Editorial: Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Parenting is the most important lifetime responsibility a person will ever have, and mistakes can have lifelong consequences.

Sometimes the first parental mistake made is the pregnancy itself. When a young person irresponsibly conceives an unplanned pregnancy, it is hard to say what came first, the chicken or the egg? Where was the parent of this sexually active child when he/she was busy making babies? Was the child taught to be sexually responsible? Was the parent even aware of what was going on? Now, the child is blessed with the responsibility of not only being a parent, but an adult.
Maturity plays a huge factor in this life altering role, and often young parents are not emotionally equipped to handle the responsibilities that come with raising a baby. Often, the parent who didn’t notice their child was busy having sex are now tasked with the responsibility of raising a grandbaby while their teenager is trying to grow up….or not.

So what does it mean to be a parent? A parent is responsible for supporting his/her child – period. It does not matter that parents are not married, didn’t intend to become pregnant, are underage, are still in school or have other financial obligations. Being a parent is fun yet demanding, rewarding yet expensive, and difficult. As a parent, have you planned ahead for the future of your family? Do you really understand and embrace the consequences of becoming a parent? When it rains in Belize some refer to it as “baby making weather”. Do you really have to make a baby? Why not just practice? There is such a thing as “planned parenthood”.

Regardless of how you got there, as a parent you are now tasked with the responsibility of raising a child into becoming a responsible, socially adept human being. By far the easiest way to do this is to not only be attentive and engaged in their lives but to lead by example. Remember, it’s all about you. This basic premise of good parenting is one that takes many parents by surprise. The surprise is that children learn attitudes, behaviors, lifestyle choices, prejudices, likes and dislikes, compassion and generosity, by osmosis. They learn by watching and listening to their parents. It is challenging for parents to try to be, what they want their children to become.

Since they are the greatest example for their children, parents need to take seriously what it is they’re modeling, and to what end. Most parents want to raise children who are responsible, to themselves and others. Individual responsibility is initially taught through routines that involve a child’s care of self (brushing teeth) and of their personal possessions (picking up toys and clothing). Eventually, responsibility expands within the family unit, and then overflows into the school setting and community. At the same time, children will be observing the responsible habits and routines of their parents, and their attitudes regarding these.

The manner in which a parent models attitudes towards life has the greatest impact on a child’s acceptance of his own circumstances. Parents who provide a perfect scenario of life experiences for a child, will not give opportunity for him to learn how to handle disappointment, how to really appreciate the good when it happens and try again when it doesn’t, how to develop resilience and determination and to press forward with optimism. A child will be watching how his parents handle life’s ups and downs. Underlying a parent’s outlook on life will most likely provide a set of values that determine priorities and choices. As a child observes a parent who is honest, compassionate, and involved in service to others, similar values will be adopted by the child, and will be used as a guideline as they grow and mature.

As a child moves beyond his own family into the world of school, parents have the opportunity to model attitudes of acceptance towards those who are different than the immediate family. As children begin to befriend others from various cultures and religious backgrounds, will their parents offer an attitude of tolerance toward differences in appearances, abilities, and backgrounds, or an attitude of prejudice?

Parental modeling at its best is expressed through embracing the joy of living. Life has its ups and downs and is not free of personal disappointments and tragedies; however, a child can learn from his parents how to look for the positives life has to offer.

Parenting is a “do what I do” endeavor. It calls one to be the best they can be for the sake of their children. It increases one’s integrity and honesty toward living. When it comes to parenting, there are many reasons for us to look inward and understand ourselves as people. The only way your child will become the person you hope them to be is to lead by example.

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