Steve Blow wrote a column in the Dallas Morning News on April 17, 1994. It was a follow-up to a previous column full of advice for parents. The second effort was a response from parents. They sent in their own suggestions. I wonder if their advice would fit today, now 20 years later.
Take a look at their input and his reaction:
- Teach responsibility – “This was probably the top suggestion. But how to do it? Give kids regular household chores. Don’t let them blame others for their problems. And let them suffer the consequences of their irresponsibility. Don’t run that forgotten book/lunch money/homework back to school. Don’t to that science project for them at midnight. Don’t appeal to the teacher for a second chance. To teach success, let them fail. Oooh, that’ hard.
- Take charge – You are the parent. So act like it. One woman wrote: “To be blunt, parents need to lay down strict, distinct boundaries for their children and STICK TO THEM!
- Read to your children – And when they get older, keep reading.
- Apologize – When you goof with your children (and you will), admit and apologize. One reader wrote: “It’s very difficult for a child to stay angry with a humble parent.”
- Eat together – Somehow, some way, get your whole family together at dinner time.
- Turn off the TV – Sit down, relax, eat, talk, smile, listen. I suspect this may be more powerful than any of us realize. (*Update 2014 – You can update this one with the electronic device of your choice.)
- Put your children first – No business meeting is more important. No golf game, fishing trip, happy hour or weekend getaway. One woman commented: “We have become selfish, non-sacrificing overachievers, and parenting is a part-time business proposition instead of a moral obligation to our children.”
- Drugs and Alcohol – A recovering alcoholic, who is the child of an alcoholic, wrote: “Kids learn by example. Set a good one. If you drink excessively, use drugs, eat too much, smoke, etc., don’t be surprised if your children follow in your footsteps.”
- Be a team – If you have disagreements about parenting (and you will), iron them out in private, never in front of the kids. Support each other. And for heaven’s sake, divorced parents: quit fighting through your kids. Sure you hate each other. Do you want your kids to hate you, too?
- Go easy – “Remember that children are not short adults,” one woman wrote.
- Be consistent – Don’t blow off steam with idle threats. If you say it, mean it.
- Teach manners – ‘Please’ … ‘Thank you’ … remember those?
- Be an example – Here’s the very toughest: In your every word and deed, children are learning to be just like you. Scary, isn’t it?
What do you think? You could probably add a few to the list or change a take or two. Parenting in any situation is not for the faint of heart. I pray for our parents and their families.