Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

What It Takes To Be A Good Parent

May 12, 2003

The moral decline of society. As our society continues to degenerate the challenges in rearing good and successful children will become more and more difficult. The moral decline of society is picking up momentum. It especially affects the lives of children growing up in families without a strong moral foundation.

Our popular peer culture, the massive impact of media and the omnipresent dangers of pre-marital sex, illicit drugs and alcohol use contribute to this erosion of values. Materialism and a rapid pace of living that short-changes family time are also powerful factors in shaping children’s lives.

Quality of parenting is declining. It is not just the environment but the quality of parenting that is causing the difficulty. The decline in society can be traced to a decline in parenting. We may be witnessing the first generation of children who will be less prepared to be parents than the previous generations.

The gulf between families who put time and energy into family, who teach good moral values, concern for others and personal responsibility and those families who expect children to raise themselves continues to widen. Too many children are growing up without a moral compass or family structure to protect them from harmful influences.

Family backgrounds matter. Children from families with high expectations and values tend to find each other, have good marriages and continue to produce quality children despite what the environmental influences may be. Children from insecure and dysfunctional families also have a tendency to find each other. They can produce children who are less likely to be good parents and have a quality family life.

It is a numbers game. Right now, research suggests that 55 percent of children grow up in homes where their needs are being met. As adults, they will be more prepared to give the time and energy to family life and parenting. Many of the children from troubled family backgrounds want something different and better for their children but lack the role models showing them how to be good parents.

Guidelines for parenting. Here is a guide to parenting skills and attitudes that can serve as an anchor for family life no matter what threats exist or what kind of family background we have.

1. Be a good example. Who you are as a person matters more in parenting than what you teach or how you teach it.

2. The best parenting comes as a byproduct of a marriage where the husband and wife truly love each other and show that love in daily living.

3. Place top priority on parenting and family life. Sacrifice time, energy and attention to give children a foundation of love, security and personal growth. Be attentive to their needs.

4. Accept and respect each child as an individual. Help them become responsible in their decision making. Respect their basic dignity as developing human beings with minds and lives of their own.

5. Know your values and pass on those values while children are young. Parents who are wishy-washy with their standards and expectations will find their children adrift in a troubled sea.

6. Bond your children to your religion through family worship and church attendance. The spiritual practices, morality and traditions within the family will make church teachings credible. Involvement with other church youth and leaders will be of great support to family life.

7. Be consistent, firm and fair in your discipline. Teach responsibility and the work ethic through family duties. Use good problem solving and conflict resolution skills to teach correct principles so they will learn to think and govern themselves.

8. Minimize conflict and criticism within the family. Accept and tolerate individual preferences while focusing attention on important values and principles.

9. Teach them to respect your authority as well as outside authority.

10. Teach them to show kindness, appreciation and tolerance for others from different races, religions and in all walks of life. Help them learn to give service to others and the community.

11. Help them develop a joy of reading and learning. Minimize TV watching and other forms of mindless entertainment. Have standards for media viewing.

12. Have fun in the family. Create memories. Do things together that are special and different. Celebrate birthdays, holidays and special days with gusto and enthusiasm. Work and play together. Use those moments to love, teach and cherish them.

13. Provide gentle guidance and opportunities for your children to meet and develop friendships with other children with high standards. Friendships are laboratories for learning about morality and the give-and-take in relationships.

14. Help them develop their talents and abilities. Their sense of self will grow as they explore their likes and dislikes and take pleasure in their accomplishments. Attend and support their activities. School success and extra-curricular activities build self-worth.

15. Have family meals together - it is important. The food and family interaction nurtures more than the body. It is a time of sharing.

16. Love them and outlast them. Let them go. Avoid unnecessary conflict with teen-agers bent on making their own decisions. Encourage them. Be prepared to support them materially and emotionally through the late adolescent and young adult years until they are settled in life themselves. The love they experienced and memories they enjoyed in your family will be an anchor for them when they embark on raising a family of their own.