An Opportunity for Reflection
Fifteen months from now is the end of a beginning. I’ve watched almost 2,000 students graduate in my 24 years of this profession. But next year is the year I’ll watch my oldest daughter take those steps across the stage.
This approaching future event made me look back on my journey as her parent. I am by no means an expert, especially since she is my first child, and heaven knows how many mistakes I’ve piled up, wrong assumptions I’ve made, and poor advice I’ve given to her. At the same time, however, I am in a unique position, having watched and studied parenting (good and bad) for nearly a quarter of a century, not to mention my own upbringing from my parents.
I admit, sometimes I navigate the days assuming parents know best practices. But after reading a children’s story to the admin team last week, I realize my assumptions about what parents know and how they think is flawed or off in some way.
Again, I am no expert. But if I was asked to answer the prompt, One thing I know for sure is…, this would be my response:
I believe that these basic tenets of good parenting have stood the test of time (in no particular order):
* Create rules, guidelines, and boundaries
* Commit to daily, regular, and honest, face-to-face communication with your child/children
* Role model what is important (show, don’t tell)
* Promote independence through regular chores/duties/obligations
* Provide opportunities for unstructured time
* Practice how to be civil by listening, pausing, and reflecting before you speak
* Provide opportunities for your children to advocate for themselves
* Provide good nutrition
* Provide opportunities for exercise/movement
The items on this list have always been true, no matter the decade, the technology available, geography, race, climate, religious persuasion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, physical ability, or any other parameter not listed. Some of these are more difficult than others, especially based on context. Some take years to master, while others are more organic, again, depending on context. Nevertheless, I know these practices will make all of us better at this sometimes extremely challenging role we’ve taken on as parents.
How do I know this?
I know this because personal experience has shown it to be true, as well as professional experience working with thousands of parents over three decades. While it is hard to call anything “absolute” or “truth,” there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence to suggest that these tenets are at the heart of good parenting.
Any list by its very existence blocks out possibilities; it limits. Thus the list proposed above is not to suggest exclusivity or perfection. It is rather a group of concepts conceived by observation, reflection, and proven to stand the test of time.
Are there exceptions? Definitely. Not everyone has the opportunity to have one parent (let alone two) raise them. And there are many cases when people have become enormously successful without this foundation instilled early on. Yet I would wager a guess that when those individuals raise their own family, many of the missing pieces from their own childhood will be filled in with pieces from “the list.”
I hope this helps you on some level; I write it for me as much as for you. I’m still learning and adapting- to the times, to each child, and to the curveballs life throws.
I also hope you will continue to partner with me and I welcome and encourage your response, whether it’s your thoughts, perceived shortcomings, or validation of any or all of the practices listed above.
In the end, when we arrive at those pivotal moments to come, we will look back and realize each of our lives intersect and impact another’s in profound ways. We all have opportunities to help each other learn and grow, to help our children learn and grow.
And, we are all in this together.