When I was a young parent-to-be, I asked my mother what made her such a good one. She winked at me. “I was there when you needed me, even when you didn’t want me there. Still am.”
How true. I recall as a teen I didn’t particularly want her around, but I wanted to know she’d be around when I wanted her. She represented my refuge. And I knew, without a doubt, that even if she didn’t like the way I acted or approved of a decision I made, she would always love me. That was, above all, apparent.
According to the Online Dictionary, the definition of apparent is to be visible, clear, and evident. The key word is “be.” That denotes active involvement. By being an involved parent, you are creating an environment of trust, love, and acceptance.
No matter their age, the most important thing a parent provides for their child is time and attention. When both parents work outside the home, it is important that their kids always know how to get in touch with each of them, and that both parents realize that their kids are number one in priority, even if the parents are divorced. Jobs are jobs, and if your employer doesn’t realize that raising kids is the most important career in the world, find one who does. Once I explained that I required permission for my son, as a latch key kid, to call me every day so he could tell me he was safely at home, my boss approved. Being a dad himself, he knew my request was reasonable. His understanding helped me work harder for him the other seven hours and fifty-eight minutes each day.
Recitals, sports games, and competitions are all very important. Try to get to as many of your kids’ events as possible. When your children see you in the audience or the stands, they know you love and respect them enough to take time out to watch them. They probably will perform better as well. Plus, a deeper bond will develop because you have demonstrated you care about the things that are significant to them. Since it is a shared event, it is all a topic of discussion and can make wonderful memories in years to come.
However, remember to emphasize that doing their best is more important than winning. Not everyone can win every time. Expressing this attitude will bolster their self-esteem and encourage them to try harder.
Firm fences allow the freedom to roam.
Let’s be clear on one thing. There is a fine line between being attentive and being a deterrent to your child’s development. Think of when you learned to ride a bike. Your parent probably hovered with both hands on either side of you. But they let you pedal, right? Perhaps a couple of times you wobbled and fell. Your mom or dad stood by, ready to bandage a scrape and give you encouragement to try again. Soon, they stepped back and watched you pedal half a block, then a block. Eventually they gave you permission to ride to your friend’s house a block or so away. Even so, you knew home still would be there when you returned.
In the same way, being the parent who is always available — just in case — allows your child to face the world and still have permission to reach up and grab onto your hand, so to speak. One of my favorite verses in the Psalms is, “But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (131:2). A child who is weaned doesn’t need to be constantly coddled and held. The child is content to walk alongside, in full confidence that their parent is close by if needed.
Smothering is good in recipes. It is not good for children.
The psalmist relates this to his walk with God, our Perfect Parent. God is the ultimate apparent parent. He is always there, loves us unconditionally, and yet honors our free will. When we stumble or fail, he lovingly guides and corrects us. He is the God of second, and third, and twentieth chances. He never tells us we are a hopeless cause.
I sucked in my breath when a friend posted on Facebook that she often follows behind her kids and redoes the chores they do. This only shows them that they can never please her or do things correctly. Who cares if their sweater dangles from the hanger or one side of their bedspread is longer than the other, or the towels are not folded perfectly square? The next time, I suggested, do the chore together and, while nicely correcting them, compliment them on how much better they are getting at accomplishing the task. Don’t thwart their desire to please you, or send the silent message that they can never accomplish anything to your satisfaction. They will face enough negativity and criticism in the world. It shouldn’t be the attitude in their home as well. Psalm 29:5 states, "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way."
Give your kids space, but keep them in your peripheral vision. TV home renovation shows now feature parents who want open concept floor plans so they can always keep an eye on their kids. What message does that send? Sure, younger kids need more supervision, but slowly you have to convey a sense of trust. If you do, your children will most likely live up to that expectation. Agreed, there will be the child who wants to push the boundaries, but what they really are trying to do is make sure the boundaries still exist. Establish firm fences but allow them the freedom to roam inside of them.
When your children are playing in the backyard while you are doing laundry inside or fidgeting with a project in the garage, they are still secure, knowing you are close by in case they need you. Allow them to figure things out for themselves and to also have some privacy. It will teach them to respect your privacy as well. Helicopter parenting, however, thwarts the child’s creativity, sense of responsibility, and self-esteem. Smothering is good when it comes to foods, but not when it comes to your children.
By letting your kids slowly make independent decisions and make mistakes while you still remain their safety net, you will be ensuring two things. First, as they enter adulthood, they will successfully face the challenges life throws at them. Secondly, they will one day be an apparent parent to their kids and raise them to be productive, autonomous, and successful.
Children do not come with a how-to manual. We all need help and advice now and then. Connect with one of our confidential and free mentors who can respond to your questions and concerns.