Parenthood Exemplified: Ways To Raise Healthy “Adults” By Walking The Walk
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
The phone rang a second time and when I picked up it was my girlfriend’s daughter telling me she had to call back because she forgot to say “I love you” before she had hung up. Compare this to the child that receives extravagant, heartfelt gifts but somehow has come to “expect” them and can’t find the time to send a simple email, put a thank you note in the mail or extend a personal thank you via phone. What makes these two children different? While many would be inclined to say their personalities, experts would agree it’s more than likely their parents.
Children, they say, are a blank slate and are molded by their environment, experiences and mostly their parental and familial influences. And, they stay, that while we can frequently “excuse” children, there’s NO excuse for parents, especially with the vast array of educational resources so readily and easily available. Parents “behaving badly”, according to authorities, are apt to produce children behaving ‘badly” or at least socially inappropriately.
If you dismiss or disregard your expected obligations such as making or returning phone calls, acknowledging special gestures, maintaining healthy and fulfilling relationships, pursuing “continuing education” and development, being “timely” etc., guess what qualities your children will exhibit, perhaps even hindering their personal and professional relationships.
Professionals point out that being a parent extends far beyond “caring for” and “looking out” for your child. It also means caring for and looking out for yourself…even if it means compromise, adjustment and sacrifice. To the extent that you fail to do this may be to the extent that you are fostering reproachable life skills on your kids.
Whether you are a parent or thinking seriously about becoming one, keep in mind that actions speak louder than words. What you do may significantly outweigh what you say.
Key to a successful, admirable family is embracing and practicing the family values you preach.
1. Exemplify a “Life Worth Living”: This will give your children something to aspire and look forward to. Laziness is contagious. If you have no sense of passion or purpose neither will your children. If your job is merely a “burdensome” means of fulfilling financial obligations, chances are your kids will make the “negative” association and “settle” for similar employment. A zest for life, your job (or at least the ability have a positive outlook about it or to turn the mundane into something “challenging” and “exciting”) and the world around you will also “infiltrate” their thought process.
2. Be proud of yourself and your life: From personal hygiene and style to the way you take care of your home and health send subliminal messages to your children. If you drink, smoke, have poor eating habits, fail to socialize or exercise, swear, you are in essence showing blatant disregard for your life and yourself and “condoning” such detrimental and harmful behaviors, even if you are (verbally) preaching against them
3. Assert yourself in establishing effective communication skills: Learn to get your point across maturely, eloquently and elegantly. Refrain from being condemning and condescending, yelling, screaming or carrying on, or allowing your frustration to get the best of you and saying things you may not mean. Also refrain from avoidance behaviors such as bottling up your emotions until you are ready to literally explode. Be willing to forgive and be forgiving, as well as admitting you are “wrong” and be prepared to rectify your way. Experts agree that it’s also a good idea to practice address a situation when it arises and to “confront” the appropriate person or party and not rely on (third party) intervention. Remember that your kids are affected and take cues directly from you. What you say and how you say it no doubt will influence how they choose to express themselves.
4. Develop effective coping mechanisms: Playing the blame game and “explaining” your actions as a by-product of an “inadequate” upbringing are “unacceptable”. Experts agree that we ALL have problems and there comes a point in our lives where we have to be accountable for ourselves. Extreme behaviors, as well as, “stress-relief” through alcohol consumption, drug usage, sex abuse, gambling, and other unhealthy outlets are also negative choices that could be “misconstrued” as acceptable dealing devices by your children…if it’s good enough for mom and dad…than it must not only be OK….but good enough for me.
5. Examine your monetary “values”: To ensure your children will be able to make sound financial decisions, they must first experience the same from you. But, it actually goes a step further than that. Besides, “modeling” financial responsibility you want to “teach” it by including your children in your monetary practices and decisions and explaining “why” you are conducting business in a certain manner. Make sure you pay bills on time, refrain from relying on credit cards (as much as possible), eliminating debt as quickly as possible (but without impeding on other family experiences such as educational trip, extracurricular activities, some luxuries and occasional vacations)….and always avoid living beyond your means…especially as a way of keeping up with the Joneses.
6. Develop their spirit of “selflessness” by exhibiting commendable social awareness and responsibility: Find ways to take the focus off you and the family. Consider volunteering at local charities, hospitals, community events, church/temple/school functions etc. Your ability to place the needs of others ahead of yours is an excellent way to foster the same traits in your child.
7. Examine and perhaps redefine success and accomplishment: Encouraging success and achievement may be a good thing, but assigning value by social status is not. For a healthy outlook on life you may want to maintain a positive self-image, regardless of your monetary or educational achievement and put into practice to doing nice things for yourself and your family that make you and them feel pampered and special, illustrating that there’s nothing they can’t achieve if they set their mind to it.
8. Challenge yourself so that your children can embrace challenge as a good thing: You may want to examine the complacency of your life. If you are ambivalent, reluctant or opposed to reaching for new and “higher” standards, if you are reluctant to accept and embrace chance you, experts suggest looking past YOUR personal comfort zone for the greater good.
9. From the shows you watch to the words you use, you are instilling values and acceptable personality traits in your family: If profanity, gossip, racy movies and shows with questionable morals and values have become permissible (even if for parents only) you are being indirectly affirming. In fact, what you are saying is: that while certain things may not be acceptable NOW, at some point they very well may be. And, if you don’t have greater expectations of yourself why should your children accept that they can “do better”.
10. Exhibit confidence in your decisions: While that does NOT imply that you should not include kids in some decision making processes, it does mean that you should feel good about your choices and be able to explain and demonstrate WHY. Remember children can sense fear, anxiety and insecurity and if that’s how you feel that probably how they feel about you, themselves, and the ability to make wise choices in the future.
11. When given lemons, make lemonade: Having a defeatist attitude undermines you and your abilities. It tells children that everything is a potential catastrophe waiting to happen and fosters fear about making changes, advances, or having their familiar world “disrupted”.
12. As the song says: “Don’t worry, be happy”: Children often mirror their parent’s emotions and attitudes. If you are anxious about embracing life, that is exactly what you are instilling in your child/children. Remember, when you smile, the whole world smiles with you.
13. Retire the excuse of “being too tired” and invest in some QUALITY time with your family: Keep in mind watching your children play or sitting around the television (even as a family) DOES NOT constitute quality time. Instead consider playing a game, starting a family project and most of all engaging in conversation.
14. Teach individuality and independence by scheduling some “alone time”: Whether it’s between you and your spouse, a girl’s or guy’s night out, it’s important that you maintain healthy loving relationships both in and outside your immediate family. If you are too busy or others are simply not good or interesting enough for you, you are alienating your child from society and the world he/she will eventually be called to contribute to and live in.
Change is good and it’s never too late to change. Having “cool” parents who live life to the fullest is a good way to earn your child’s respect and confidence. If you want junior/juniorette to confide in you they first have to trust you are someone worth confiding in and that your advice will be advantageous.
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