Parenting is the most difficult ‘job’ in the world. The process lasts longer than most modern careers. It requires a larger investment – in time and money – than just about any other activity. The complexity of choices is greater and the outcome more uncertain. Greater patience is needed and the roller coaster of emotions steeper than any other undertaking.
Parents have to learn, virtually from scratch, a range of new skills — and they have to get it as close to right as possible the first time. Relatively simple diaper changing rapidly gives way to complex medical conundrums. Educating a child, both intellectually and ethically, not to mention choosing among formal education alternatives, is a serious and difficult process.
Dealing with divorce and single-parenthood, safety, emotional well-being and a spectrum of practical and value situations can tax the best parents. These, and many more situations, often offer puzzles to solve that have inherently mixed practical, psychological and ethical dimensions.
Mix in the elements of grandparents, media reports and ‘expert advice’, educators’ views, other children and many other outside influences – both on the parents and the child – and you have one hellishly difficult stew to filter.
Parents who successfully negotiate the maze often have some basic characteristics in common.
Parents with the ability to view life’s challenges with a sense of confidence and resiliency go a long way toward instilling those characteristics in their children. Those who show respect toward spouses – and their children – help grow that quality in the child in two ways. It helps grow self-respect in the child and leads the child to a proper respect for the rights and value of others.
Parents who early on demonstrate a sense of fair play when deciding among competing claims give children a good foundation in many ways. The child benefits from the justice shown toward their valid concerns, while at the same time getting the proper view that becomes valuable in later life.
Along with these values, parents who demonstrate the willingness to devote time to listening and sharing experiences establish a foundation of life-long trust and love.
Life doesn’t always reward good behavior. But, fortunately, all the effort made to be a good parent pays off in a hundred ways. Raising children well is a tremendous source of pride and joy, and rightly so. Helping provide the skills – intellectual, emotional, ethical and social – needed to thrive in an increasingly complex society rewards parents many times over.
Parents are right to enjoy both the practical results of their efforts and the deep emotional satisfaction that comes from the process and the outcome. Few ‘careers’ consistently offer such high dividends for a ‘job well done’.