…into a respectable adult.
Soccer or violin? Quinoa or fish sticks? Artist or programmer? Comics or SAT prep? To iPhone or not to iPhone and when!?
We make our lives as parents far more complicated than we need to. Believe me, as a parent of two teenage boys, I understand. As functioning adults, we feel real pressure to be great at everything we do: great in relationships, great at work, great in the gym, great as a sibling, great at our side hustle, and of course, great as parents.
We want to be great parents because, after all, we love our children and if we bungle this incredible responsibility, we will have scarred our little people, the next generation, our namesakes, for life! We read, every day, about how it is done better in other countries and about all of the perils that our children face. As a result of the countless articles and new best sellers, or what we read online or on social media, we are inundated with so much information that one can easily become paralyzed and uncertain about how to be a good parent. Furthermore, each of our children are unique, complicated, ever-changing beings who we think we understand one day, but come to find the very next day that we may not. Here are just some of the questions that we ask ourselves:
- Should I be a “free range” parent or teach them about A.I. ?
- Is where they go to University important or not?
- How much screen time is ok and what about all those articles that talk about tech executives not giving their kids screen time?
- Should I be parenting like a tiger, a German, a Swede, or what?
- Are they really learning anything at school?
- How much is too much or too little when it comes to after school activities: sports, music, art, leadership!?
The list is endless and the answers are often unclear. In fact, I would argue that there are not universal answers to each of these questions due to the many different variables that could potentially go into the mix: values, culture, income, geographic location, child’s interest, parent’s time, etc.
So, in order to bring some clarity to the chaos, I offer a common-sense, simple guide to what you should focus on during three stages of your child’s life. In total, there are 7 things that you try to “get right.” These things are variable-proof. In other words, they are universal enough, culturally and financially flexible enough, that every parent should be able to keep an eye on these things as guiding principles. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy or that nothing else matters. That said, if you get these ones wrong, you will be setting your child up for more difficulty in life after they have left the nest.
Lastly, and most importantly, each of these things are things that the child should do and you should model. With the exception of “don’t coddle,” each of the recommendations listed below should be executed by both child and parent. For example, the best way to raise a reader is for you to be a reader yourself. The best way to raise respectful children, is for you to be respectful yourself. Two important caveats: First, nothing is a *guarantee, of course. Second, all of these are important throughout a child’s life. Further, many are interdisciplinary. In other words, young children should explore through play. Conversely, young adults should build creativity through play. I’ve tried to hone in on the ones to emphasize during each stage.
The three stages:
EY = Early Years, roughly 0-7
MY = Middle Years, roughly 8-15
YAY = Young adult years, 16-23
- Read (All stages)
- Play (EY)
- Don’t coddle (EY)
- Create (MY)
- Instill respect (MY)
- Explore (YAY)
- Instill Gratitude (YAY)
In the next blog post, I’ll expand on each topic. For now, your own definition and creativity can fill in the details of what each word means to you and what it could potentially mean for your child.
A few articles as support
The importance of reading:
The importance of play:
“Besides being a means of coping with past and present concerns, play is the child’s most useful tool for preparing himself for the future and its tasks. Play’s function in developing cognitive and motor abilities has been explored by Karl Groos (the first investigator to study it systematically), Jean Piaget (to whom we owe our best understanding of what the child learns intellectually from play), and many others. Play teaches the child, without his being aware of it, the habits most needed for intellectual growth, such as stick‑to‑itiveness, which is so important in all learning.”
The importance of not coddling: