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 first 15, please see part 1 in the Parenthood article series):
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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.
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.
9) 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.
10) 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.
11) ‘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!
12) 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.
13) 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.
14) ‘Don’t Prepare the Path for the Child, Prepare the Child for the Path’: My parents epitomized this great counsel!
15) 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.
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.