The sobering reality of that question can stop us for a moment, but where do we go from there? The busyness of our lives, combined with the overwhelming nature of the question, nudges us to move on to something more manageable, something less unsettling. Surprisingly, the answer to the readiness question is quite simple – it is not easy, nor quick – but it is simple. We can improve our parenting skills.
Given the much easier said-than-done nature of that solution – the question becomes “How?”
Traditionally, parenting skills are passed from one generation to the next. Although not actually “taught,” they are typically passed on in one of two ways. The first method is what I call unconscious osmosis – the process by which we unknowingly and unintentionally absorb the parenting style and techniques of our parents/caregivers – and then use them with our children. The second, which most of us are very conscious of, is the “I will never” approach. This method involves us declaring something like “I will never (fill in the blank) the way my mother/father did” and then attempting to do the complete opposite.
This problem with this approach is that it leaves our parenting skills - and by extension, the adults our children will become – to chance. There is an old saying that no climber ever reached the summit of Mt. Everest and thought, “Hey, how did I end up here?” We all know that any significant undertaking requires training, planning, preparedness, and perseverance. Most parents believe raising their children is the most important and significant undertaking of their lives – yet we don’t approach parenting as we would any other significant undertaking. We assume we’ll just figure it out as we go, and hope for the best – joking if we need to “they sure don’t come with instructions.”
So, back to the $100,000 question - if not solely from our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, how do we each learn to become a better parent? How do we learn to help our children develop the character and abilities critical to their own future, and that of their world? The same way we learn to play a sport or instrument, sing, or learn the skills for a new job –someone with the background, experience and skill teaches us. In this case, we participate in parenting education programs – and do so at the key developmental stages of our children.
Infants, as a result of feeling loved and secure develop the fundamental, DNA-level building blocks required for them to feel worthy, safe, secure, capable, and successful later in life.
Young children who feel loved, secure, and have a strong sense of belonging, do better in school, have an easier time making friends, learn how to develop relationships with teachers and other adults, and feel more successful.
Middle school children who feel loved, secure, and have a strong sense of belonging are more confident, do better in school, and don’t feel the need to tease or bully other children – and if they see it happening, know how to respond.
Teenagers who feel loved, secure, and have a strong sense of belonging aren’t as likely to succumb to peer pressure, potentially engaging in at risk behaviors including drug/alcohol abuse, sexual activity, and criminal activities.
Young adults who feel loved, secure, and have a sense of belonging, take care of themselves, believe they have the ability to accomplish their goals, and choose ways to contribute to our world that play to their strengths and passions.
The adults these children become . . . their potential is unlimited!
We all recognize the need for better and safer schools; for stronger neighborhoods and communities comprised of humane and involved individuals; for a more prepared, engaged, and motivated workforce; and for a nation with true leadership bench strength in the public and private sectors. There is one thing we can each address that will result in improvements in all these areas - our parenting skills.
We as parents, more than any other single person or factor, influence the adults our children will become. It is critical that each of us participate in parent education programs, enabling us to become the best parent possible.
If we invest time and effort in improving our parenting skills – deliberately and intentionally equipping our children with the character and abilities required to find joy and meaning in their own lives, and become contributing members of an ever increasingly complex world - they will solve the problems of tomorrow, and create less new ones than prior generations. They will have the ability and desire to individually and collectively make the course corrections required to build a safer and more stable future for themselves and their children.
Participating in parent education programs and actually working – yes working – at becoming a better parent is of course much easier said than done. It will test us, it will inconvenience us, and it may make us uncomfortable – but the payoff is huge.
Our children will become adults who:
are capable of being responsible, effective members of their communities, schools, organizations, nation, and world – despite the ever increasing complexity
can create joy, meaning, and purpose in their lives
have strong parenting skills with which to raise their children, including a belief in the importance of participating in parent education programs themselves
Our communities, schools, nation, workforce, and world will be comprised of more and more people committed to and capable of finding solutions to current problems, and improving the status quo
There are problems in our world today, that based on their significance, must be addressed in and of themselves. It is critical however that we understand that they are all only symptoms. We, the people, individually and collectively, have created the problems we face today. For as long as we address only the symptoms, without addressing the true issue - today’s children and the adults they will become - we will continue to swim upstream against an ever-strengthening current.
150 years ago it was simply accepted that women did not vote. Today we find that absurd.
Let’s create a world in which our grandchildren find it equally absurd that prior generations actually raised children without being educated about how to do so.
Our children deserve it.
Their futures depend on it.
Our world desperately needs it.
Parenting programs and resources in your area will soon be available on our website, www.ourstartingpoint.org. In the meantime, please contact your local school guidance office, hospital, or community resource center to find parenting education and support resources in your community.