By Jim “Pappy” Moore
Raising children is the most important job of any person. It should be treated as such. Love is the most important factor, for without it children will never quite be right. Both parents must be committed to demonstrative love to each child.
Children are born to seek the protection, comfort and affection of their parents and other close family loved ones. They instinctively seek the protection and comfort of larger humans. When they are frightened, they seek adult protection. When they are upset, they seek adult comfort. Parenting means being there to give them those reassurances.
Physical affection is important. Humans are tactile. Watch monkeys and chimps and see how they touch, how their young touches back, and how families use touch to communicate their sense of belonging.
Each child needs parental attention that is unique to them. Every child has their own set of needs. One may need independence. One may need more “me time.” One may require challenges. They all need time – parental time. They all need time when they are the exclusive attention of their parents. A child growing up in a family with several children will have much time when the family does things together. These are important events. However, each child is an individual, and nothing satisfies a child like “me time” with mom, or dad, or both.
When my son was growing up, I spent time with him every day when I got home from work. We would watch the shows he liked to watch, which included Night Court and Star Trek: The Next Generation, both in syndication. During sports seasons, we also spent time in his sports, chiefly baseball, for many years. If he was out there, I was out there, participating as an assistant coach. Playing catch. Being the catcher when he practiced pitching. Taking an errant pitch on the chin with no protective gear. These are moments of giving that fulfill both father and son’s need.
When we lived out in the country and my son was ages three to five, we went out on the property daily. We walked, mostly, but also rode in either a jeep or a tractor. We studied wildlife, as I showed him the footprints in the mud of various animals – racoons, deer, horses, goats, dogs, and others. He got to watch the growth of tadpole eggs into frogs, as they developed daily. He got to look with me for Indian artifacts on the top of a hill with me, as we searched after a rain for newly revealed tips.
Children need freedom of expression. I was never one to try to dress up my child to fit some notion of style for him. I preferred he create his own style, and he did. When we were about to go somewhere I would tell him: “get dressed and wear whatever you want, but if you’re not ready in five minutes, I’m going to dress you in whatever I choose.” This allowed him to choose his own outfit for the day. He might choose boots, shorts, a Batman T-shirt, a vest, a cowboy hat, and just for style, some gloves. Maybe wear some sunglasses. He had a flare for putting outfits together. If you give them the freedom to do this, they will show you looks you never thought about. Body autonomy is important for growing kids. Let them choose what to wear in most situations.
Discipline is mostly drawing lines and letting children know clearly where those lines are.
Children will go through phases. It’s important not to overregulate when things occur. You can never fully see the child unless you give them a certain amount of freedom. As they grow, they may want to choose their look, or their clothes style, or hair style. A child has to start making choices for himself or herself, and choosing what they will be called will often occur about middle school time.
No matter how perfect you are as a parent, your child will sometimes feel “it’s not fair!” It may not be fair. You may be overdoing it. If so, there’s time to reflect and reconsider. Setting rules is fair, but there are exceptions to every rule. Hear them out and be big enough to change your mind.
Tell your children you love them. Tell them often. Remind them that through thick or thin, in good times and bad, you love them. Say it every time you talk on the phone. Say it every time you see them. It is a reaffirming statement that transcends time and space. Everyone needs to hear it.
Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.