Parenting Skills - An Overview
Back when our parents were born, parenting skills were learned from the extended family. If parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles didn't live in the same house, they usually lived within a few miles. They were always available to impart their considerable wisdom to the younger generation on the subjects of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children. Now, we have become such a transient society; it is rare that the extended family is even in the same state!
Since the late 20th and early 21st centuries, parents have had to learn creative ways to raise their children. We surf the Internet, read books, take classes, talk to our parents on the telephone, and make friends with parents who have "been there and done that." We then filter these things through our own morality, sensibilities, and personalities to make them work for our own families. Wouldn't it be easier if each baby arrived with an owner's manual attached?
Parenting Skills - Discipline
Probably the most important and controversial parenting skill is discipline. We parents are conflicted over what type of discipline to apply at what time. Appropriate discipline for a two year-old might not be appropriate or effective for a 10 year-old or a teenager. The most important piece of the discipline puzzle is determining who is in charge: the parents or the child. This may sound simple, but in this day and age, the answer isn't always clear.
The fear of hurting a child's feelings or crushing his spirit coerces many parents into allowing their children to rule the roost. Children need firm boundaries that come from clear and consistent parental discipline. Whether the method is redirection, time-outs, loss of privileges, grounding, extra chores, or spanking, it is crucial that we embrace our role to train our children to become moral, respectable adults.
Parenting Skills - Education
The ability to recognize what we teach our children is one parenting skill from which we can all benefit. From the moment our children are born, they are learning from us. They learn that if they cry, we respond. If they pull our hair, we say, "ouch." If they throw their cup on the floor, we pick it up. As time goes on, we also teach them to walk, talk, get dressed, and say their A-B-C's.
As parents, we also have the responsibility to teach our children morals and values. We cannot depend solely on the schools to fulfill this important duty. At some point during early childhood, parents must make a decision on how to handle a child's formal education. Will the child be home-schooled or will they attend public or private school?
A variety of factors come into play when we consider the education of our children:
- Family financial situations,
- Quality of local public and private schools,
- Level of parental education,
- Personalities of parents and children,
- Home-schooling support and resources,
- And many other issues.
Parenting Skills - Finances
Effectively dealing with financial issues is a parenting skill that will follow us through our children's adulthood. It begins with the heart-stopping thought: "We are having a baby! How on earth will we pay for this?" Many couples choose to delay starting their family until they have saved a comfortable amount of money.
Some families want to save enough to enable Mom to quit work and stay home for a set period of time. Others want enough saved for Mom to stay home indefinitely. Then there are those brave souls who leap in and take things as they come.
But, financial issues do not stop there. If Mom stays home, life insurance becomes even more important to protect the family if Dad passes away. And don't forget saving for college! In 2004, the average public university tuition was over $20,000 for four years. The average private university tuition was four times that amount. That's over $80,000, and these figures don't even consider room and board!
Parents today face diapers, clothing, food, entertainment, education, childcare, allowance, and countless other expenses. Wise parents will look at where they want the family finances to be in one, five, or even ten years, and then write down their goals. These goals can be as simple as putting $50 per month into a college savings account or towards the credit card balance.
Children bring us much joy and much responsibility. Taking the time to plan ahead can take some of the stress and worry out of raising them.
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