For Shakespeare: Parenting Guidelines Part 3

>> Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Shakespeare asked: How do many parents go wrong in making their children responsible adults (even from a young age), and what specific things can I do as a parent to help my two kids learn to make that transition to adulthood (trust their own opinions, make their own decisions, think of others, admit when they are wrong, learn the value of money, etc.)?

So, Shakespeare came on board, concerned that her failings as a parent, which we all have, would lead to issues for her children that would haunt her children and herself, that she would be blamed for by both her children and herself.

So, here's lesson number 3.

In the end, your children will choose their own paths.

Oh, sure, you're part of it. You've set the example, for better or worse, and you've done your best to provide discipline. But just as your methods had to adapt to every child, what and how they learned from your example and your teaching will depend on who they are and who they want to be. You will not be able to stop them from becoming a creep if that's the path they choose. You will not be able to destroy their character if they insist on being a moral creature.

Even before they reach adulthood, there are things you will not be able to do. You will not be able to eradicate character traits inherent to their personalities. You can try to help them leaven them or work around them, but you can't expect to change them fundamentally from who they are.

You will not be able to protect them from disease or flaw, be able to give them gifts they don't have, be able to choose their gifts for them. You can train your daughter to be the Olympic ice skater you always wanted to be, but, unless the drive and love for it is in them, they will never be great - or happy. You can help children compensate for dyslexia or autism or scholastical-type challenges, but you can't make them smart or quick.

You cannot save them from all harm, all risk. And, although I'm an advocate for safety, you should be cautious about how hard you try. A little dirt, a couple of tumbles will do your kids good. No one can guarantee their child will never be in a car accident or won't get cancer, or won't get hurt. You can take steps to minimize the chances that you'd be responsible, to avoid foreseeable harms, but the risk will always remain.

And you will make mistakes. Bunches of them. Children don't come with manuals and no one, even with the best intentions in the world, goes through life without making poor judgment calls. And children often pay the price for those. It isn't fair, but it is life. You will do yourself a favor learning from those mistakes (and acknowledging them to your children is likely to be beneficial as well), but don't expect to go through life without them.

But, even if you DID everything perfectly, it would not guarantee that your child would grow up to be a good person. Even if you made tons of mistakes, mistreated your child (either from maliciousness, selfishness or ignorance), and set a bad example, there's always a possibility that your children will learn from your mistakes and be a better person than anyone ever expected. Odds are, doing your best will have the best results, but, in the end, we're all responsible for the people we choose to become.

That goes for you.

That goes for your children.

So, enjoy them, love them, do your best. Believe in them. No one can really expect more than that.


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