.
25) ‘Mom & Dad – Can I Have Some Money’: Again, I understand and respect the fact that each parent does things differently – and each child, home, and situation is different. Thus, as with this and every principle mentioned in this article, I am not suggesting the way my parents did things was the right or only way – it was simply one way, and a way that was effective and worked. With that said, my parents never just handed over money to us kids (whether they could or not). Life doesn’t work that way, so neither did my parents. If we ‘wanted’ something, we had to earn it. If we ‘needed’ something, that was a different story. But, when us kids had ‘wants’ – we had to earn our money, we were never just handed money. Welcome to life and reality, right!
26) Education & Grades Were Extremely Important: Our parents set the example in getting good grades, as well as both of them getting higher education and advanced degrees. School, learning, and getting good grades was simply just part of our family culture, tradition, and expectation.
27) They Never Gave Up & Had Faith in Our Potential: As mentioned earlier, parenting is extremely difficult. It takes time, patience, and consistent effort. Regardless of the little money we had, the challenges life threw at us, the mis-behaving of us children, or even the troubling years of raising eight (yes, eight) teenagers… they never gave up on us. They always put forth effort to teach, nurture, love, discipline, and raise us. And perhaps just as significant, in the process they instilled within us that we each were someone special and had great potential within us. They inspired and encouraged us, had faith in us, and never quit on us – regardless of how hard it must have been for them at times.
28) ‘Don’t Prepare the Path for the Child, Prepare the Child for the Path’: My parents epitomized this great counsel!
29) Children Turn Out How You Talk To & About Them: I never remember my parents speaking unkindly to, complaining about, or talking to others in a negative way about their children. Did they at times get frustrated, upset, or disappointed? Of course – welcome to parenthood! But they always tried to build, compliment, and praise us kids. Comparatively, a close friend my wife and I know is always talking negatively to and about her children (even with her children right there in front of her). As can be expected, this mother is experiencing some major problems with the behavior of her children. Why? I believe it is because these children are simply becoming what they hear their mother saying to and about them.
30) Most Importantly – God Was First in Their Marriage, Our Home, & Our Family: Again, I understand and respect the fact that many reading this article may not necessarily have a belief in God. However, that does not negate the fact that this very principle was the foundational aspect of my parents successful marriage, the feeling in our home, and the reason my family has turned out the way it has. We put God first in all things, and as a result, everything else seemed to work out.