“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
I have strong views on having the job of parent. I think all parents should teach their kid to read and write and know colors and north, south, east and west. Singing the ABCs to the Twinkle Twinkle tune is simply fantastic.
There has been a many decade explosion on how-to-parent advise books. There are a ton of web sites too and blogs and five-part DVDS. I have spent some time on those sites looking for some specific things.
All of those parenting sites miss a very basic thing.
Sure, “be a role model” is in the top ten lists of good parenting. But that is overt outward behavior, it is much deeper than that.
Your kid, at an early age, is watching you like a hawk. Your kid can hear you in the next room. How you react or interact to the world around you is the real role model; you as mom or dad are the roadmap to how to cope with the world. This is really what makes your kid a “good kid” or not.
Your child is not judging you. Your child is absorbing you.
Let us illustrate with some examples:
You are on the phone with customer service. You unload on the guy. It feels good maybe to blow off steam on an innocent. You had a bad day. Everyone has, at minimum, turned the screw a little tight. No matter your own circumstance, did your kid just learn to bully the weak?
Maybe you called customer service and like the perfect role model, you are super nice and kind. When you hang up, you say “asshole”.
Dad takes twenty bucks from Mom’s purse. There is so much in there, I can’t describe it — male over female, mom under dad, stealing is okay, stealing is a game and something you can get away with.
Do you want your kid to be a couch potato slob? Tell me that you are not binge watching Netflix.
Really bad day. You go to your room to cry. It must then be best to hide your emotions from the world.
Even if you hide “the finger” when you flip off another driver, I promise you that the kid can see it and understand it.
Having a drink after work is great. A glass of wine to wind down is terrific. Announcing “God, I need a drink” is something else entirely. It isn’t the action of drinking at all.
There will be thousands of examples that all add up, few one singular thing will be pivotal to a child’s behavior.
The Perfect Parent advise sites are pretty good. They discuss how to mete out punishment and feeding and caring and tickling and hugging; all good things. They miss the boat entirely on how you work the world around you and how closely you are observed.
Many years ago, I was in an argument with my wife. It was a small little round about thing that we were see-sawing over, no anger or anything. Suddenly she began to cry. To her horror she was acting just like her mother! She did not want to be like her (manipulative mean-spirited selfish) mother.
We must remember that our parents taught us how to behave in the world and, now that we are grown up, we must decide if that is right and true for our kids (I’m thinking of learned racism here but there is so much more).
We can’t control everything. That is one of the things on the Perfect Parenting web-sites, you can’t be perfect. But you can be honest and a good guy and generous and kind. Maybe dad can’t do that, but you can. That foundation will be there long before your kid meets that bad-influence kid; can’t blame the other kid.
Kids have been raised for millions of years. They really did get beaten by random strangers if they acted up in public. The things that we call abuse today were commonplace for a very long time. Civilization did not rot because of it, a lot of good kids grew up to be good people.
Love your kid. Say it out loud.