Our sincere thanks to Suzanne Stewart for being this week’s Guest Blogger
Parenting is no place for weaklings, as I’m sure we’ll all agree. Its bright and beautiful days outshine even the most luminous of stars, while its darker, uglier days make a moonless night at midnight seem glorious by comparison. We all have our regrets – the would’ve/should’ve/could’ve moments that we wish we could take back and do over. And if you don’t have any regrets, then I say your child is either only a few hours old, or you’re simply not trying hard enough to be a “good” parent.
Good parents aren’t afraid of stepping out into the unknown every now and then. It shows their kids that some chances are worth taking. It shows their kids that mom and dad aren’t afraid to try new things, and they shouldn’t be either. It shows the kids that while routine is good for you, it doesn’t have to be stifling or rigid or inflexible. You may regret having ice cream and waffles for dinner if a tummy ache ensues, but the joy and novelty and sparkle it adds to their day, not to mention the memories it can create, are worth it in the end. Tummy aches don’t last forever. Memories and family stories do.
Good parents aren’t afraid of setting limits or making reasonable demands, either. Oh, your teenage may balk and sulk for days at having to miss “The Party of the year”. Your five year old may have a meltdown over having to wear his best clothes to your parents’ anniversary party. And your 10 year old daughter will just have to get over not being allowed to have a Smart Phone just yet, especially when she can’t take it to school, and that’s the only place she goes without you. Kids need limits.
They need boundaries. And they need to learn that sometimes, mom and dad DO know what’s best for them. Oh, and the quickest way to end the “entitlement attitude” that educators and psychologists and all the other experts say is causing all the bullying and school violence is to simply say “No” every now and then in response to unnecessary requests.
Sure, the bad attitude and Junior’s tantrum may be regrettable consequences of these refusals to back down on your position, but they’ll get over it, and so will you. Good parents also aren’t afraid to know when to step away and let their children test their own wings. Children need to be given room to grow, room to explore, and yes, room to fail. Constant helicopter parenting over them often denies them the opportunities they need to discover their own abilities.
You may regret allowing Marcia to fix her own breakfast when you see the state of the kitchen, but use it as a teaching moment to point out how we clean up after ourselves instead of deciding she’s never allowed in there alone again. Johnny may slip and leave your rose bushes a little worse for wear, but the pride and sense of accomplishment he’ll gain from mowing the grass on his own for the first time is much more important. Besides, they’ll grow back. His confidence in his abilities may not if you judge his first attempt too harshly out of remorse over the garden.
Good parents are resourceful parents. They use whatever moments Life gives them to teach, to grow, to experience joy and wonder WITH their kids. Those moments don’t come along too often unless you step out, take chances, step back and let them fly on their own. Those moments come, often, with regret, but those regrets simply mean you’re trying to do a good job. You may fail. They may fail. But the biggest failure is to not try again. THAT is one regret you don’t want to have.