When baby boy Ryker entered the world a few weeks ago, he transformed the life of his loving parents, Russ and Quin. As with most first-time parents, they will look to friends, the Internet, and even occasionally their own parents for advice. Here’s what I would tell them about how to be great parents.
- Spouse first, kids second. Great marriages generally result in wonderful parents and emotionally healthy kids. This counsel goes against most parental instincts, but may be the key to raising healthy children. It’s hard to be a good parent if you are in an emotionally vacuous, dishonest, or abusive relationship. Kids raised in happy two-parent families have the greatest likelihood of growing up to be psychologically healthy adults. This means you need to place your relationship with your spouse as your highest priority, even before the many demands and needs of your son. This is particularly challenging for new parents, who may feel overwhelmed physically and emotionally in caring for their first child.
- Trust your gut. It’s helpful to reach out to others for help, but recognize that your child is unique. You need to figure out that balance between your children’s needs and the style of you and your spouse. Do what you and your spouse feel is right, not what is fashionable. When disagreements arise with your partner, be willing to comprise and try another approach. Parenting is all about being flexible and making adjustments to meet both your needs and those of your child.
- Focus on what really matters. As with most new parents, you’ll be tempted to seek strategies to accelerate your child’s development and enroll your youngster in all kinds of special programs. Be guided by your child’s abilities and interests. Your main priority is to raise a child who lives a life that is moral and meaningful. Hovering parents who over control their children produce impotent adults who cannot function independently. Your goal as parents is to make yourselves unnecessary to your children, not dependent upon you.
- Enjoy today. Some of the saddest parents I’ve ever met are those who dread the burdens of child raising and yearn for a better tomorrow. Each stage of childhood has its own blisses and burdens. Focus on today’s joys, as there will come a time when you will miss those special hugs and kisses from your child.
- Recognize your limits. You are the most important influence in your child’s life. Even so, you cannot determine how your children turn out. They are affected by their genetic endowment, environment, and their own individual decisions. It may be hard for to you accept that despite your best efforts, Ryker may develop in to an adult that is not exactly what you anticipated.
Enjoy your son!