Friday, February 12, 2010

Perfect Parents...

...Just don't exist. No matter how hard a person tries, they'll never be capable on their own of being perfect, let alone being a perfect parent. This post has been incited by watching my siblings parent their own children.

It's an awful thing to say, but one of the best things about being one of the younger siblings in a family is that you get to learn from the mistakes your older siblings make. Going by this, one might assume that the more mistakes your siblings make, the fewer you're apt to make. Sometimes though, we're just so hands-on in our own lives we can't help but make decisions that wind up being "mistakes."

In my opinion, we should only classify something as a mistake if we've learned nothing from it. I disagree with the idea that a mistake is something wrong, or a decision made in error. Perhaps a decision leads to adverse consequences, but even good decisions can have those kinds of consequences. Since Valentine's Day is two days from now, let's use a semi-related example. A woman marries the man she loves. Unfortunately the woman's father, let's say, doesn't approve of this young man. If the emotions involved are extreme enough, the father may choose to cut himself off from his daughter and her developing family. It's a perfectly legitimate decision made by the woman, but at least one consequence in this scenario isn't so good.

Anyway, as I do, I've gotten off-topic. Sort of.

Just as "good" decisions can have adverse consequences, "bad" decisions can, conceivably, have positive consequences. To clarify: I'm not advising that we go out and make a bunch of bad decisions to determine which have positive or negative consequences. I am of the belief that although "mistakes" are made, there can be consequences that are blessings in disguise. I've felt the reverberations of such a decision. When my niece was conceived there were doubts about the abilities of my brother and his later, wife, in raising a child. But we need something to set us off to begin the process of growth and development.

Anyway, I'm not advocating that a couple who wants some change in their routine should have a baby, especially if they aren't in a financially, or an emotionally stable position.

But who am I? I'm single and happy (not saying that people who aren't single are unhappy), and as my mother would point out, I'm in no place to give advice on parenting. But, as I hope one day to be in such a position, I don't think there's anything wrong with seeking out information posted by the experts: parents. The points that follow also have a deep meaning for me, as I've been raised with and without some of the following, and I'm watching the children around me being raised with and, more often, without.

One comment I've come across repeatedly is to put your children first. Yes, you need to spend time with your partner, but it's also vital to remind yourself that everything you do has an effect on your child(ren). Don't be a parent whose motto is "Do as I say, not as I do."

I've seen and experienced far too much of parents not showing love and affection to their children. A line I often heard when I was around 15 was, "Why can't you be more like (insert name here)?" which did not seem, to my mother, to have the desired result. I guess I was expected to, through this line, somehow emulate that person who, for whatever reason, fit the moment. Parents can never be too loving. And loving here means a show of affection and warmth. Spoiled children result when something is given to them in place of love, like material objects, or leniency.

Children need discipline. Children crave discipline. I know I did. Without discipline, rules, guidelines, children don't know what is expected of them. Physical discipline is the worst kind a parent can use. It leads to physical fighting amongst siblings, as well as to physical fighting with other children. As children, my siblings and I experienced physical discipline, and it's easy to trace our old problem-solving "skills" back to the kind of discipline we experienced as children. Consistency goes along with discipline. It's vital. They need it. Without it, as without rules and guidance, children don't know where the line has been drawn.

I've seen, for a long time, children being left to watch TV while their sitters or parents do something else, like playing games on the computer or Xbox or something. Not only has it not been shown that children, especially young ones, actually understand the concept of a television and understand that they're just images projected onto a screen, but it hinders development. As our brains are constantly making connections, restricting a child to simply watch something deprives them of the opportunity to even make those connections. Children need to use their hands, to experience things around them. The more ways in which a child learns, the more connections their brains make, and the more accomplished they tend to be in the future.

Children shouldn't have to bear their parents burdens. I find it inappropriate whenever I hear someone talking to their child like they're talking to a friend. Let your child be a kid! They should only ever have to worry about kid things: which colours mixed together make orange, or how they can capture the family cat so they can have a make-believe zoo.

Finally, on a note that touches close to home with me, children 'ought not to be left to their own devices. They need supervision, they need activities and games to occupy their time. They need to develop their relationship with their parents, and parents need to develop their relationships with their children. What better way to do this than to play with them? To see the world from a child's point of view, in my eyes, is a blessing that shouldn't be squandered so you can have an hour or two online to check on your Facebook updates or games. Children aren't children forever. From what I've been told, it's not uncommon to wake up and realize your children are grown up, despite the fact that it "seems like only yesterday," we lament, that children were crawling around, being given baths and playing "House."

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