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Set Your Parenting Priorities – Five ideal goals for raising a balanced, well-rounded child

Being a parent is generally a joyful, rich experience. But it is also
challenging, especially when it comes to choosing and setting your
parenting priorities. Just when you think you’ve finally got it all
together, a new trend catches fire that suggests something else should
rise to the top of your list. Enrichment programs, sports clinics,
competitive pre-schools – the list and possibilities can seem endless
and bewildering. 

So what’s a parent to do? First, take a breath. Experts who study
these issues usually find that most extra activities offer, at best,
minor benefits for raising successful human beings and, at worst, can
be overwhelming and taxing for our children. 

The biggest
parental mistake we make is that we tend to define success by grade
point averages rather than eventual life happiness. Our second mistake
seems to be (as author Mel Levine puts it) that we focus too much on
college-prep and too little on life-prep. To help you breathe a little
easier, you’ll find a ranked list of parenting priorities below. Keep
them in mind when you’re debating whether to sign your child up for
language immersion school, or to lie down with him in the backyard and
stare at the sky.

1. Your Relationship 

You
are the most powerful influence in your child’s life. Without a
connection to your child, none of the other priorities will be
possible. Well-adjusted kids have strong, respect-based relationships
with their parents. These parents tend not to be drill sergeants or
buddies. Instead, they consistently hold to fair limits for their
child. These parents approach borders with calm, not rage, and teach
values with love, not a fear of whether or not their child will make
the right decisions.

2. Your Child’s Heart 

Integrity, compassion, courage – these aspects of your child’s character push the values in his mind into actions. Values
without heart are useless. Encourage experiences where your child will
interact with and see things firsthand. Better yet, model them. Focus
on who you want your child to be at age 40, not 19. Your job is not to
raise an Ivy Leaguer, but to shape the parent of your grandchildren.

3. Your Child’s Identity 

Instead
of controlling your child, help her learn to control herself. This
requires that she develop values that are her own. The successful (and
safe) teen doesn’t say, “No thanks. I can’t drink – my dad would kill
me.” She says, “No thanks. I don’t drink.” Building positive values
comes from allowing kids to explore who they are and what they believe.
Whenever possible, encourage your child to make age-appropriate
decisions about appearance, interests, and ethics.

4. Your Child’s Academic Success 

Do
what you can to use positive incentives for great grades, but know
that tormenting your child for academic excellence can be detrimental.
Insist on academic successes that are appropriate for your child.
Remember that when the time comes there are safety nets for older kids
who haven’t learned how to learn. For example, community colleges can
be great launching pads to the best schools in the world. Immediate
excellence won’t make or break your child. 

5. Your Child’s Activities 

Sports,
music, and enrichment programs are wonderful things, but only in the
dose that’s correct for your child. Each kid is unique. As a rule of
thumb, push for at least one activity. But be sure to remember that unstructured
pastimes (like your young child’s dollhouse or a teen’s rock band) are
great places to learn many complex and critical life skills like
discipline, negotiation, and tolerance.

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Last modified: November 14, 2019
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