I believe that parenting is primarily a matter of will. It’s so easy to give in or give up when the kids resist or don’t cooperate.
I think that much of being a good parent is not giving in when that happens.
One of the things that I believe (heard it at a school session on their disciplinary program/philosophy) is that “a parent’s job is not to make happy children; it’s to raise good people.” This resonated with me in a huge way and it’s something both Heather and I fully embrace.
I guess I should say that being good people is one of our fundamental goals. We care a lot more about that than we do about making money or getting famous or living a life of leisure or anything like that. Of course we’re not perfect in that attempt but it is something we try to live our lives by.
With that in mind, I believe that a parent’s job is to raise their children according to the values that they hold. Don’t let your kids become people that don’t have those same values because it’s too hard or too much work. Going that route is just copping out.
These thoughts all kind of came together as I tried to put my 1 year old to sleep today. It’s his birthday today and he was not going down easily. So my choice was to let him win (as it’s his birthday!) and let him stay up and get overtired and probably have a miserable day or to just suck it up and do whatever was needed. I figured it was more important to get him to realize that he is going to have to stick to his routine and nap at the appropriate times no matter what. So it probably took me an additional half hour of standing there in a dark room holding him, ducking my head back as he tried to play and grab my face and glasses and then eventually he succumbed to his tiredness and knocked out.
Same thing with our other kids. We constantly monitor their behavior and intercede whenever we see things that aren’t in line with our value system. Of course we miss things and of course we aren’t completely consistent but we try damn hard. Raising great kids is one of Heather and my main priorities so we do our best not to let things slide. We still feel the urge to avoid battles many times a day and we do let little stuff go that isn’t really important.
On the big stuff that we think is truly important though, we just can’t fail there.
David Bickford says
“a parent’s job is not to make happy children; it’s to raise good people.”
I’m troubled by that statement because it could be taken to mean that goodness exists in opposition to happiness. In actuality, a happy person is more likely to be a good person, and a good person is more likely to be happy person. Rather than worrying too much about winning battles, I prefer to focus on a problem-solving approach to parenting. Make it clear that certain behavior is causing a problem and then enlist the child in solving the problem. No method works every single time, but most children respond positively to that type of challenge.
Chris Lee says
I don’t think that goodness exists in opposition to happiness. I do think though that kids start off with an immediate gratification mindset with little thought to the ramification of their actions. If all we cared about was their maximum happiness in the moment, they’d run amok. My 1 year old would never eat. He’d never sleep. My kids would watch TV all day long.
How many times have you seen kids not want to eat their dinner – they want to go play on the machines at Chuck E. Cheese or not want to be polite when they are out at a restaurant or similar type stuff. I see it all the time. And I see way too many parents who are afraid to address the behavior. I see parents give in to the child all the time. Tantrums rule.
I think that by enabling children to get whatever they want and be maximally happy in the moment, you are setting them up for years and years of unhappiness in the future.
I don’t think that a happy person necessarily equates to a good person at all. I think that human base instincts are to get as much as you can and do whatever you want at the expense of others. I think that when people learn to interact well with others and learn values that bring them fulfillment, that leads them to be happy.
And I see that in our kids now. They are good people and they are very happy kids.
David Bickford says
To be honest, I don’t see much of what you mention. Most people, including children, will learn to self-regulate if given the chance and naturally have empathy toward others unless we drive that empathy out of them with unduly punitive approaches. In any case, I’m glad this approach works for you, even if it doesn’t for me. We can agree to disagree on this topic as we do on others.
Chris Lee says
Sounds good, sir.