I cannot stress enough the importance of parents in the life of a child. Infants, toddlers, youth, tweens, teens – they all need parental support, love, and influence! As they grown, they may make great efforts to tell how much they do not need us, but that is all the more reason that we must insist on being the ones – the adults – who decide exactly how much freedom our children can handle.
Without parental guidance and influence, our children will take risks that they would not attempt under our careful watch. There are influences all around them – with their peers, television, their “idols”, music, other adults – and if we, as parents, are not there to explain and teach which influences to embrace and which to shun, we can hold only ourselves responsible for the impact these influences have on our children.
If we give in to every whine, complaint and threat that our children make, how can we expect that they will listen and obey when we instruct them to stay away from drugs, refrain from sex, or avoid unsavory characters? We cannot. They will believe that we only use our instructions as threats to make them do what we want and that if they do get into trouble, they can just whine, complain or make a threat and we will let them off the hook. Unfortunately, that power does not always belong to us.
When our children decide that they do not have to listen to us, unless we take a stand and assert our parental rights immediately, we are in for a lot of trouble. We cannot be with them every minute of every day. We have to instill our cautions in such a way that when a situation arises, they will hear our words and know what to do. We can tell our children not to talk to strangers, but when that man or woman comes along with the tale of a lost puppy or the promise of candy or a toy, will they hear our words and turn in the other direction? Did you tell them during one conversation when they were five years old, or have you updated that warning over the years to let them know it still applies?
We all remember the days when it was “cool” for us to suggest that our lives were about “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll”. For many it was just talk. But sooner or later, even if it is just talk, someone is going to push the issue and insist that your teen “try” the current drug, drink or action of the moment. Will your child be able to walk away? Have you taught them how to walk away, how to find the right words to remove themselves from the situation?
So many children and teens find themselves in trouble and don’t seem to have a clue how they got there. That is because their parents have not been open and up-front with them about the “dangers” that exist in their every day lives. Do I want them to be afraid? NO! Do I want them to be prepared? Emphatically, yes. They need to know about the damage that can be done to their reputation and the damage that can be done to their bodies and minds. They need to know how to avoid getting in situations that force them to choose right and wrong. It is so much easier to avoid that situation where your friends are pressuring you to shoplift than it is to resist their pressure when you are in the store. If we, as parents, can teach them how to stay out of those situations, then they will not have to choose.
Sooner or later, they are going to have to make choices and we must prepare them to do so. My mother used to answer, “Because I say so” when we asked why we could or could not do something. I understand the mentality behind that statement – a parent has sovereign authority. However, that statement is like a red flag to a bull who has been taunted by picadors. When the parent turns their back, that child is going to do or die! It only takes a few minutes longer to explain your decision and even if the child does not understand, they know. With their questions answered, they know that you are serious whether or not they agree.
Parenting, in large part, is like teaching. Every “lesson” is a building block that deals with the present and prepares for the future. If we teach them that telling their best friend “no” when they want to take home their favorite toy is acceptable, then with our continued guidance saying “no” to the bully who wants their dessert, saying “no” to the kid who wants them to smoke a cigarette, and later, saying “no” to the drug dealer who wants them to try Ecstasy, will be easier. Not to mention that fact that if you keep those communication lines open with your child, you will know about the situations they face – when many parents don’t.