Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Back to the Basics

Sitting in an elementary school parent forum recently, I was overwhelmingly struck with the concept that as parents, we’re so involved in preparing our kids for advancement that we’ve forgotten to teach them the basics of how to advance on their own.  We’re too busy doing it for them to let them in on the secret of how to do it for themselves.

Back to the Basics - ABC blocks - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
We’ve somehow lost touch with our Parenting 101 instincts.  We’re too busy advocating for their safety from other drivers and pedestrians to teach them how to effectively cross a street at a corner by looking both ways and using common courtesy and manners with others on the roads.  We band together to make sure they have the best technology in their classrooms, but never consider teaching them basic technology etiquette such as respectful usage of devices in social settings.  Back up the dial a half-turn and we’ve neglected to arm them with the elementary safety warning of not walking/riding/driving while using the devices.  We’re so worried about making sure the extra-curricular audition process is fair, that we leave out the lesson on how to effectively manage their expectations and emotions when it comes down to the outcome. 

It’s about common sense and I have to say we’ve lost some of it as a society of well-intentioned parents.  Even before our babies are born, we parents are so intent on making sure our children benefit from every opportunity that’s out there, that the basics of common sense parenting get bumped to the wayside.  We get them into the best baby classes, even if it means negotiating the most basic of human needs for infants:  sleep.  We micro-manage their days and activities as they get older, not allowing them to develop the skills of creativity and self-entertainment, as they have no free or down time.  Once they hit school-age, we lobby for the best of the best in education and activities, without insisting our kids cultivate the tools they need to be responsible, integrity-driven pupils, such as discipline, motivation, respect, and working hard to earn what they want.

We’re all guilty of losing that instinctual parenting focus from time to time.  Just this morning, I got so caught with my older daughter and I comforting my younger daughter after the plant she’s cared for over the past few months died, that we were late for school.  Come on!  Comfort is great, but school hours are not up for negotiation.  I did a poor job following the basics of parenting and instead spent too much time back-patting my child.  Today’s coddling will rear its ugly head down the road one day when something happens that’s really worthy of crying and my kid can’t move past the disappointment. 

The good news is that the opportunity is always there to revert back to common sense parenting, as parenting is fluid.  From the most hovering of helicopter parents to the absentee-parent who leaves it to Jr. to figure it out on his own, and everyone in between, we can start focusing on common sense parenting at any time and expect decent results.  Kids are like sponges and even if you’ve half-way raised a kid that can’t find her way out of a paper bag, by focusing today on the entry point being the same as the exit point, she’ll absorb a concept that can be used in everyday situations for the rest of her life.   

While you can subscribe to today’s parenting trends of indulgence and entitlement, tomorrow you can reel it back in with ownership and self-reliance.  It’s never too late to teach your child how to fish instead of serving him the meal on a platter.  Let’s venture back to the ABC’s of parenting together and help foster the development of responsible human beings.

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