If only there was a single, definitive parenting handbook. Even a thick textbook full of lengthy chapters would be easier to handle than the hands-on demands of actual parenting. Since families come from all different cultures, parenting is truly a learn-as-you-go process that can’t be standardized to fit everyone’s needs. No one ever said parenting was easy, but parents who are skilled in a few special areas may find their journey to be at least slightly easier.
When people find out they are going to become parents, money becomes more of an issue than ever before. From the expense of doctors’ appointments, to the cost of the birth and hospital stay, the baby food, diapers, toys, clothes and a college education, having children is pricey. Couples who have the luxury of planning out every pregnancy will be able to establish some financial decisions -- such as who’s going to stay with baby during the day -- in advance, but even those couples aren’t guaranteed future financial security. A big part of family planning -- whether planned far in advance or a surprise change of plans -- should involve writing down financial goals. These should include goals for the near and distant future, as well as backup plans in case life throws in some curve balls.
Parents are the first people who shape a child’s relationship with the world. They determine who the child is in contact with, they show the child--whether intentionally or inadvertently--how to speak and be spoken to, and they teach the child how to understand himself and others around him. Parents with good communication skills should respect and encourage a child’s uniqueness, interact regularly with the child from birth through adolescence, encourage socialization with others and show their child how to act in a courteous manner towards others. For example, using polite language, making eye contact and taking turns in conversations.
While self-interest is an innate human trait, patience is a virtue that is learned over a lifetime. It isn’t always easy for a child to understand why she needs to take a bath when she would rather be watching her favorite television show. To function in society, she will need to learn that she won’t get everything she wants unless she puts in some effort. Parents should initiate games that require their child to take turns, give their child a small allowance so that she may earn some of her toys, and occasionally take their child away from the “gotta have it now” culture of modern technology by taking her fishing or waiting to see a shooting star. Teaching children patience can often be a big test of patience for parents as well. They should show her what patience looks like by politely waiting for her to throw her impatient tantrums rather than instantly screaming at her.
Children are constantly testing their boundaries and parents need to be the ones to respond appropriately to this testing. A 2-year-old flushing jewelry down the toilet and a teenager taking Dad’s car without permission should receive age-appropriate punishments. Consistent punishments will give them a direct understanding of consequences and allow them to set their own boundaries as adults.
Ability to Multitask
Being a parent means becoming a Jack or Jill-of-all-trades. Parents will have to play “doctor” or “nurse” when it comes to helping heal boo-boos and knowing when to take a child to an actual health-care professional. Parents will also need to play the role of “manager” or “life coach” to schedule a child’s wake-up times, nap times, mealtimes, extracurricular activities and sleep times. Parents are also teachers from day one, whether they teach their child how to count or sing their ABCs. Children watch their parents and, in turn, parents help to teach children how to interact with other people.
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