Common to every parent is the ambition to produce a well-balanced and successful individual. It takes more than wishes for this desire to translate into reality, though. Being a parent can be as appealing as it is rewarding, especially when the child turns out as expected. Successful parenting requires more than just bearing the title ‘parent’. It requires hard work which, among other things, makes it one of the hardest jobs on earth.
As difficult as parenting is, it is quite relieving to know that a desired outcome can be achieved. Successful parenting is in fact governed by some principles, namely:
- Love your child
People generally presume that all parents love their children. This is sometimes not the case. It is natural for parents to cherish the sight of their new-born, but it is not impossible for them to grow apart as the child grows up—especially when they exhibit some character traits that fall short of the parents’ expectations.
What many parents are not quick to accept is the fact that some of the so called ‘defects’ in children can be traced back to them. Truth is, children come into the lives of their parents like an empty book. It takes the influences around them to consciously or unconsciously fill up the pages. It is in the same sense that we must see even our spouses as gardens: the kinds of seeds we plant in them determines the quality of fruits they eventually produce. Therefore, every parent must make the hard decision to genuinely nurture their children in the right way. This can only happen in an atmosphere of unconditional love and constant validation. It is wrong to show love to a child only when he/she is right. Every child deserves love in and out of season. Importantly, a child should not just hear, but be convinced of a parent’s love even during discipline.
- Understand that every child is unique
Children are like gift items that come in different wrappings. You must appreciate and celebrate, and not despise the uniqueness of each child. Though sometimes difficult, preferential treatment to one child at the expense of the other should be avoided. You should never compare children – be it in terms of physical make-up or intellectual capability. After all, even the most physically identical twins exhibit massive differences in several other ways.
To get the best out of any child, recognise and celebrate each for who he/she is. It is natural to have a favourite child, but try to never make it obvious. It is saddening how some parents differentiate between an adopted and a biological child, a first-born and a last-born, boy child and a girl child, etc. Never heap all your approval or parental compliment on one child at the expense of the other. Doing so could lead to parental failure.
- Separate issues from personality
This principle applies, not just to parenting, but to every facet of interpersonal relationships. Equating occurrences with individuals will damage even the most promising relationships. Therefore, never label your child by the things he/she has done. When there is an issue (as there will always be), address it without labelling. Do not define a child by what he/she has done, especially ones that fall below your expectations of him/her.
- Seeds and Sowing
The principle of sowing and reaping is very applicable to parenting. Every single action by a parent can be likened to a seed which goes through a cycle that ends with a harvest. Whatsoever a parent sows into his/her child(ren) is what he/she reaps!
Words spoken to children are seeds: they fall to the ground and at first seem dead, but are only buried for a while. Eventually, those words spring up and bear fruits which reflect on the children. It is no surprise that an apple seed grows into an apple tree over time. Parents must always sow positive words into the lives of their children. They must avoid cursing, belittling, bullying, or verbally abusing them.
Just as a farmer spends so much time on the farm cultivating his crops, parents must spend quality time with their children. Quality time is the currency of parenting. You can’t afford not to be there for your kids even when your schedule is tight. Do not belittle the importance of spending time with them even when you’re pursuing other things (money, education and fame). The most important thing your child will remember is the time spent together and the relationship between you. Time spent with your child is never a waste, rather, it is an investment. Whatever you love, you must give time. This is the same with whoever you love.
- Build values that have passed the test of time
All successful parents have something in common – values. Your personal values provide an indication of what your family and children would look like. Values are caught, not necessarily taught. They are imbibed, not enforced. Once ingrained in a person, values can become a legacy that is passed down from one generation to another – the more reason why we need to instil sound values in our children.
Since these values are the ideas of how you want your children to live, you must be a living version of the values you proclaim. Your actions cannot be seen to contradict the values you want your children to live by. It hardly works! Let me cite a value in my family as an instance—truthfulness. Telling lies in or outside our home (regardless of the ‘justification’) is unacceptable. Every single member of my family strives to uphold this value.
Value speaks for itself. You don’t need to say it as much as you need to live it. As you teach these values to your children, you have a bigger duty to live by them. Write your values on a billboard inside your living room and it will still make no difference to your children if you don’t live by them. Children, especially during their formative years, are more likely to do the things they see you do, as against the things they hear you say. Action speaks louder than words after all!
Any discussion on parenting without a mention of discipline is incomplete. Of a truth, discipline is an integral part of parenting. Though some parents use ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’ interchangeably, it is key to recognise that they are not the same. Discipline is positive, as it is a proactive approach to setting and enforcing standards of conduct that parents expect their wards to live by. Punishment on the other hand can be regarded as a response to a child’s wrong. It is a tool sometimes applied by parents while disciplining their children. However, it should be employed cautiously and only with the intention to correct the child and not to vent.
It is very important that our children experience both discipline and punishment in a balanced measure as they grow up. Should a child be disciplined? Yes. Should a child be punished? Yes. In fact, show me a child who lacks discipline or a child who is spared punishment and I will show you a child likely to grow up with character defects.
God designed it for children to be disciplined. It is an error to withhold discipline in the name of love. On the contrary, it is a child whom the parent loves that is disciplined. Withhold discipline and the child is on the path to destruction, in a matter of time.
- Strive to be a model parent
A model parent is one who discharges the functions of a parent creditably, acc ording to God’s design. God gave you a child to be an extension of who He is in the life of that child. Therefore, you are expected to be so many things at the same and various times. For instance, someone mentioned the other day that whenever you see a child hawking, you can almost be sure that the parents have failed in their responsibility as providers. Both parents have a role to play individually and collectively in the lives of their children.
As a parent (specifically a father), you are to provide the basic needs for your children and family. There are many other things you should do for and be to these children. You are a parent, but you should also be the person who inspires, encourages & motivates them. Yes, it’s possible to be a friend and a parent. Being their friend does not make you lose your respect as a parent, it rather enforces it.
Be a person your child can talk to freely. Immerse yourself into your their world. Be intentional about this and be very in their lives. Develop interest in their interests. Know what they like and dislike. Don’t just tell them your dos and don’ts, seek to know their preferences.
By design, a family is to function as a father and a mother. It could be unhealthy for the children if it is any other way.
This is often so ignored. Respect is a two-way thing: it must be taught and lived by parents too. It is such an important value that we treat it as a parenting principle on its own. You must teach your child to respect first, their own bodies and self and then other people. Children must be trained to be courteous and thoughtful about others as much as they do about themselves.
Parents in a bid to discipline their children must also learn to refrain from physically abusing them. Once in a real-life incidence, a mother used a new blade to slice several parts of her less than 10-year-old child’s body in the name of discipline. Pathetic, isn’t it? Regardless of the crime, it is grossly inhuman to do so. It is in fact a gross lack of respect towards anyone – who in truth is an image of God. Your body is God’s temple, so is your child’s and so is everyone else’s.
Being a parent doesn’t mean you’re not expected to respect your children. If during punishment you must apply such measures as spanking, always do so in moderation. Your intention should not be to inflict a mark or pain on the child. Children go overboard sometimes, and yours wouldn’t be an exception. However, this is not a licence to leave indelible marks in a child’s heart. Wounds heal, but scars remain – especially the ones inflicted on the heart. Never treat your child like an animal; he/she deserves to be respected too.
- Build your child up in the Word of God
Personally, this is the most important of all parenting principles simply because children are not man-made; rather, they are gifts from God Almighty. Teach your child the Word of God right form the womb! How? Start by acknowledging the child as a gift. This is the only principle that kept our only girl alive in my womb and up till now, giving all that we went through to have her. Lay your hands on your womb and pray for that unborn child.
As a father, lay your hands on your wife’s womb and pray for both the child and the mother. God’s words are life! From birth, teach them God’s ways through his words. Show them how to live in the path of God and be there to guide them when it looks like they’re deviating. Teach them to pray. Study God’s words together and spend quality time with Him and in His House. Train them not to play ownership to God’s gift, rather that everything they have is a blessing from God. Let them use their gifts for God who is the real owner!
As I draw the curtain on this discussion, I believe by now we appreciate more the huge effort required to build up a child. That is why of all responsibilities, parenting is such that you cannot or should not delegate to someone else. How you see your child goes a long way in the way you handle that child.
I hope that starting from now you will begin to see that child as a treasure, a rare gem, a unique and special individual who has come to fulfil a purpose on this earth. As you play your part, it is my sincere prayer that our children will fulfil destiny.