Sura Hart & Victoria Kindle Hodson in Respectful Parents Respectful Kids suggest that the first key to achieving cooperation with children is to “ … align your deepest reasons for parenting and your deepest desires for your children”.
With a clear purpose always in mind, parents will be able to set goals that align their thoughts and actions, especially how they listen to and talk with their children. Determining your purpose is likely to be a deep mental exercise as you ask:
- What are my responsibilities to my children?
- What are my expectations for them?
- How would I describe my role or style as I relate to them?
- How should I behave toward them?
As you delve into these questions it could be helpful to investigate what others think, especially if they are qualified and have the appropriate experience to be judged as good role models. By all means, collect information, but then choose what makes sense to you. All children are unique and all parents are unique so don’t expect or accept a simple, “one size fits all” approach. With this guideline in mind, here’s some of the usual expectations that parents have for their children:
1. To be happy
What does this really mean? It will vary with each child and each parent. More importantly it is a feeling, the “effect” or result of some thing else, which is the “cause”. Focus on understanding the causes from the child’s perspective, not the parents’.
2. To be successful
Once again, what does this mean? Who makes the choices – the child or the parent? The parent may want the child to be an NBA or NHL star, while the child wants to play a piano or program a computer. Parents can help most by encouraging their children to make their own choices while stressing what skills may be required.
3. To be a good person
I can’t argue with this one. I am 70 years old and still learning how to be “good“! We will never be perfect, but working on it is a worthwhile lifetime journey. Where do you start with your kids? There is considerable information available under the topics of “character” or “values”, so much so that you must learn how to assess it and prioritize what is important and when. Each child has a unique development cycle. Parents need to be aware of the stage their child is at and then choose appropriate encouraging and enabling behaviour.
These general expectations need to become more specific. What are the real day-to-day attitudes, behaviour, and skills we want our kids to display? The possibilities become almost endless and include:
- to think for themselves,
- to be independent,
- to always try to be the best they can be,
- to be true to themselves, first,
- to be reliable and responsible,
- to be respectful of themselves and others,
- to be kind and loving, and
- to never give up.
So much for the factors from the child’s perspective. In the next post, let’s look at what parents may want for themselves.