“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around and why his parents will always wave back." William D. Tammeus
Few serious people would argue that being a parent is one the most important jobs that anyone can take on. And although it can be incredibly difficult and demanding it is also tremendously rewarding. However, unlike many other important jobs/roles there are virtually no requirements and no training required for being a parent.
Some parents use their own parents as a guide, others who've had negative experiences as children choose to do the opposite of what their parents did i.e., if their parents were too strict they will be permissive, if their parents were very restrictive they will overindulge their children, etc.
Most parents however tend to follow their instincts and do what seems natural to keep their child happy, healthy, and safe. However even parents with the best of intentions can make mistakes in the name of love or compassion. Remember, parenting has both short term and a long-term goals. The short-term goal is to provide for the health, happiness, and well-being of your child. However, the long-term goal of every parent is to build responsible, capable, and successful adults, and this is where some parents drop the ball. Parents can often lose site of the fact that they are building future adults.
Here then are three timeless principles of parenting that nearly all child psychologists would agree on.
1. Model appropriate behavior. The importance of modeling appropriate behavior by parents cannot be overstated. The majority of what children learn from their parents is not what we tell them, it's what they see and hear. To a large degree, a child learns how to interact with others and the world around him by watching his parents. The same sex parent is normally the most powerful role model, so for little girls it is mom and for boys it’s dad. If you want your child to treat others with respect, then you must treat people with respect. If you want your child to stand up for himself, then you must stand up for yourself. When it comes to parenting, our actions always speak much louder than our words.
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum
2. Listen to your child. Someone once said that listening, not imitation, is the highest form of flattery. In our hectic fast-paced world, so many of us have lost the ability to truly listen. When we listen to what someone is saying we are conveying to them that what they are saying is important, and moreover that they are important. Isn't that an important message we need to convey to our children. So as parents we need to listen when we're tired, listen when the content seems silly or nonsensical, and listen when we can barely stand to listen anymore. Listening will let your child know that he/she matters
“The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.” O. A. Battista
3. Spoil them with love. They are many ways of spoiling a child; giving into their every whim, being overly permissive, and overindulging them with material things. However, it is nice to know that it is not possible to spoil a child with love. A parent cannot say, "I love you" too often, you cannot hug a child too much, and a parent cannot overdue the words, “I am proud of you. When it comes to genuine expressions of warmth and affection, it simply is not possible to overdo it. The terms “I love you" and "I am proud of you” are incredibly powerful and no parent should shy away from using these two potent phrases.
“Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.” Alvin Price
Remember there is no guarantee that following these guidelines will result in perfect parents or perfect children, there is no such thing. Raising children is not something we think of as especially scientific but parenting is one of the most well researched areas in the entire field of psychology. It has been studied for over 75 years, and the findings have remained remarkably consistent over time