There is no manual for parenting. Every parent does their best to figure it out as each day passes. They pour all of their energy into providing a better life for their child and want to know that their best is enough to get their child off to a great start in life.
Parents know what is best for their child because they have a unique insight into the needs, tendencies, and desires of the child based on their instincts and experiences with them. This dynamic creates a distinct perspective that can’t be replicated by anyone else and puts the parents in the best position to guide the child into becoming a responsible adult.
Nobody is right 100% of the time, but the parents are in the best position to be the child’s strongest support as a positive influence in their life.
There are some things that parents can do to make the journey smoother while creating some reassurance within themselves that they have their kids on the right track.
First, let’s talk about why it’s important for the parent to be in charge, then I’ll get into some ideas to get better at guiding your child along in a way that gets them to respect your authority while developing an appreciation for how your guidance benefits them in the long run.
Understanding Why Parents Know What is Best for Their Child
I think I should address this question first because there are a lot of ideas going around today about parenting that don’t fit in with what we as humans are evolved to do.
Some of those ideas include consulting with the child about what their preferences are or allowing them to figure things out on their own and learn primarily from their experiences.
There are a time and a place for those practices, but they should not be the primary parenting techniques used every day.
These methods are rooted in the idea that kids naturally know what is best for them and it is the parent’s job to help them bring that out, with the child’s instinct leading the way even it means having the parent just get out of the way.
Most of the time, these ideas are not effective. I have not seen any reliable research out there that says it’s best for the parent to allow the child to set the tone or guide their own development.
The parent is not just a facilitator, although that is one of the many roles they will play as they raise their child.
Instead, the parent should have a bigger vision in mind for where their child is headed and be taking steps to ensure they get there.
Their approach should be built upon the idea that children naturally know that their parents are their leaders.
It is the parent’s responsibility to know the child better than they know themselves, especially when they are young.
As the child gets older they will begin to get to know themselves a bit more. Chances are, the parent will still know them better well into their 20’s.
This means that parents have a long road they must follow as the child’s primary role model and teacher.
They won’t always know best, but if they do their best each day to be both a role model and a teacher they have a better chance at putting their child on the path to lifetime success. I want to talk more about how they can do that.
How Parents Can Give Their Best Guidance
Did you admire at least one of your parents growing up? If you did, take a moment to think about why.
Try to connect with how they made you feel. If you didn’t, that’s OK. Take a moment to think about a role model that you did admire.
Why did you want to follow them? Chances are, at least part of the reason is driven by the example they set for you and the results they achieved. Use these thoughts as a starting point for the following scenario.
Think about the kind of person you want your kids to see you as while they grow up. What are the things that you do every day that make you a special parent? Why should they admire you? Why should they trust you?
Now think about the kind of person your kids will look back once they are grown. Who will you be to them? What are they thankful for? Why should they respect your parenting style and methods?
I hope this line of questioning set the tone for the following scenario:
If you could go into the future and look back on your parenting, how would you answer these questions:
- Were you the best example you could have been for them?
- Did you do your best for them each day?
- Did they feel comfortable coming to you with their most challenging problems?
- Were you honest with yourself when you feel short?
- Were you honest with your child when you fell short?
- Did you try to fix your shortcoming afterward?
- Did you know where you were heading as a parent and how you wanted to get there each step along the way?
Are there other questions you think you need to be asking yourself? If so, write them down and think about the answers. Are they what you thought you would have answered before reading this article?
Now, back to my above list of 7 questions. Think about how you can get to yes for each one of these questions.
Write down your answers. Your answers belong to you and should give you a good jumping-off point to decide if you are doing everything you can right now to help your child become the adult you want them to be.
Herein lies the point that I want to make most to you. Only you know if you are doing your best to fulfill your parenting vision day in and day out.
Only you can answer that question. Therefore, you are the only person who can decide if you as the parent knows what is best for your child.
Using Your Vision to Model Your Leadership
The best guidance you give your kids will not be through your words, it will be through your actions.
Therefore, the best way that you can show your kids that you know what is best for them will be through your own actions.
You will need to be their rock through thick and thin, and conduct yourself according to the values that you wish to instill in them.
If your child sees you act as an example of what they should become day after day, then over the course of their formative years they will develop an instinctive awareness of how they should conduct themselves and will know that your example can be trusted.
Those ideas will become embedded in their conscience and their values will be reflected by their actions.
As their inner voice develops, it will guide them through life’s challenges.
Your voice will become part of their voice through the example you set for them each day and the conversations that you have together about life’s challenges.
As this process unfolds, your child will develop a long term bias that favors you because they will see that what you taught them really is the right thing – not just because you say so, but because it works.
In the long run, they will want to seek your input because of the example you set for them is worthy of their attention. You will make it worthwhile for them to seek out your opinion.
How Can a Parent Know They Are Giving Their Child the Best Guidance?
Parents can assure themselves that they are giving their child the best guidance they can by being the best example they can every day and admitting to falling short on the days when things do go the way they were planned.
Their example is their first and strongest tool in gaining influence over their children.
Parents understand the distinction between what they want to do vs what they actually do.
Each day they do their best to give their kids the best they can. But sometimes they fall short. It is at this moment that the greatest opportunity to give their child quality guidance appears.
Those who make good decisions consistently are reflective people who are willing to admit when they make mistakes and will make the necessary adjustments when they see a mistake was made.
This willingness to pivot puts them at an advantage over others who are more concerned with saving face than getting better each day.
It is this process that you must learn to talk through with your children if they are going to be honest about their actions.
In order for you to have the credibility to have this conversation, you must show them that you are doing it yourself.
If you can earn their trust then you have a shot at developing a deeper relationship together. Parents should work towards 3 goals in this process:
- Help the child learn to be honest with themselves
- Help the child to learn to be honest with their parents
- Help the child to learn that most things in life are a process, everyone makes mistakes, and their parents will be there no matter what to help guide them along the way
How does this quote resonate with you as a parent?
“When you listen to your heart you will always do what is best for your child”.
When I read it I feel good. But I think it can be dangerous. Parenting is not as easy as just following your heart. Sometimes, your heart is wrong.
The truth is that in parenting you have many different choices that you can make in each situation.
Some will lead to wildly different outcomes, and others will lead to mildly different outcomes.
Others may not change things very much at all.
Whatever the result, you have to be honest with yourself about your role in influencing the child’s perception and behavior if you are going to get them to believe in your parenting approach and ability to help them grow into mature, kind, and successful adults.
Children display signs of responsible independence in different ways as they develop.
It is incumbent on the parent to determine the needs of the child and figure out the extent to which independence should be encouraged or discouraged for that particular situation.
No parent can know what to do in every situation all the time.
But if you begin with the end in mind and try to think of the kind of parent that you want your child to remember you as, you will be on the path to serving as the example and teacher that they really need you to be.