Parenting: What's the goal?

10:08 AM

As we use the full extent of our heads and hearts to steer our little ones in the "right" direction, we have to remember what the direction is that we're steering.

I can get really caught up in doing the right parenting things like using explanations ("Going outside with shoes on instead of boots will make your feet cold because of the snow. I don't want your feet to be cold so I will wait until you put boots on for us to go outside." - which I'm great at) and following through on consequences ("You were told that if you keep throwing crayons in the living room that they will need to be put away. You threw them again so now they are going away.") - which Calvin is great at).

We have to remember what the goal is.

I was reminded of this as I read a little parenting e-manual provided by my employer's health-promoting department. It has a list of qualities of a successful child:

  • Empathy and compassion
  • Problem-solving (ability to make wise choices)
  • Communication
  • Accountability/responsibility
  • Self-confidence

It really made me stop and think about what things I do that promote these qualities, and what I do that hinders them.

I often praise Oliver for things he's done (great drawing, thanks for bringing me my phone when it was ringing, you picked the cutest outfit today!) but if he's already well aware that he does well at these things, maybe he needs a bigger challenge to take on, to prove to himself that he is capable. Maybe putting this into action would be a little scary for me, like if it means I have to let him pour his own almond milk even though it's a near-guaranteed mess. Another thing I can do, to promote communication, is stop asking yes or no questions. I'll say: Did you have fun at Starbucks with Aunty-Lala? Yes. What if I asked: what did you do today with Aunty-Lala? That might elicit more of a response. Empathy is a tricky one also - one easy way the manual suggested to encourage it is to explain the needs of others through toys. Example: let's make a pretend sandwich for Mr. Antlers (his stuffed reindeer) because he looks hungry.

The next list that I want to focus on, is also a list of qualities I hope to encourage in Oliver: the fruits of the spirit. They are:
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Self-control
I think my best bet on teaching these is to make an effort to grow them in myself. Bottom line.

And lastly, there was a long list of qualities that you could comment on whether they are important to you, to see in your child, or not. For most my answers were yes, with a few that needed clarification (I want Oliver to be "well-behaved" per-se, but maybe not in the usual sense. Also "fair" and "self-reliant" needed further discussion.) Some I decided no - they are not important to me.
  • accepting
  • accomodating
  • affectionate
  • autonomous
  • caring
  • charitable
  • conservative
  • cooperative
  • courageous
  • devoted
  • easy-going
  • energetic
  • fair
  • fun
  • gracious
  • healthy
  • helpful
  • honest
  • kind
  • liberal
  • likeable
  • loving
  • natural
  • patient
  • playful
  • polite
  • productive
  • reasonable
  • respectful
  • responsible
  • self-reliant
  • self-sufficient
  • significant
  • spiritual
  • strong
  • successful
  • supportive
  • talkative
  • thrifty
  • trustworthy 
  • warm
  • well-behaved
I'm curious to hear what you think of these lists. It's great to "keep our eyes on the prize" and know why we do the things we do as parents.

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