Valuable Parenting

If you are a parent, then this post is for you. If you’re not or not expecting, it may be a little heavy. But nevertheless, I think some points are pretty important for life in general.

I’ve read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I attending preparing-for-baby classes. I get Parents magazine every month. I did the checklist from start to finish. There is so much preparation when having a baby. Through my nine months of pregnancy I felt very prepared for Holden to arrive. His nursery was set. His clothes were washed. I was ready. The dogs weren’t- but that’s a story for another day.

You can prepare for a baby easily. But how do we prepare for a child? And by child I don’t mean toddler, 1, 2, 3 years old. I don’t mean age. I mean how do we prepare for a human? A brand new human… a new soul. A being. A clean slate. How do we take on the responsibility of guiding our child through life by starting from scratch?

I want my child to be… Happy? Successful? Confident? Attractive?  Hmm. I want my child to be a good person? Generous? Loving? I want my child to be all of the above, perhaps? Sure, any of these qualities a parent may strive for for their children. There’s no right or wrong way about it.

For me, I want my child to be Holden. I want him to be the fullest Holden he can be. I want him to be what I believe God intended for Holden. That all starts with Holden feeling like he is valuable. and that’s my job: I want my child to feel valuable.

M. Scott Peck, M.D. is a brilliant psychiatrist. He is famous for his book The Road Less Traveled, a personal favorite of mine devoted to spirituality and intellect. Genius. It just makes sense.

This is an excerpt from this book that I believe every hospital should have a parent read before taking baby home. You know, just like they make sure the car seat is strapped in correctly.

When we love something it is of value to us, and when something is of value to us we spend time with it, time enjoying it and time taking care of it. Observe a teenager in love with his car and note the time he will spend admiring it, polishing it, repairing it, tuning it. Or an older person with a beloved rose garden, and the time spent pruning and mulching and fertilizing and studying it. So it is when we love children; we spend time admiring them and caring for them. We give them our time.

Good discipline requires time. When we have no time to give our children, or no time that we are willing to give, we don’t even observe them closely enough to become aware of when their need for our disciplinary assistance is expressed subtly. If their need for discipline is so gross as to impinge upon our consciousness, we may still ignore the need on the grounds that it’s easier to let them have their own way- “I just don’t have the energy do deal with them today.” Or finally, if we are impelled into action by their misdeeds and our irritation, we will impose discipline, often brutally, out of anger rather than deliberation, without examining the problem or even taking the time to consider which form of discipline is the most appropriate to that particular problem.

The parents who devote time to their children even when it is not demanded by glaring misdeeds will perceive in them subtle needs for discipline, to which they will respond with gentle urging or reprimand or structure or praise, administered with thoughtfulness and care. They will observe how their children eat cake, how they study, when they tell subtle falsehoods, when they run away from problems rather than face them. They will take the time to make these minor corrections and adjustments, listening to their children, responding to them, tightening a little here, loosening a little there, giving them little lectures, little stories, little hugs and kisses, little admonishments, little pats on the back.

So it is that the quality of discipline afforded by loving parents is superior to the discipline of unloving parents. But think this is just the beginning. In taking the time to observe and to think about their children’s needs, loving parents will frequently agonize over the decisions to be made, and will, in a very real sense, suffer along with their children. The children are not blind to this. They perceive it when their parents are willing to suffer with them, and although they may not respond with immediate gratitude, they will learn to also suffer. “If my parents are willing to suffer with me,” they will tell themselves, “then suffering must not be so bad, and I should be willing to suffer with myself.” This is the beginning of self-discipline.

The time and the quality of the time that their parents devote to them indicate to children the degree to which they are valued by their parents. Some basically unloving parents, in an attempt to cover up their lack of caring, make frequent professions of love to their children, repetitively and mechanically telling them how much they are valued, but not devoting significant time of high quality to them. Their children are never totally deceived by such hollow words. Consciously they may cling to them, wanting to believe that they are loved, but unconsciously, they know that their parents’ words do not match up with their deeds.

On the other hand, children who are truly loved, although in moments of pique they may consciously feel or proclaim that they are being neglected, unconsciously know themselves to be valued. This knowledge is worth more than any gold. For when children know they are valued, when they truly feel valued in the deepest parts of themselves, then they feel valuable.

The feeling of feeling valuable- “I am a valuable person”- is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline. It is a direct product of parental love. Such a conviction must be gained in childhood; it is extremely difficult to acquire during adulthood. Conversely, when children have learned through the love of their parents to feel valuable, it is almost impossible for the vicissitudes of adulthood to destroy their spirit.

Whew. That was a lot. I hope you found it VALUABLE.

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