Sunday, March 7, 2010

What Makes a Good Parent?

There are many books on the subject and if you are a fan of Twitter, millions of tweets on the subject. Are there any experts? Perhaps. Dr Spock? Not the Vulcan guy with the pointy ears, but the pediatrician. Maybe it is your grandmother who offers parenting wisdom passed down from her mom. There are some ways to figure out what a child needs from a parent and it doesn't take a lot of formal education to do so. Developmental milestones are things every child needs to master at various points in their life in order to build skills as they go. The smallest things, like recognizing faces, are foundations for a well rounded child. There are hundreds of books on the subject of developmental psychology and milestones. Every young parent who is planning to have a child or learns they are expecting one should invest some time and a few dollars in one of these books. Finding out what your child can do at certain ages will help reduce the sense of failure for the child and frustration for the adults. Too many adults expect their children to be quiet and sit still when that is simply not something they are able to do at that age. It would be similar to handing your partner a book on quantum physics discovering they can't understand it and getting really angry with them because they can't. Expecting too much of children is a sin every parent has had to deal with. So save yourself some grief and read about how children develop. Additionally, look at what a child needs for security and feeling safe. Children need to know where the limits are. It is a huge world which is really confusing for a child. They need to know they don't need to understand it all at once and some things are out of their reach and they donlt need to concern themselves with that right now. Parents may not understand the impact it has on a small child for them see images that are sexually over their understanding. They may not understad how confusing it is to hear adults using certain words, then being punished for using those same words themselves. Violence is something little children cannot understand as they don't yet have the understanding of death as a permanent thing. They do not understand pain unless it happens to them. Their cartoon characters alwasy bounce back up, and the space dude may come back on the next show. Children are like little aliens who have landed in a very strange and unknown place. They don't understand the language, have trouble trying to eat the food, read the language and understand the nuances of the unspoken word. They may have trouble figuring out when it is ok to be touched and when it isn't. They need help to get to the full scale version of adults we are. If you have heard the line that kids learn all they will by the age of 5, that is not exactly true. The brain is a marvelous thing that can relearn pathways given enough time and patience. It is vital that kids get the nurturance and security they need as infants, but even if they are lacking in these areas, they can still be taught those things later in life. It may just take a little longer, but it is possible.
Bottom line, if you are planning to have a child, do some preparation on the care and feeding of this little person before they get there. Take a parenting class, read a few books and remember, you have to be flexible! If you already have kids and are struggling, remember to take a deep breath, use your inside voice and try to remember you were once where they are and was just as confused as they are now. Get some help if you need it,at church, from friends, from a counselor, or your pediatrician. But never, ever, hurt a child.

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