Do everything right, every day, and our children will grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted, and successful. Simple as that. Except for heredity, fate, divorce, drugs, dangerous neighborhoods, bad friends, and low test scores.
In other words, raising and educating children can never be done to perfection. We all need a lot of help and a lot of forgiveness for our mistakes. Facing up to our blunders is a major step toward learning to make wiser choices. Instead of worrying and feeling guilty, we should view our parental mistakes as opportunities to try something different.
Mistake #1: Trying to do everything for our children. Parents who came of age during the 1970s and 80s have learned to accommodate too much. They rush to school and deliver forgotten books, lunches, reports, and projects. When their children become upset with teachers or school work, they absorb that frustration and attempt to make it better by making excuses or shifting the blame. Little do they realize that making a child’s situation easier in the present will only make it harder in the future. After all, if The Little Train that Could had a Mama Caboose who got behind her baby and shoved him up that steep mountain, there would be no lesson in the story. Opportunity: Help children to confront their challenges with determination and to persevere in spite of difficulties.
Mistake #2: Failing to discipline. Many parents are overly concerned about being liked by their children. They’re afraid that imposing adult authority will destroy a loving relationship between parent and child.
Get over that misconception–for your child’s sake and your own. Consider the downside to parental permissiveness. If Mom can’t influence her 5-year-old to pick up scattered toys, it is unlikely she will exercise much control during the adolescent years.
Likewise, a child who comes to school without a previously established respect for adult authority will not be an effective learner. He/she will not have the self-control to pay attention, follow directions, or understand the value of education. Opportunity: Establish limits and boundaries, then follow through with praise or consequences.
Mistake #3: Trying to build self-esteem by saturating children with materialism. Many of today’s children live in their bedrooms, emerging occasionally to eat or go to the bathroom. Their rooms are over-stocked with toys, games, computers, stereos and TVs, and yet they complain of being bored more than they complain of anything else.
Ask experienced classroom teachers how they would compare today’s students with those of previous years, and invariably, they will say today’s students are less imaginative and creative. Opportunity: Differentiate between what kids truly need and what they simply want, and give them plenty of experiences for imaginative play.
Mistake #4: Not teaching values and morals. Has our society slipped so far that it has become impossible to return to a way of life that has all but disappeared except on TV Land re-runs? Remember when pot was a cooking utensil; grass was mowed, not smoked; coke came in glass bottles from the grocery store, not Colombia; a dependent was someone you claimed on your income tax return, not someone who was hooked on a chemical substance; the word support was used to describe stockings and underwear, not rehab groups;12-year-olds didn’t know about sexting; weapons confiscated in school were made from rubber bands and paper clips; and when teachers called home, they got results, not excuses? Opportunity: Bond children to the family and its values because a society can be no more stable than the strength of its individual family units.
No one can expect to do everything right, and fortunately we are permitted to make a few errors without destroying our children. But it is only when we can forgive ourselves and learn from our mistakes that we can share our generosity of spirit with our children.