Parenting - in 15 words

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Our children should not be the centre of our universe. We should be the centre of theirs - a secure, loving and consistent centre, says Ian Munro.
Ian Munro
Ian Munro

I'm feeling somewhat repetitious this week with this exposition on my favourite quote, whose origin I can't recall: "Give children all of what they need and only a little of what they want."

Nevertheless, I will proceed because these 15 words together encapsulate so much about parenting.

For young children, they mean lots of non-material love such as hugs, playing together, positive comments and the like, rather than lots of new toys, clothing or money.

They mean lots of opportunities to try things and test themselves in a safe, caring environment - at the beach, in the park, up a tree. Children can't try new things in front of a television and can still only test a limited range of abilities and capabilities at a computer.

They mean that we, as parents, need to set consistent expectations, rules and consequences creating the security of boundaries for behaviour.

They mean that we have an expectation that they will be fully responsible members of the family unit, contributing in an age-appropriate way to the running of the household. That's the chores that they have.

As they get older, those 15 words mean allowing them to make decisions on appropriate matters and expecting them to take responsibility for those decisions.

We can still give them gifts such as toys and the latest fashionable clothing items, but on our terms. And we can also give them the precious gifts of self-control, patience, true appreciation and pleasure.

In doing this we lay solid foundations for the development of a confident, secure, capable and resourceful individual.

Our children should not be the centre of our universe. We should be the centre of theirs - a secure, loving and consistent centre. Thus, we exert gravity on them, not them on us. If not, we end up being at their beck and call. Never saying "no". Forever. And, in adult life, there will be an expectation that others will also orbit around them to serve them and fulfil their needs.

With the child, rather than the parent, doing the orbiting it's then possible for the child to move further and further out from the parental centre, to eventually spin off into adulthood.

As they orbit out from our centre they'll be well on the way to being someone who will, in the main, be able to act independently and make choices and decisions; be able to assume responsibility; be able to be proud of accomplishments and accept praise; feel happy about new challenges; feel able to express a range of emotions and feelings; be able to handle disappointments and frustration; feel confident in dealing with other people; and, hopefully, be a respectful and compassionate member of society.


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