This is a wonderful time with your young child. The future looks bright and filled with happiness. You are delighted with your child and can see nothing but joy ahead. At least, this is how most parents feel when they have young children.
But who are the parents who expect their child will end up on drugs or spend time in jail? Who is likely to say that their child will be pregnant before she graduates from high school or that their child will be a dropout? Who believes their child will be a shoplifter or will lie and cheat on their income tax? Who believes their child could become so depressed as to commit suicide or so disturbed or angry as to commit murder? Who believes their child will be a reckless driver and kill someone in a car? Who even believes their child will smoke or drink alcohol or belong to a gang? The goodness of babies gives us the mistaken belief that our children always will be cloaked in innocence. But that isn’t true.
Everyone is upset about problems of youth but no one believes their innocent children will be young people with problems. Few parents look ahead and say, “What do I need to do or what should I not do to make sure my child is a success in life, that he knows right from wrong, that she can take responsibility for her actions, that he will be a law-abiding citizen, that she will respect those in authority and that he will feel good about himself?” At times we forget how our parenting of our babies is connected with how our children turn out as adults. No one wants their child to become a problem to society. Yet what we do today with our children, both positively and negatively, directly affects the direction of our children’s lives. As parents we must value our children enough to discipline them, spend time with them, be role models for them, fight for them, love them, talk with them and provide a stable home for them. Parenting is a responsibility of major proportions.
If you believe that what you do with your child now contributes to who your child will become, maybe we can each make a difference in the direction our society is going. Janet Reno, former Attorney General of the United States, says the time to teach children to respect authority is before the age of 3.
Responsibility, decision-making, respect for authority, attitudes towards minorities, belief in yourself are taught. All are taught by you before your child even enters school. Your teaching and your examples set the pattern for large amounts of your child’s behavior.
Parents make a difference in the direction their children’s lives go. We all know these first years are critically important to your child’s long-term development. We each can begin today to make our children into the kinds of people we would like to have for neighbors. Isn’t that the loving way to raise a child?
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and now director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers, and grandparents. Reach Martin at email@example.com or at 681-2250.