Parenting is the greatest and most rewarding job and responsibility. Let’s be real; parenting is hard work. It can be incredibly rewarding and incredibly draining. Every child has unique characteristics. Some are extremely needy, while others are relatively self-sufficient. Some children have physical or mental challenges that require parents to be more hands-on than most. Every child is unique, and as such, the most effective parenting methods will vary accordingly. Book stores are full of one-size-fits-all strategies about how to parent.
Is there a common goal or objective that every parent should aspire to fulfill? I believe there are several objectives that, if we as parents help our children to realize, will transform our society from dependence to cooperation. Notice I did not say independence. Why? Independence is an admirable quality, but as a society, we have correlated independence with selfishness. We need independence coupled with cooperation to build a society and culture focused on delivering value. We are more focused on extracting value than providing value. We are obsessed with what others have compared to what we don’t have. We choose stuff instead of creating value.
Here are five objectives that can help make you an exceptional parent:
Teach your child that life is far more meaningful when we obsess over creating value versus extracting value.
You do want your child to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, don’t you? If so, congrats! Someday I will enjoy watching you get inducted into the Parenting Hall of Fame. Helping our children understand how the world works is a primary responsibility of parenting. The law of value is critical to learn. What is the law of value? The market only rewards value. What is value? When we add value, we make something better. If we live our lives focused on adding value, everything in our lives becomes better. Can you imagine always adding value? Unfortunately, from a young age, we learn to extract value versus adding value. Entitlement is extraction. Participation trophies reinforce entitlement.
The way that we, as parents, can offset the overwhelming push of society toward extraction is to teach our children to “Always be Adding Value.” Choosing to add value is wanting to make things better. There is no better lesson to share with our children. However, we must understand that it is not possible to share what we do not possess. What does this mean? If you are not focused on adding value, it is not possible to mentor others about the law of value. Our children are masters at sniffing out hypocrisy. They will watch their parents, teachers, and others in positions of authority to ensure they are “walking the talk.” You do it too! Unfortunately, our society derives way too much joy from watching the failures of others or pointing out their flaws.
Our children must understand the law of value if they are to live a satisfying, rewarding, and joy-filled life. The mission is always to be adding value and increasing the amount of value available to be added. We are all flawed. We won’t be perfect parents and mentors. We might crush it one day and be a hot mess the next, and that is okay.
Show up every day and be consistent.
We parents must show up ready to serve each day. Consistency is a crucial component of all success in life. It is impossible to maintain our health without consistent effort. It is impossible to stay employed without consistently showing up. The “hall of fame” parents show up no matter what and know that is how to maintain credibility with their kids.
We signed up to be parents regardless of whether we arrived there by accident or through planning. Don’t neglect the most significant responsibility on earth. Raising children is difficult. It will test your patience, stamina, will, and determination. Most parents are asleep at the wheel because they are struggling to manage their own lives. Instead of engaging their children in conversation and other relationship-building activities, many outsource this responsibility to electronic entertainment, friends/peers, and the school system. How do you know that the agenda of these other organizations will be teaching your values? You don’t, and they won’t, which is the problem with this strategy.
Parenting requires consistency in all things – discipline, expectations, support and encouragement, guidance, growth, and being an example of how to show up.
Be an example of the importance of service.
Serving others is the ultimate success. Serving is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety because we shift the focus from us to others. Each day we obsess over what we want, what we have compared to others, how we get treated, how we look, etc. We become trapped in a cycle of inadequacy, comparison, blame, anger, annoyance, jealousy, and victimization. Life happens to us all, but our responses to it are generally comprised of inward gaging. Overcoming the ups and downs of life requires that we learn to turn our gage outward toward the service of others. I am not saying we should bury our heads in the sand and pretend it did not happen. I am saying that when your world gets rocked, the quickest path to getting back up is to focus on serving others.
Continually grow your parenting skills.
In the beginning, we are overwhelmed with joy and trepidation. We are excited about having a child but uncertain about how to parent. It is crazy when you think that the most important job on earth is one that you learn on the fly. Each day is a new challenge and experience that requires you to make decisions. Too often, we parent with emotions unable to disconnect from the fact that we are not our child. We want to will or discipline or children to our way of seeing the world. We fail to step back and ask what really matters. From my perspective, the answer to this question is the relationship. If the relationship is not preserved, a parent has no ability to influence.
If you want to be in the “parenting hall of fame,” you must grow your skill in objectively observing a situation or decision. Bad behavior by a child should have consequences but the consequences should be determined rationally rather than dictated by emotion. The skill of disciplining, guiding, coaching, and mentoring is what we need to develop. Combine the skill of doling out appropriate consequences with managing your emotions, and you will have the best chance of preserving the relationship. Avoid talking “at” your children and talk “with” them to manifest a lasting and meaningful relationship.
Choose to be a positive influence.
As a parent, you will have a massive influence on how your children view the world. Their view of the world will be based primarily on your relationship with them. Constantly nag them about every mistake or shortcoming and they will likely learn to focus on the mistakes and shortcomings of others. If you want to be a positive influence on your child, listen to them. Truly hear them and stop seeing them through your eyes or the eyes of your friends or coworkers. They aren’t you.
“Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” -John Maxwell
Parenting is leadership. If that scares you, good because that means you respect the position. Your kids are counting on you to show them the way. Leadership in its purest form is egoless. True leaders understand that it isn’t about them; it is about those they lead.
Exceptional parents seek opportunities to mentor their children about how things work. They show up consistently for their children. Excellent parents are examples of service. They demonstrate the importance of serving others to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Let your child see that you are growing your skills. Leave parenting books lying around and talk to them about how you are developing your skills. Let them see your struggle to improve, and they will likely follow in your footsteps. My mother and father were exceptionally hard workers. I watched and experienced their work ethic. When the time came for me to work, I worked hard. My entire family has an exceptional work ethic. The ultimate responsibility of parenting is to be a positive influence on our children. Want to raise exceptional children? Be an exceptional parent!